Island in Steam Cowes Shanklin Newport Ryde Sandown
The railways of the Isle of
Wight were unique. From small beginnings as long ago as 1864, the system
blossomed into a 58-mile network – much of it single track – that was
operated until the end by antiquated locomotives and rolling stock
pensioned-off from more rigorous duties on the mainland. By 1960, this
bustling network had been reduced to just two lines – from Ryde to
Sandown, Shanklin & Ventnor, and also across the Island to Newport
& Cowes – and the infamous Beeching Report published in 1963
presaged the complete abandonment of these lines too.
Although the Ryde to Shanklin section gained a last-minute reprieve, leading to conversion to electric traction using withdrawn units from London’s Underground system, it was the end of the line for trains to Newport, Cowes and Ventnor and for the old steam trains. The last passenger train ran to Cowes one windswept day in February 1966 while April the same year saw the abandonment of services beyond Shanklin, and scheduled Island steam passenger trains finally ceased altogether following a very last run to Shanklin on 31st December 1966.
David Perry (a co-founder of what is today’s preserved Isle of Wight Steam Railway) and Chris Gosling were among those few that decided to record what was left and, using borrowed 8mm cameras and as many reels of Kodachrome colour film as their pocket money could buy, they set about recording for posterity the reality of the Island steam trains in their final years.