The Island Line is not technically a heritage line but, as until 2019 it ran vintage 1938 London tube stock and some of its stations are in a good state of preservation, it comes close.
Whilst some of the stations are well looked after, the same could not be said for the old jointed rail track. Rattling along the line, swaying from side to side really reminded me how poor the ride was on the old tube trains.
In September 2019 the line was closed and a program of extensive improvements was started, including the introduction of extensively refurbished former London Underground 'D' Stock trains.
Why tube trains? In 1967 the track bed in Ryde Tunnel was raised to reduce flooding and decrease the gradients. However this meant the roof of the tunnel was too low for normal trains.
Brading Station was once a busy junction station. Now it is reduced to a single line.
In 1987 the station was threatened with demolition. However the local community objected strongly prompting the Brading Town Trust and Brading Town Council to try to save it.
In 1989 the entire complex was made a Grade II listed building, and in June 2005 it was opened to the public. Further restoration has taken place since then, and in March 2010 the signal box and waiting rooms were opened to the public for the first time in 40 years.
The signal box was opened in 1882. It housed a 30 lever frame, and controlled the branch line to Bembridge and an important goods yard. The Bembridge line closed in 1957, and in 1988 the Brading-Sandown section of the line was converted to single track. The signal box was closed on 29 October 1988.
The station is now home to a heritage centre and museum which doesn't open on Mondays. Unfortunately I was there on a Monday.
For further information on opening times, please see the Brading Town Council web site detailed below.
The plaque below this fine carved panel on the outside of Shanklin Station read:
'JARGE' -THE OUTSIDE PORTER
Until the 1950s most holidaymakers arrived in Shanklin by train. As they
came out of the station they might wall have encountered a man on the
forecourt with a two-wheeled trolley, who hoped to earn a shilling or two by
carrying their bags. This was George Hawksworth known as 'Jarge', and the
brass badge fixed to his distinctive brown trilby hat showed him to be licensed
by the Railway Company as an Outside Porter.
He always wore a suit, knee length gaiters and polished boots. His hat sat
low on his forehead, perhaps weighed down by the heavy brass badge.
Spotting a likely customer, he would call out 'Carry your bag, Sir', or even
the unorthodox, 'Carry your bag, Sir, Got hobnail boots. Sir, But can't I run,
direckly minnet, Sir' (!) and if visitors went along with this, Jarge would load
his red and green trolley and lead them to their hotel or guest house.
On Saturdays, though, when passengers emerged from a train, Jarge often
faced competition from local lads whose homemade wooden handcarts
trundled along on old pram wheals. They would use tricks to distract him,
winding him up unmercifully, and pirate customers behind his back. Poor
Jarge could seldom match these quick-witted youngsters and he was often
reduced to cursing and threatening retribution.
In many ways Jarge was a throwback to the former golden era of rail travel.
When he finally handed in his badge, a national newspaper reported him as
the longest-serving Outside Poster in the entire country.
Plaque and Stone Carving commissioned in 2012 by Shanklin Rotary Club
(some of whose members were once among the lads who pirated Jarge's
customers) on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
Sculptor: Glyn Roberts
Highlight of any Island Line trip is the ride out to the end of Ryde Pier.
The pier is actually three piers. The oldest dates back to 1813 and carries the wooden decking used by both pedestrians and vehicles. There is a car park on the pier head, and there aren't many piers that you can say that about.
Sandwiched between the railway line and the road deck are the sad remains of the old Ryde Pier Tramway built in 1864 which closed in 1967. The Isle of Wight Steam Railway has plans to restore one of the original tram cars for use on their line.
The third pier carrying the railway line was added in 1880 providing a direct steam railway link to the pier head.
Although there was a concert pavilion constructed in 1895, it never really became a pleasure pier. Its primary purpose has always been to give the ferries from Portsmouth somewhere to moor.
External Links and References
History of Ryde Pier
A history of the pier from the National Piers Society https://piers.org.uk/piers/ryde/