Probably the smallest, and certainly the most reliable, of the United Kingdom's privatised Train Operating
Companies, the Island Line runs a single eight-and-a-half mile stretch of railway on
the Isle of Wight. Uniquely, it uses ex-London Underground stock, in order to
negotiate the low tunnels on the route. The second-hand units also have the merit of
being cheap, which is important in one of the poorer areas of southern England.
One of these units, 007, dates from 1938 and has recently been restored to its
original livery. The rest of the stock (five units) were kitted out in 2000 in a
dramatic and brightly-coloured 'dinosaur' livery.
The northern end of the line is at Ryde Pier Head, at the end of Ryde pier,
projecting a good long way out into the Solent. From there, catamaran services
run to Portsmouth on the mainland. Ryde Esplanade station is only at the other
end of the pier, and depending on the timing of your boat, it may be better to walk
down the pier than to wait for a train. Smallbrook Junction station only exists to
connect to the preserved Isle of Wight Steam Railway, and only opens on days when
the preserved railway is in action. The Steam Railway operates as far as Wootton
and preserves a wide range of original railway artefacts. Like the Island Line
itself, the Steam Railway uses stock purchased second-hand from mainland railways,
and thus has some very old locomotives.
Ryde Pier Head
Ryde St Johns Road
Ferries to Portsmouth Harbour at Ryde Pier Head; interchange as shown with
the Isle of Wight Steam Railway at Smallbrook Junction.