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SAT 21 OCT

No Trains Today

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Sunday 22 October

"The Best Preserved Railway I have been to.."

'We don't have any Mk. 1 carriages' - this was what I overheard when waiting to buy tickets at Wootton station, having walked round from Ryde via Quarr Abbey, to watch the red squirrels chasing each other around the trees in the woods west of Ryde.

To non-railway people those words might mean little; to me, it summed up what the Isle of Wight railways were always, and still are, about.

We took the first train to Haven Street, sitting in a carriage that was rebuilt in 1922. However, it was clean and shiny, inside and out - in great contrast to experiences I've suffered at other steam railways, where (on one instance) the upholstery looked as if it hadn't been cleaned since the carriage was retired from BR use maybe 40 years ago (well, cleaning carriages isn't as glamorous as oiling engines, is it ... but they do it at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway!)

There is clear evidence that the staff and volunteers at Haven Street care not only about the trains but that the visitors enjoy their visit. There is an excellent museum and shop, and other events too - a display of birds of prey when we visited. There is also a secondhand book shop, children's play area and model railway; in all, plenty to look at and enjoyable.

The self service buffet served hot meals, sandwiches, beer and wine, and there was outdoor seating where we could soak up the sun, and be entertained by a robin and a pied wagtail, each trying to get the better crumbs from the floor.

We travelled on to Smallbrook to get the electric train back to Ryde; from the platform there we were able to watch a pair of buzzards circling in the sky.

Our overriding conclusion was that the IOW Steam Railway is not just a case of men playing with trains; it really is showing how railways (on the island) used to be, and all involved are greatly committed to that. 

It is very well worth a visit, even if (like me) you've felt let down by other steam railways. 

Visited March 2015


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