THE RYDE PIER TRAM PROJECT
RESTORING A UNIQUE PART OF ISLE OF WIGHT HISTORY!
For over 100 years, from 1864 until its closure in 1969, a tramway ran the length of Ryde Pier. From 1927, the tramway comprised two parallel single tracks, each with a petrol-engined tram and trailer car.
For tens of thousands of holidaymakers, the ride down the pier on the tram was their first experience of the Isle of Wight.
In 1969 one of the two trams – Car No. 2 – was acquired for preservation.
Our Ryde Pier Tram Restoration Project will bring back to life this iconic symbol of the Island's once proud and extensive transport system.
THE TRAMS ON THE PIER
On 29th August 1864 The Ryde Pier Company opened a standard gauge horseworked tramway along the length of the ½ mile pier. The Pier Company subsequently experimented with steam tram engines and steam tram cars, and, in 1886, they ultimately became pioneers in the use of electric traction. In 1927 the Siemens electric power system was abandoned in favour of petrol-engined rail-cars.
THE 'NEW' TRAMS
Built by Drewry and Company, the railcars were shipped to the Island in sections and re-erected at Ryde Works before being driven to Ryde Esplanade where they were jacked over the platforms onto the adjacent tramway pier. Car No. 2 spent most of its life on the western track, although it was possible to transfer stock from one track to the other until the crossover was removed in the late 1940s.
The original petrol engines were replaced by diesel in 1959. In 1968 an inspection of the tramway pier and the two cars resulted in the system being condemned, and the tramway finally closed on 26th January 1969.
When the line closed, Car No. 2 was purchased by the 'Island Vintage Transport Group'. It remained on the pier for some months until transported by road to Newport Station, where the Wight Locomotive Society – the founding organisation of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway - was then based. In preparation for transportation the bodywork was removed and found to be in such poor condition that most of it had to be scrapped, leaving just the chassis, engine and running gear.
For a year or so, the powered chassis proved useful for running materials around Newport Station. Then on 24th January 1971 it played an invaluable role when all of the Wight Locomotive Society's rolling stock and equipment was moved from Newport Station to establish the Isle of Wight Steam Railway at Havenstreet. It continued as a serviceable 'run-around' for another year or so but, as the Steam Railway quite understandably focused on the priorities of restoring its railway locomotives and passenger rolling stock, the tram was shunted out of use and effectively abandoned.
However, there have always been those who were determined that it would be restored, and in 2011 a small group, including some of those responsible for its original preservation, set out a plan for its restoration. In 2012 the Railway's Board agreed that the project should be the subject of an appeal.
What remains of the tram include the underframe, the engine, running gear and a few body parts. Some of this, including the engine, is beyond economic repair, so much of the restoration work will include replacement parts and some new construction. For example it is planned to install a replacement diesel engine and to fabricate new bodywork.
No trailer car was preserved, but fortunately we have a complete set of original drawings, so a replica will be constructed.
HOW WILL THE TRAM BE USED?
The tram and trailer will be restored and constructed to statutory regulations and fully certified for use on the IW Steam Railway at any time. Forays onto the line on operating days will provide a unique experience for passengers and photographers, and it will be an ideal choice for special charters. Visits to other suitable railways on the Mainland, to take part in special events, are also proposed.
HOW IS THE PROJECT BEING FUNDED?
The project is being funded by an appeal which was greatly helped by a grant from the Association of Industrial Archaeology. Restoration will begin soon and updates will be posted here.
A fascinating film which includes clips of the tram in operation in the 1930’s can be seen here on YouTube: