The railway runs five miles from Smallbrook Junction through Ashey and Havenstreet to Wootton. We will start our tour of the line at Smallbrook Junction and take you to Wootton; stopping at all stations along the way - your train ticket is valid for unlimited travel on the day of ticket issue, so please ride as much as you wish! You can stay on the train for the complete trip or break your journey at the station of your choice by clicking on the station name on the map above.
Passengers visiting the railway by 'Island Line' electric train arrive at Smallbrook Junction Station, the point at which the lines from Ryde to Ventnor and Ryde to Newport diverged. The two platforms of this station, which may be reached only by rail, are situated on the site of the original junction and the concrete foundations of the former signal box can be seen in the undergrowth between the two platforms. The station itself is only a recent addition to the Island's railway map. It was built by the former Network South East in 1990-91 and provides an interchange for passengers between the Island's two railway systems. The station's platforms vary in height, the Island Line's being noticeably lower - this is necessary to cater for the ex-London Underground 1938 Tube Stock units that form their trains.
On the Isle of Wight Steam Railway side of the station there is a run round loop, having spring operated points at the Ryde end and a two lever ground frame, locked by the Single Line Token, at the Newport end. The ground frame is sheltered by a timber building, parts of which originally formed Whitwell Signal Box on the Ventnor West route, closed in 1952.
The station building was completed in July 2012 and is built in the traditional Southern Railway style with ticket office, waiting room and an eco friendly composting toilet.
As the train waits for departure time the leisurely panting of the Westinghouse Air Brake Pump on the locomotive can be clearly heard, providing compressed air to operate the brakes on the locomotive and coaches. The railways of the Isle of Wight remained loyal to the air brake system until the end of steam, while the majority of mainland railways adopted the vacuum brake system.
A wave of the Guard's green flag, an answering blast from the locomotive's hooter and our journey begins! The engine works hard to pull the train up the gradient and around a sharp curve. The woods on either side are very old and in springtime they display primroses and bluebells. As both gradient and curve begin to ease we pass over the bridge at Monktonmead Brook. The area here is known as Swanpond Copse and on hot summer days colourful dragonflies often appear.
Shortly the woodland gives way to farmland, and the Smallbrook Junction Up Distant Signal (fixed at Caution as are all Distant signals on the railway) is passed, followed immediately by Calloways Crossing. This is the first of a number of similar occupation crossings provided to allow farmers access to their land and public rights of way to continue without interuption. A lineside sign gives the Driver the instruction 'Whistle' as the railway curves towards Whitefield Crossing, and farm buildings can be seen to the right.
Once over the crossing, the Ponda Rosa, a popular public house, is prominent just before the train enters Long Arch Bridge, which carries the Ryde to Arreton road, 'The Downs Road', over the railway. For the engine the climb has really started now. The gradient, which is between 1 in 75 - 80, will not ease until the summit at Ashey is reached.
Passing under Deacons Lane Bridge the scenery changes with countryside opening out. Often birds of prey such as kestrels and sparrow hawks perch on the fence posts, perhaps waiting for passing prey as the trains go by! The locomotive has been working hard as Ashey and Brading Downs are seen in the distance to the left. The large white monument visible on the top of Ashey Down was constructed as an aid to navigation for shipping around the Island and bears the date 1735.
The 3 ¾ milepost is reached and very shortly afterwards the summit of the long climb from Smallbrook. Careful handling of the locomotive is required to ensure it crosses the summit with sufficient water in the boiler - all Isle of Wight Steam Railway engines face chimney to Newport and, if the water level is too low at this point, there is a danger of the firebox crown being exposed as the nose of the engine drops steeply towards Ashey Station. The driver shuts off the regulator and the train coasts down to Ashey Station.