Newest Review: ... I'll go through them one by one, so you can see what kind of places you can get to. *Ryde Pier Head* This station is right at the end of ... more
The Island line on the Isle of Wight
Island Line Isle of Wight
Member Name: AbsintheFairy
Island Line Isle of Wight
Advantages: Goes to some interesting places
Disadvantages: Only covers the east coast of the island
I spent my 2012 summer holiday on the Isle of Wight, and although I normally used buses to travel around the island, I spent one day using the Island Line, the only electric railway line on the island, which runs from Ryde in the north to Shanklin in the east. Here are my thoughts.
***A Brief History***
The line from Ryde to Shanklin was opened in 1964, and was later extended south to Ventnor and north to Ryde Pier Head. The railways were nationalised in 1948 and the Shanklin-Ventnor section later closed. The line was electrified in 1967 and was later named the Island Line, a name it still retains even though it is now part of South West Trains.
Ordinary trains cannot be used on the line as the ceiling of Ryde Tunnel is too low. Instead, the trains are ex-London Underground carriages, originally built in 1938 and still refurbished. I found this rather exciting, as I am a bit of a geek when it comes to the Tube!
***My Experience of the Line***
I bought my ticket from a friendly and helpful assistant at Ryde Esplanade ticket office, and caught the train from the platform. Like all the platforms and stations on the Isle of Wight, the platform wasn't particularly modern or anything like that, but it was perfectly acceptable. Just like a small country station at home, really.
I made several journeys on the line, stopping off at various points to look around and explore. I really liked being on the train: it was like being on the Underground in the 1930s with wooden panelling and windows which could be opened! The trains were comfortable and clean, except where people had left litter, which wasn't very often - and this happens on all public transport!
The line doesn't stop at many stations, so I'll go through them one by one, so you can see what kind of places you can get to.
*Ryde Pier Head*
This station is right at the end of the pier, and is handy for those people wanting to catch the ferry to the mainland. On my journey back to Ryde I rode to the end of the pier: it was very strange to be travelling right over the sea! The track looked a little flimsy to me, supported by a wooden framework like the rest of the pier, but it's obviously perfectly safe.
This is an ideal starting point from which to catch the Island Line, as it is at the shore end of the pier, right on the seafront. The ticket office is here, too. If you are coming to Ryde for the day, it is an ideal stop at which to get off. Ryde is a pleasant Victorian seaside town with a nice beach and some shops, a nice place to spend some time.
*Ryde St John's Road*
This was where the original line started, but nowadays I suspect it is mainly used by Ryde residents, as it is further inland than the Esplanade.
This is the station at which to get off if you want to catch the steam train. I did just that, and had a lovely time. The Island Line part of the station is just a platform, but the steam train side has toilet and waiting room facilities.
Brading is a small historic town on the Isle of Wight. The station hosts a shop, café and small museum, but I didn't get off here so I can't comment on it.
Sandown is one of the island's seaside towns. I paid a visit to the town but I thought it seemed rather shabby and run-down. There were some seafront bars and apartments that I can imagine would be a lot of fun, except that there was hardly anyone in them. The beach looked reasonably nice, but again it was almost empty, although in fairness it wasn't the warmest of days.
Sandown is home to the Isle of Wight Zoo, which houses one of Britain's largest collections of tigers, as well as other animals including lemurs and monkeys. It also houses Dinosaur Isle, a purpose-built attraction which recreates the landscape of the dinosaurs, with life-size models of the creatures whose fossils have been found on the island. I didn't visit either of these attractions as I didn't have time, but I thought they both looked rather fun and I think children would love them.
Lake is a village; I didn't get off here, so I can't say any more than that. I couldn't find evidence of anything here that would be of interest to the tourist, so I didn't bother to visit (though I may have been wrong!).
Shanklin is where the Island Line terminates and as far as I'm concerned they saved the best 'til last. Shanklin was by far my favourite place on the Isle of Wight: a beautiful seaside town with a lovely Old Village full of stone cottages and tea rooms. I enjoyed looking around the charity shops and bric-a-brac shops where I picked up some clothing bargains, including a gorgeous black lace vintage dress for £6. I found an amazing ice cream parlour and had the most delicious sundae of my life, and afterwards I walked through Shanklin Chine, a gorge carved by a waterfall over hundreds of years, with a footpath allowing you to reach the beach from the top of the cliff.
***Limitations of the Island Line***
Sadly, the Island Line only covers the east coast of the Isle of Wight. This does cover important seaside towns such as Ryde, Sandown and Shanklin, and provides an easy way to access the steam railway, but it does not provide access to other interesting places on the island such as Cowes, Yarmouth, Ventnor, Freshwater and the central town of Newport. To reach these places via public transport, you'll need to take a bus.
You can access the most recent timetable via this link:
The trains aren't incredibly frequent, but I don't think you can expect the same frequency of service from a rural train service as you do from, say, the London Underground. I occasionally had to wait fifteen or twenty minutes, once half an hour, for a train but the trains did run to time. According to the timetable, they seem to run from early in the morning to late evening, but I only used it between the hours of ten and seven, so I can't comment on this in detail.
Fares for the Island Line are as follows: max. £4 for a single ticket, max. £5.40 for a return, and max. £17.80 for a weekly season ticket. These are maximum prices and you would probably pay less depending on where you are travelling from and to.
There is also a deal whereby you can buy a joint day ticket for both the Island Line and the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. I chose this option: an adult ticket costs £14.
The Island Line is a handy and comparatively quick way of getting around on the east coast of the Isle of Wight, particularly if you are coming to the island via the ferry to Ryde. It's also good value for money if you want a ride on the steam railway. However, don't rely on the line if you want to explore the island, as there are many important and worthwhile places to visit that it doesn't reach.
To find out more, visit http://www.southwesttrains.co.uk/island-line.aspx.
Summary: Electric railway on the Isle of Wight
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