The railways of the Isle of Wight have always fascinated me. Not least because of the concentration of lines on a small island – three companies pre-1923 before they were amalgamated under the Southern Railway.
And the Isle of Wight was home to some wonderful rolling stock, being independent of the mainland, and all stock being imported by sea. Small tank engines, like the ex-LSWR O2 0-4-4 below, time expired carriages and goods stock, generally short trains, but with the emphasis on passenger workings for the tourist trade. What isn’t there to like? Even today, the remaining line from Ryde to Shanklin is operated by venerable ex-London Transport tube trains.
And even if you don’t model the Southern, the concept might be applied to any railway company and an imaginary offshore island. I believe this is how ‘Thomas’ and the ‘Isle of Sodor’ came about?
So to the station layouts. Some of these are pretty well known, but I’ve put them together as some of the more interesting (to me) track layouts on the island. All maps are from the National Library of Scotland under Creative Commons, and are dated around 1900.
We start with Bembridge. One of two termini with a turntable/sector plate at the end of the line (Ventnor, below is the other), this is a simple branch line terminus. I recall a model quite some time ago, that was build to 4mm/P4 standards. It would compress into an interesting 2mm layout – just three points but with the turntable to make work.
At the other end of the branch, Brading was the junction for Bembridge, the branch line exiting bottom right. Another very buildable layout, with a separate branch platform, and limited goods facilities.
Cowes is a slightly larger terminus, but makes an attractive curved terminus. Early drawings and photographs of the station show that the line used to end more or less at the footbridge, and the two cul-de-sac’s shown either side of the platforms were originally one road, cut by the station extension. Cowes was a busy station, with services from the island railway hub at Newport.
The Freshwater and Yarmouth line also ended up in Newport, and before 1923 was an independent company. Freshwater had an interesting layout in its early days, that became more conventional later. There is a 2mm fine scale model of the station just entering the exhibition circuit, making good use of 3D printing for the buildings.
Much the same could be said about Yarmouth. I like the ‘reverse Inglenook’ arrangement of the goods yard. This surely has potential for a model?
Merstone is another interesting junction, with the branch to Ventnor West bottom right. I’d have liked to have included Ventnor West in this post, but the station hadn’t been built in 1900! There’s a good ‘OO’ version of Merstone on the exhibition circuit, with some very nice IOW goods stock on display – mainly LBSCR and LSWR discards.
Finally, we’ll look at the ‘main line’ – still mostly in use today – between Ryde and Ventnor. Ryde terminus was on the pier, allowing transfer from passenger ferry direct to the train. Just down the line was Ryde St. John’s Road, one of the larger engine sheds, with Newport, on the island, and also having works facility. This could make an interesting model with limited compression.
Another compact junction – the island seems to specialise in them – was Sandown.
Shanklin is the current terminus of the line, and was a simple, but interesting through station.
Having tunneled through the downs above Ventnor, the line emerged into a quarry-like terminus, with storage in caves by the goods yard. The station had two platforms, one an island accessible only by a moveable ‘bridge’ across the tracks. And another turntable/sector plate at the end of the line. With the tunnel so close to the station, it is almost every modeller’s dream! There was a very good 2mm fine scale model of this station completed some time ago.
As for modelling the island in ‘N’ or 2mm? Not easy. Dapol have issued an island ‘Terrier’. N-Brass do an LSWR G6 0-6-0T, that is very similar to the O2 0-4-4T’s used on the island, though the extended bunker would need to be modified. Coaching stock was mainly ex-LBSCR and ex-SECR vehicles, and some etched sides are available. Wagons would have to be mainly scratch-built, though generic ones might do the job. DJM models has the distinctive ex-LSWR ‘road vans’ (brake vans) as a future release in ‘N’, but will they ever happen????