The International Steam Pages

A Tale of Two Isles; or, A Day Late And A Dollar Short -- Isle of Wight and Isle of Man

Robert Hall writes of some UK railway backwaters:

Much of my approaching-six-decades of gricing, has featured – far more than I’d wish – missed and fouled-up opportunities, or plain ill-luck. Two islands, beloved by holidaymakers, off the shores of my native Great Britain – both having been in their different ways, delightfully railway-served – feature in my sorry “if-only” catalogue. Man, and Wight, are the “Isles” concerned. Re the former, I have not all that much with which to reproach myself – I grew up far to the south and east of the place, and it wasn’t on the family’s holiday agenda. Wight, though – I could so easily have taken a trip to the island, with its “working museum in regular daily service” under British Railways – two lines worked exclusively by ex-London & South-Western class 02 0-4-4Ts, and passenger stock fifty-plus years old, for a whole decade up until early 1966; but I didn’t.

For this apathy and negligence, I mostly blame the Ordnance Survey map. It was among the collection of such, in my childhood home – was discovered by me, approximately 1955. An excerpt from it can be viewed, accompanying this piece.

It’s a bit of a mystery why our family ever acquired a “one-inch” map of Southampton / Solent / Isle of Wight, published in 1945. To the best of my knowledge, none of the family – hailing from the north-west of England, closely up against the Welsh border – spent time perforce in World War II in that part of the country, or went on holiday there post-war. If I ever asked my elders “how come?” – probably didn’t – the answer has been forgotten. “Whatever” – the map (the edition which, a little confusingly, shows multiple-track railways not as a solid black line, but as alternating long black, and white, panels; single lines are shown with alternating short ditto) was there. On its Isle of Wight part, I revelled in the depicted wonderful mini-rail-network, covering most of the island – all shown open and in action, for passenger traffic.

I discovered not long after – to my grief – that several of the lines shown on the map, had been abandoned. Was distressed to learn, a little subsequently, of the closure early in 1956 of the Newport – Merstone -- Sandown line. From then on, there remained only the two lines Ryde – Newport – Cowes, and Ryde – Ventnor. These lasted in their entirety for another ten years – truly a living museum, as described above (the island railways’ narrow clearances made modernisation, a difficult proposition); but I felt throughout that time, that what was left on the island, was only a miserable remnant of the glories that had been (once six lines, four gone, only two left). Living as I did some eighty miles north of London, the Isle of Wight was not exactly in my backyard; but was probably not out of long-day-trip (or at worst, two days, one night away) range – but I couldn’t be bothered to do it. Berating oneself for stupidities some half-century ago – an activity often indulged in, but epically futile.

Thinking for a while, about “when things were truly good” – the Isle of Wight pre-1923, must have been a for-sure marvellous railway scene. “Only in Britain” (or in the USA) – on a tiny island, only twenty-three miles by thirteen, a plurality of different railway companies, with their own loco and carriage liveries, operating independently of each other. There were the Isle of Wight Railway, the Isle of Wight Central Railway, and the Freshwater, Yarmouth and Newport Railway. And – icing on cake – Ryde (Pier Head) to Ryde (St. Johns Road – nerve-centre of the island’s railway system) did not belong to the island companies, but was jointly owned by the “mainland” London & South Western and London, Brighton & South Coast, Railways. Actual working of trains on this stretch, was done by the island’s railways – LSWR and LBSCR running their own motive power and rolling stock over this short “island” section would have been pretty mad, even for pre-Grouping Britain. Plus, there was a parallel and independent “tram” route (predating the conventional railways) along the pier from Ryde (Pier Head), to Ryde (Esplanade) – first horse-hauled, then electric, finally worked by petrol-powered Drewry railcars. From 1923 on, the whole thing became progressively less fun – at the Grouping, all (including the pier trams at a slightly later date) became part of the Southern Railway, and gradually, the Isle of Wight’s loco stock was standardised, with class 02 becoming progressively the norm – but throughout the Grouping era, all the island’s railways stayed happily in use.

Nowadays, it’s a popular “given” in Britain, to ascribe all local-railway closures in the land since nationalisation of its railways, to Dr. Beeching. A case of a neatly apt name for a role – if one regards branch lines as “dead wood” in the road-motor era, the verb “to beech” – to remove dead wood – is easily coined. It can be suspected that subliminally, this, plus his Doctor title (not, with him, of the medical sort – but he could be envisaged, if one wished, as a cruel-to-be-kind healer) causes him to come to mind rather ubiquitously, in the context concerned. In fact, though, in the early years of the 1950s – long before Beeching was heard of – British Railways carried out a mighty slaughter (re passenger services, and often involving total abandonment too) of its more rural and marginal branch lines. As indicated earlier, between 1952 and 1956 this fate befell over half the Isle of Wight’s rail mileage – here, total closure in every case.

We probably all have people who we would – for whatever reasons -- wish to have been. Department gricing, mine in that slot is very definitely a fellow-railfan and contemporary (born at end of 1940s) – now lost touch with – who was an Isle of Wight native, and had the advantage of being the son of a railway enthusiast. Under paternal aegis, this guy had in his early childhood travelled over the whole of the maximum-extent Isle of Wight railway system (first section of which abandoned, was Merstone – Ventnor West, in September 1952). Said gentleman had also, thanks to Dad, travelled just in time, when he was very little, on assorted railway gems on the mainland, which perished in B.R.’s early-1950s purge – the Abbotsbury branch, for one. Per this friend’s account: thanks to his father being headmaster of a school on the island, father’s representations re transport between home and school for his pupils, caused the Newport – Sandown line not to be abandoned, as originally planned, in autumn 1953 together with the Freshwater and Bembridge branches, but to enjoy another two-and-a-bit years of life.

My first visit to the Isle of Wight was truly at the “eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute”. Accomplished with a fellow-enthusiast met in first term at university (not “Mr. Done-it-all” as above – the guy I did the trip with, was a northerner – IOW out of reach for him, till further education took him down south). November 1966, when after closures early that year, all that was running – but still with the 02 tank locos and ancient carriages -- was Ryde (Esplanade – middle one of the town’s three stations; section between there and Ryde [ Pier Head] was then out of action, for early stages of the drastic modification which was to be visited on the line) to Shanklin. (The greater part of what has always been by far the Island’s busiest line.) Without prodding from my friend, I would likely have not bothered with this expedition; rationalising, “I skipped it when it was still slightly worthwhile – now we have the last utterly dismal knockings -- forget it.”

I suppose I am glad that things falling out the way they did, took me to this location, in a last-gasp context; in the main, though, it was a depressing experience. As mentioned above, BR trains were not then running along Ryde Pier; after disembarking from the ferry from Portsmouth, we needed to take the petrol-driven pier tram, to Esplanade. The tram was abandoned in 1969, so reckonably the circumstances of this visit were, in this, a Good Thing. The disruptions caused by “men at work” meant that our train had 02s fore-and-aft between Ryde’s Esplanade, and St. Johns Road, stations. Thence to Shanklin with one loco -- chimney-first in the outward direction, bunker-first return. The weather was dreary – it was November, after all – and once on terra firma, Ryde to Shanklin is generally reckoned more humdrum scenically – and traversing considerably built-up areas -- than various of the island’s lost lines (though there are fine hills in sight, both sides of its route). Still – for what this particular bash was worth…

Steam working Ryde – Shanklin ended for ever, not many weeks later. For the first months of 1967, all rail services were suspended, while the eight-and-a-half-mile Ryde (Pier Head) – Shanklin route was made over into third-rail electrification – to be worked by units then approaching forty years old, bought second-hand from the London Underground system. This has always seemed to me, a crazy expedient for modernising a previously non-electric railway with clearances much more limited than those per standard mainland loading gauge; but perhaps, for professional reasons opaque to the likes of me, it was in fact the best way to go. The electrification involved the bringing over, to operate works trains, of a B.R. diesel shunter which the Island railwaymen dubbed “Nuclear Fred”.

Things so worked out that I made many subsequent visits to the Isle of Wight, not principally for gricing reasons, and over the decades gradually came to love the place. Have travelled many times (usually just to get where needed to go) on the Ryde – Shanklin electric line -- as this is written, still running, approaching its forty-fifth year of electrification (with slightly more modern ex-Tube trains, than at the venture’s outset) and quite well-used – but have never much warmed to it. Supposably, better than the abandonment which was the fate of nearly all the rest of the island’s railways; but on this one, I echo Bryan Morgan’s sentiments, about another location – “there are many defunct lines, for any one of which I would eagerly swop this surviving one”.

And a preservation society has managed to reinstate with steam traction, some five miles of the Ryde – Newport – Cowes line; with passenger connection with the electric section, at the divergence-point of Smallbrook Junction (never a station in “real railway” days). The society hopes in time to extend into Ryde (St. Johns Road station), parallel to the electric line, over the two-track formation between Smallbrook Junction and there. Have made numerous visits to the preserved line, which has a number of the carriages used on the island’s railways up to 1966; one class 02 0-4-4T (no. W24, “Calbourne”); and a couple of ex-London, Brighton & South Coast Railway class A1/x “Terrier” 0-6-0Ts, a class which worked for many years on the island. Frequently used on trains on the preserved line nowadays, are its couple of ex-Army “Austerity” type 0-6-0STs – a design which I find so hideous as to be rather endearing; but to me, these locos just feel utterly wrong and alien, for the Isle of Wight. In 2012, supposably one should be grateful that it’s steam at all…

A considerable amount of the island’s abandoned trackage has been converted into footpaths and / or cycleways; most of which I have walked, thinking of the immortal Mr. Morgan’s words (written – at a date when much of the Wight system was still active -- concerning previous generations of British closures) about “these ways through the woods which they shut, if not seventy years ago, at any rate before my time”. This is possible (with brief deviations) almost the full length of the Newport – Sandown line; that for which a couple of years’ reprieve was won, according to my associate, by his headmaster father. In the main, though, as regards IOW gricing, I feel that I could have been dealt a better hand; and wantonly “blew” most of what I did get.

It is salutary to reflect that while railway enthusiasts pine for what they perceive as the lost rural-railway Eden of the Island long ago; many contemporary non-gricers were less enamoured of the scene. The Wight railways’ most renowned foe, is probably the author Henry James (1843 – 1916) – an Anglophile American who spent the greater part of his life in England. Mr. James was a lover of, and well acquainted with, the Isle of Wight. In a 1905 work of his, “English Hours”, he goes into a prolonged rant about the – to his mind – desecration and quasi-ruination of the Island by the making on it, of what he calls “the detestable little railway”. In his view, this miniature-landscape-gem of an isle was highly inappropriate for invasion and “uglification” by such a product of the Industrial Revolution. While the railfan tends to feel, “miserable old killjoy”; it’s interesting to read of a negative “take” on the part of another littérateur – the poet Edward Thomas, who in a 1911 book about travels on the island, mentioned as its only downsides, “the bad and expensive railways and the other people”. Re the latter, one knows the feeling, but... re the former – a dose of reality, perhaps, for railway-addicts. A contrast here, in that Hank resented the railways’ very existence, while Ed was dissatisfied at their not doing their job very well. One wonders – just a matter of chance that Thomas’s poem “Adlestrop” turned out to be idyllic, rather than a diatribe against the Great Western Railway for delays and inefficient running? 

One does learn that other folk than literary creators, also found the island’s railways in their heyday, less than wonderful as a way of getting around: complaints about them as none too convenient or efficient, and charging exorbitant fares, were common. And it would seem that after Grouping, the Southern Railway did less than it might have done to improve and integrate services on the island system, inherited from disparate companies. A 1937 guide-book remarks, “As...these lines were originally laid out for three different systems, disconcerting changes are often necessary when making any but the shortest of journeys, and visitors should make themselves acquainted with the direction of the various lines by means of the map, and should also ascertain, before setting out, that a change of train will not involve a long wait for a connection.”

It may strike the enthusiast as tragic that the Newport – Yarmouth – Freshwater line, serving the island’s westernmost ferry port at Yarmouth (to which boats ply from Lymington) closed as early as 1953. However, its potential usefulness at Yarmouth was undermined by the station’s being half a mile inland from the ferry pier. This was all that was accomplished by the Freshwater, Yarmouth & Newport Railway (always the “lame duck” of the island’s pre-Grouping companies); and the Southern never remedied this matter post-1923. No wonder that once road motor vehicles got into their stride, the rail branch line became almost irrelevant as a ferry connection, and sank into little-used obscurity. In sober reality, it is probably not so much sad that the I.O.W.’s railways have dwindled as they have done over the past sixty years; as remarkable that as much of the system lasted, for as long as it did.

Some two hundred and fifty miles north-west of Wight, is the Isle of Man. Two appealing islands, quite similar in size, and of great individual-and-highly-different character – as regards railways (as for much else), both very interesting, but completely “chalk and cheese”. Wight has always been a 100% standard gauge (four feet eight-and-a-half inches) affair, while on Man, narrow gauge has almost completely ruled. The three-foot gauge – as once on secondary railways in Ireland not far away – strongly predominates. Wight has been, for many centuries, firmly part of England, and its railways have always been, administratively, one with those of Great Britain. Man is British territory, but not part of the United Kingdom – its railways have been independent from first beginnings to the present day, and have sunk or swum as such.

Man’s railways have always been less homogeneous than those of Wight – most greatly, in the split between the “conventional” three-foot-gauge system (Isle of Man Railway) spreading out south-west, west, and ultimately north, from the island’s capital of Douglas; and the “tram / interurban” double-track electric line (Manx Electric Railway) from Douglas, north-eastward along the coast to Ramsey – also three-foot gauge -- but with its electric offshoot to the top of Snaefell, the island’s highest mountain (2063 ft. above sea level) on a gauge of three feet six inches, with Fell centre rail for braking purposes.

The end, mostly, for both islands regarding (in this author’s opinion) “classic, real railways” happened to fall at about the same time. 1965 was the last year of operation in full, both for British Railways’ then two surviving lines on Wight; and for the traditional-form Isle of Man Railway. As from the end of the 1965 summer season, on the IOMR (which had been in desperate straits financially and in poor shape physically, for the previous few years), services were suspended – there was no more money to keep the undertaking afloat. The Manx Electric, whose situation was rather less ugly, carried on running; but no wheel turned on the IOMR throughout 1966. Somewhat amazingly, a preservation undertaking, under the aegis of a peer of the realm, took over and ran, for the summer seasons of 1967 and 1968, the IOMR (less the Castletown – Port Erin section of its “south line”, which was temporarily disrupted by work involving public amenities). A fairly astounding and un-looked-for “last gasp” for basically the whole system, and too good to last. It lost money catastrophically, and its titled backer “called it a day” at the end of the 1968 season.

From 1969 on, up to the present day, other undertakings have continued to work, with steam traction, the IOMR’s Douglas – Port Erin line, as a preservation / heritage exercise, with essentially no pretensions to offering true transport for getting people from necessary A to B. IOMR’s other two hitherto-working lines – to Peel and Ramsey – perished as from 1968, and were dismantled a couple of years later. Tracklifting was done at the same time, on the short St. John’s – Foxdale branch, which had basically slipped quietly into disuse in the 1940s without being officially abandoned. The electric railway has undergone some fluctuating fortunes since 1969, including a spell with services suspended between Laxey and Ramsey. At the time of writing, both the “steam” railway Douglas – Port Erin, and the “electric” throughout, including the Snaefell Mountain Railway, run for the “summer half” of each year.

One feels that in the days when the island’s railways were still “about” serious year-round getting people to where they needed or wished to go, permanent inhabitants and holidaymakers liked and approved of them, more than was the case on the Isle of Wight; though very many patrons nonetheless deserted them, once more convenient transport became widely available.

The Isle of Man has had – and to some extent still has – assorted “dressings” to its main meal for the railfan. Given access to a time machine, I would love to take a couple of days’ trip there, set for ninety years ago. “Extras” then – (plus a couple, mentioned below, still to be enjoyed now) – the electric tramway which ran the two / three miles south-west from Douglas to Port Soderick. The IOMR links the two places, as part of its Port Erin line; but tamely inland. Its one-time rival the Douglas Southern Electric Tramway did the same via a scenic cliff-top route; and was the Isle of Man’s only representative of the standard four-feet-eight-and-a-half-inches gauge. The line closed at the end of the 1939 summer season, and never reopened (damn that Hitler chap, for yet another of already innumerable reasons). Between 1896 and 1929 (the latter, a bad year overall for minor-railway and branch-line closures), there was a three-foot-gauge town-streets cable tram route linking Douglas’s promenade, with the upper part of the town. 

Still active nowadays, though like “all on rail on Man”, only in summer’s half of the year: the three-foot-gauge horse-hauled tram route along the Douglas promenade, from south of the town centre, to the Derby Castle terminus on the northern edge of town, of the Manx Electric. One horse per “toastrack” semi-open tramcar, at frequent intervals. Good fun, if blatantly “a curiosity for the grockles” (West-country derisory term for tourists, which no doubt has its Manx equivalent). My only experience of horse traction on rails (was born too late – or at least in the wrong place -- for Fintona in Northern Ireland). At the present time, big plans for revamping / “regeneration” of the promenade area, mean that the horse-trams’ future is uncertain.

And, the three-quarters-of-a-mile long line – with a history going back to 1896 – of one-foot eleven-and-three-quarter-inch gauge, at Groudle Glen, a couple of miles north-east of Douglas. (The Isle of Man at its rail peak, enjoyed quite a variety of gauges.) This little railway, with a short but scenic route through the eponymous glen to a clifftop terminus, has had a chequered career: as a purely “pleasure” line, its services were suspended during the World Wars; it went into decline post-WWII, and spent a couple of decades dismantled and seemingly gone for good – until being, rather amazingly, resuscitated by an enthusiast society from the early 1980s onward. Though I am normally a purist about railway genuineness, and “don’t want to know” about railways abandoned, lifted, and reinstated long after, for a purely-preservation role; I can make certain exceptions (one of the joys of hobbies, is one’s not having to be fair or consistent – nobody is hurt thereby). Find self able to give such a “free pass” to the Groudle Glen – in the light of its having been from its outset, passenger-only and just for the delectation of trippers (in 1896, roving gricers were numbered in their tens, not in their hundreds of thousands, and weren’t seen as a meaningful source of revenue); so can live with its having been brought back from the dead to continue playing a similar role. Also, the line’s two original locomotives – tiny Bagnall 2-4-0Ts – were acquired after its seeming end in 1962, by interested parties on the mainland, and have thus survived to the present day. One is now back in service at Groudle Glen; the other – the cherished possession of a “mainland” venue – has returned to Man only for a few brief spells on loan. The GGR has now in use, as well as its one “original”, several other locos, variously steam, battery-electric, and diesel. I took a trip on the GGR in 1992, very shortly after its full reopening throughout its original length (further seaward reach was long disused), and found it delightful. Runs, per latest information, basically at summer weekends and on high-summer Wednesdays.

Feel self to have rather regrettably “missed the boat” concerning the Isle of Man Railway; though with at-the-time limited funds, to have managed otherwise, would have meant missing out on other more ardently desired things. In own personal experience – from way before when I first learnt to read, the British railway-enthusiast journals kept their public meticulously well-informed about all doings on the Isle of Man Railway (concerning the “Electric”, rather less so – very many gricers have always been somewhat prejudiced against electric traction on railways / tramways, seeing it as the enemy of steam). The Manx rail scene thus fascinated me from about the age of seven; but a decade and a half went by, before I saw it at first-hand. 

My fellow-enthusiast friend with whom I visited Wight late in 1966, achieved a trip in summer 1968 (shortly after the end of steam on British Railways), to the Isle of Man – in what turned out to be the last weeks of the (nearly) “full IOMR” ‘s short renaissance under preservation. This brief two-summer time window must have been a fascinating time to see this scene, and I wish – as keenly as pointlessly – to have got there then. IOMR was then, as now, equipped with a good selection (some of its fleet fell by the wayside in the years of decline) of what has always been its staple motive power: attractive Beyer Peacock 2-4-0Ts, in a range developed over some 55 years, of variations gradually increasing in “size and strength”, on the same basic theme. Also, on the closure at the beginning of 1960 of the County Donegal Joint Railway’s 3-foot gauge system in Ireland, the IOMR purchased a few of that concern’s diesel railcars, which had long performed the great majority of its passenger turns. These railmotors helped the IOMR a little, especially for more economical working of its – in these last years – fading from vestigial to non-existent, winter passenger services; but this move was essentially too late: the IOMR was already doomed as a provider of serious transport. Some of the Donegal railcars are still with today’s “Steam Railway”, and in working order; but used only for permanent-way duties, or for runs chartered specially by enthusiast societies. The possibility was also floated, of the IOMR’s buying at least one of the Bo-Bo diesel locos, then well under ten years old, built by Walkers of Wigan for CIE (Irish Transport Commission)’s last-to-survive 3-foot gauge rail section: the West Clare lines, abandoned early in 1961. The price cited by CIE was absurdly high, and the deal-that-might-have-been, wasn’t. Even had it gone through, its being the salvation of the entire IOMR is not to be realistically looked at; but it could have meant the survival of another bit of interesting narrow-gauge motive power.

The 1967 / 68 preservation regime on the IOMR, used steam trains and ex-Irish railcars about equally: my friend wrote, on a postcard to me from the island, “all superb, except for the Donegal railcars, and they are at least interesting; I’ve never heard a diesel clank before”. I envy him – but there you are: my first visit to Man, was approx. a year later, in I think September, 1969 (a twenty-first birthday present). Things so fell out on that visit, as to make me a lifetime devotee of the Manx Electric. Reached Douglas by boat, late afternoon: plan of the visit was to overnight at Ramsey – thus, hastily to MER terminus at Derby Castle, and onto the Ramsey-bound working (motor coach plus trailer). Wonderful scenic roller-coaster ride therein, along the coast and largely alongside the roads, with seemingly plenty of fellow-passengers joining and alighting at various stops. It got dark between Laxey and Ramsey; alighting at the latter, adjourned to the, as booked, youth hostel. I was extremely taken with the electric railway, largely because of the feeling (confirmed on return run to Douglas the day after) that it was still a genuine public transport service, used by people to go where they needed to go – which felt very greatly not the case, with the steam railway.

The following morning, looked around Ramsey, including calling in at the IOMR station: all still in situ, rails still down, but of course nothing happening. A year earlier, the picture would have been very different; but quoting a favourite author, “wishing achieved, what it usually achieves.” Then back southwards on the magnificent coast-hugging MER; pausing to take the mountain railway from Laxey up to the top of Snaefell, and back. If one is lucky, views from the summit are something amazing; but on the rain-and-mist-prone western side of Britain, the ultimate luck in this context is rarely enjoyed. I’ve done four trips to the IOM: three, if memory serves rightly, involving going up Snaefell on the 3ft 6in gauge SMR – and the best I’ve managed (on my most recent visit) is seeing England’s Lake District, Scotland, and Northern Ireland (none of them all that far away). The Wicklow Mountains in the Irish Republic and Snowdonia in Wales, more distant, need a rare day of unusually good visibility. In ’69, the summit was totally socked-in, with no view at all.

Thence to Douglas, and a run behind a 2-4-0T to Port Erin, on the IOMR’s one remaining line – then running under the “brand” (frequently changed over the years) of the “Isle of Man Victorian Steam Railway”. While glad that this one line has survived (still going strong, and [exclusively, context scheduled workings] with an assortment of its original steam locos, forty-some years after my first experience of it) – it has always felt to me, a bit “plastic”; and as though kept on solely to please, and make money from, “gricers and grockles”. Unfair prejudice – stemming no doubt from that 1969 visit, when I happened to experience the “Electric” first; with in contrast, the steam railway’s sparse timetable – starting late, finishing early – not geared to when people needed to travel. Spent that night at Port Erin youth hostel; to make my boat departure from Douglas the following morning, had to travel by bus Port Erin – Douglas; the first train from Port Erin would have reached Douglas hours too late. It’s quite possible that five years earlier, with the “old” IOMR still active, though in its death-throes, I’d have been in exactly the same fix – but as said earlier, about the fun of hobbies… 

Colours in which Manx trains painted – have varied over the decades. In the basically declining years post-WWII, the IOMR’s locos bore a deep-red livery. Its coaches were either all-red, or red and cream – mirroring British Railways’ overall passenger-stock livery at the time. (The Manx Electric has long trod that same path, livery-wise.) In the happy days pre-the second global conflict, IOMR locos were painted green; for coaching stock, I think the basic “blood-and-custard”, or “just plain blood”, ruled – as was the case in later times. After the end of the old IOMR, liveries have been eclectic. Some locos green, some red, and at least one which I saw in 1992, was painted in a rather fetching blue. Coaching stock in various hues, including Great-Western-esque chocolate-and-cream. One rather feels, “what the heck / why not?”

Made several more visits to the Isle of Man post-1969, the last to date, in 1992; pleasingly, everything running then, is still running as I write; and “if the Lord spares me”, another, probably last, trip there somewhat appeals – lovely place, quite apart from its railways. If only I’d somehow got there in time for the IOMR’s Peel and Ramsey lines; but, “old and stale song”, or what…?

Excerpt from the 1945 map which first alerted the author to the Isle of Wight scene

Rob Dickinson