SREmG
 

Please be aware of our copyright notice. If you have a good reaon for using a photo from this site ask permission from first - it is frequently given.

The Isle of Wight's Electric Railway

The railways of the Isle of Wight have always played poorer sister to those on the mainland and have been in receipt of many hand-me-downs over time. This in turn has resulted in rolling stock running for much longer than on the mainland and fostered a "make and mend do" attitude to keeping such aged stock running. Following the ending of steam operations in 1967 the remaining line - Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin - was electrified and inherited former 1923 to 1985 former London Underground units formed into four and three car sets, designated 4-Vec (Class 485) and 3-Tis (Class 486) respectively. These well-worn units were replaced in 1989 by former London Underground 1938 stock in two car sets, designated Class 483. These units soldiered on for over another thirty years, by which time they were by far the oldest passenger rolling stock running on the national railway network in the UK. It became a daily fight to keep them running. Some units were cannibalised for spares to keep others running. Towards the end, some days the battle was lost and buses had to be substituted.

For many years various replacement stock was considered in conjunction with the very future of the line. This included the assessment of converting the line to light rail and use of trams. One of the limiting factors of this line was the tunnel under Ryde Esplanade which over history had been prone to flooding and the track had been raised, thus reducing the vertical clearance and requiring deep level tube stock. It was the improvement of drainage and lowering of the track in the tunnel that provided the possibility of running larger rolling stock again leading to the introduction of the Class 484.

4-Vec & 3-Tis (Classes 485 & 486)

photograph by Keith Harwood

Electrification of the Isle of Wight line from Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin included the double track section between Brading and Sandown. Here a 7-VecTis train led by 4-Vec 042 heads south on this section towards Sandown in the first year of electrification. This double track section has since been singled

The Isle of Wight Railways were electrified at the end of steam workings in 1967. Ex-London Transport tube stock was purchased and refurbished into three & four car units. The 4 car units of Class 485 (4-Vec) were numbered 041-046 and were composed of a Motor Open Brake Second, two Trailer Open Seconds and another Motor Open Brake Second. The three car units of Class 486 (3-Tis) were numbered 031-035 and were composed of a Motor Open Brake Second, a Trailer Open Second and a Driving Trailer Open Second. When a unit of each class was coupled together they formed a 7-Vectis, which was the Roman name of the Isle of Wight.

The individual cars in these sets were built for LT between 1923 and 1935 and in 1985 the units were reformed into five five car and two two car units. These first Island electrics suffered from corrosion due to the proximity the sea. In 1989 they were withdrawn and replaced by newer 1938 era LT stock of Class 483 which had all been given effective modern corrosion prevention coatings to protect the steel.

Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.
  • 035 & 039
    Ryde Pier
    3-Tis units Nº035 & Nº039 at Ryde Pier Head. Notice the station canopy support cantilevered from the left.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.
  • 032
     
    At the same location as the header photograph, but heading away from the camera towards Brading, is a 7 VecTis unit with 3-Tis unit Nº032 trailing.
    Photograph by Keith Harwood.
  • 7-VecTis
     
    A 7-VecTis in Rail Blue at Ryde, Pier Head.
    Photograph by Keith Harwood.
  • 7-VecTis
    Brading
    The same 7-VecTis train, this time photographed at Brading.
    Photograph by Keith Harwood.
  • 031 & 032
    Ryde Pier
    Class 486 units Nº031 & Nº032 wait at Ryde Pier inJune 1973. The masts of the Sealink steamer can be seen above the station.
    Photograph by Michael Taylor.
  • 032
    Nr Brading
    3-Tis unit Nº032 heading south from Brading towards Sandown.
    Photograph by Keith Harwood.
  • 045
    Ryde
    A 7-VecTis headed by Class 485 Nº 045 on a short working from Ryde, Pier Head to Esplanade, early one evening in July 1988.
    Photograph by Mark Westcott.
  • Micheldever
     
    Prior to being converted from LT specification to that suitable for operating on the IoW, some of these units were stored at Micheldever.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.
  • Micheldever
     
    Another unit in store at Micheldever, awaiting conversion.
    Photograph by Ray Soper.

This section was last updated 22 March 2003

Class 483

photograph by Michael Taylor

Class 483 unit Nº007 seen at Ryde Esplanade on 12th June 1999, forming the 10:44am departure to Shanklin.

When the electric trains were first introduced to the Isle of Wight there were concerns that the stock would suffer whilst on Ryde Pier from the effects of the sea spray and water. In the event it soon became apparent that the conductor rail was far more sensitive than the trains and would usually trip out, suspending services, before the sea got anywhere near the traction equipment! These units were, however, fitted with a metal splash guard under the traction resistance grids to deflect any spray coming from underneath due to a rogue wave. Following on from corrosion problems with the earlier Class 485 units one of the requirements of the Class 483 refurbishment at Eastleigh was to ensure effective modern corrosion prevention coatings were applied to protect the steel. Recent inspection of a number of units suggests that by and large it appeared to have been very effective.
Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.
  • 006
    Esplanade
    Unit Nº006 forming the 10:13am Shanklin to Ryde Pier Head seen at Ryde Esplanade on 12th June 1999.
    Photograph by Michael Taylor.
  • 006
    Shanklin
    Now repainted into the "Dinosaur" livery, Nº006 waits at Shanklin for its 2:17pm return trip to Ryde Pier on 24th January 2003.
    Photograph by Paul Ferbrache.
  • 006
    Ryde Pier
    "Dinosaur" liveried unit Nº006 now seen leaving Ryde Pier on 24th January 2003 with the 2:45pm service to Shanklin.
    Photograph by Paul Ferbrache.
  • 009
    Ryde St John's Rd
    No doubt in an attempt to lure more visitors to the line, 483009 were repainted into the old London Transport livery (plus yellow warning panels). It is seen here standing outside the workshop at Ryde St John's Road on 6 July 2004.
    Photograph by Paul Ferbrache.
  • Interior
     
    The interior of unit Nº004, taken on 6th July 2004.
    Photograph by Paul Ferbrache.
  • Driver's
    Cab
    The driver's cab of unit Nº004.
    Photograph by Paul Ferbrache.

This section was last updated 31 January 2004

Class 484

photograph by Paul Bradley, via Eric Nicholass

Nº484001's driving car Nº231 at Fishbourne Ferry Terminal en route for Sandown on 19th November 2020.

In September 2019 it was announced that former London Underground sub-surface Metro-Cammel D78 stock, thoroughly rebuilt by Vivarail, designated Class 484, would replace the struggling 80 year old trains. Thus continuing the tradition of hand-me-downs! Vivarail had bought a large quantity of the former District Line vehicles as their 40 year old aluminium bodies were still in very good condition and had a lot of life left in them. Some of these vehicles have already been radically rebuilt into essentially new diesel electric and hybrid unit trains - Class 230 - for use on branch lines around the country. However, the Class 484 two car units are straight electric, picking up from the existing conductor rail but using new bogies, ac traction motors and ac control They have new cab fronts and interior accommodation. These units feature modern facilities previously absent from trains on the island such as improved access, a connection between cars, a passenger information system and wi-fi. These units are formed DMS-DMS. They have TSA ac motors fitted to Bombardier FLEXX1000 flexible frame bogies controlled by an IGBT Inverter system.

Units will be formed:
484001 - 131 231
484002 - 132 232
484003 - 133 233
484004 - 134 234
484005 - 135 235
note the new six figure vehicle numbering system is not being used on the island's five trains!

Whilst the new rolling stock is being introduced the line itself will receive attention with improvements to platforms and a passing loop installed at Brading permitting introduction of a 30 minute even interval service (vice the previous asymmetric two trains an hour timetable), amongst other work. The line is closed between 4th January and 31st March 2021 for this.

The first unit, 484001 was delivered to the island, later than originally planned, on 19th November 2020. Car number 231 was taken on the 14:00 Portsmouth to Fishbourne ferry and car number 131 followed on a later ferry. They were thence driven by road to Sandown PW depot for placing onto the rails. It was then driven very slowly to Ryde St John's Road depot. Testing overnight was due to start on 1st December, however failure of all three of the serviceable class 483 units and substitution of buses on some days permitted a few bounty daytime test outings.

Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.
  • 484001
    Being delivered
    Car 231 of Nº484001 at the Fishbourne Ferry Terminal on 19th November 2021 prior to being driven to Sandown.
    Photograph by Paul Bradley, via Eric Nicholass.
  • 484001
    Being delivered
    Car Nº231 on the transporter at Fishbourne.
    Photograph by Paul Bradley, via Eric Nicholass.
  • 484001
    Being delivered
    The other end of car Nº231.
    Photograph by Paul Bradley, via Eric Nicholass.

This section was last updated 24 January 2021

SR Target