Isle of Wight Central Railway
The first railway on the Isle of Wight was the Cowes and Newport Railway, incorporated in 1859 and opened on 16 June 1862. It was a commercial railway and despite being only 4 ½ miles [7.24 km] long, it connected Newport the Island capital, to Cowes and the sea.
The Ryde and Newport Railway (R&N) gained its Act of Parliament in 1872. The towns of Ryde and Newport were then linked up by the railway, some 9 miles [14.5 km] long, when it opened on 20 December 1875. The R & N was just one of a number of small railway companies on the Island and together they eventually constructed some 55 route-miles [88.5 km]. Such small independent companies were not really viable and amalgamations soon occurred, the R & N becoming part of The Isle of Wight Central Railway (IoWCR) by Act of Parliament in July 1887. It ran from Ryde St Johns Road station on a separate track to Smallbrook, where it curved away from the Shanklin line, and on through a mixture of woodlands and open countryside. Intermediate stations were provided at Ashey, Haven Street, Wootton, Whippingham and the line ended at Newport station, now the site of a dual carriageway.
Originally there was just a single line and small station here. In 1886 a benefactor, John Rylands, built a gasworks to the south of the station, this was to supply the needs of the village. The gasometer has been demolished but the small retort house complete with its builders monogram still stands. The railway delivered gas coal until the 1920s when the works were closed. The Steam Railway now uses the building.
In 1926 the station was rebuilt and provided with a passing loop for trains. The layout was unusual with an island platform and access was by means of a foot crossing.
Havenstreet station is now the headquarters and main centre of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. Part of the site lies within the parish of Wootton Bridge.
It is hard to visualise it now but the original Wootton station was located in a cutting below the level of Station Road. When the line was built, a three-arch bridge was constructed to enable the road to pass over the railway. The centre arch spanned the track itself whilst the arch nearest the village contained the station offices. The platform was located on this side and was lengthened in 1912 to accommodate longer trains.
Access to the station was by means of a zigzag path from the road. The adjacent Stationmaster’s house was built in 1907 and can still be seen at the rear of the Methodist church.
George Henry Edwards was the Stationmaster at Havenstreet from 1906 and in 1910 he was transferred to Wootton. Seven years later he moved again, this time to Whippingham. His daughter Marjorie Smith remembers that the Porter at Wootton would always shout “Wootton for Woodside”.
Dorothy Marey took over as Station mistress from George Edwards for the duration of the First World War and she later married Cecil William Miller. In about 1920 Mr Spinks took over as Stationmaster; he had lost an arm in the conflict.
The 1908 Ordnance Survey map indicates a siding on the Haven Street side of the bridge; Osborne coal merchants used it. The only other nearby buildings were a few cottages and the Methodist Chapel; the village itself was half a mile away.
In 1923 the Island’s railways became part of the Southern Railway and a programme of improvements to the system was undertaken. In 1948 the railways were nationalised and the Island lines became part of British Railways Southern Region. It was not to be very long before routes and stations were to be closed on economic grounds. On 21 September 1953, Wootton And Whippingham stations were closed to passengers although trains still continued to run over the line.
A quotation from Wootton Parish Magazine dated May 1953 reads:
“As according to present decision it will be possible to go from Wootton Station by rail, it was decided to take a last fond farewell by going on the annual Sunday School Outing by rail”
The end for the Ryde-Newport-Cowes route came on the 20 February 1966 when passenger services ceased at the end of that day. The summer and autumn of 1966 still witnessed some traffic on the line, albeit restricted to coal trains and engineer’s trains run in conjunction with the forthcoming electrification of the Ryde-Shanklin line. By 1967 it was all over for steam trains on the Island.
The station is just outside Wootton Bridge parish boundary. It was built in the same opulent style of Ashey station and is a mirror image of it. Like Ashey, Whippingham station was in a remote location and both are now private residences. The area it purported to serve was some two miles [3.2 km] away and included Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s residence. It is known that her Majesty did use the station on at least one occasion, on 11 February 1888, when she travelled from Whippingham to Ventnor and back for the opening of the National Consumption Hospital.
The royal connection was maintained when, on the last day that a steam train passed through Whippingham on 24 January 1971, a stop was made to hand to the Island’s MP Alderman Mark Woodnutt a despatch bag containing a letter to Her Majesty the Queen. The document commemorated the fact that this was the last train to call at Whippingham Station, once used by guests of royalty travelling to Osborne House.This page was last edited on: 26th January, 2022 17:50:24