A final summer for Britain’s oldest trains

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Paying my annual visit to the charming Isle of Wight on Wednesday, 5 August 2020, meant a chance for some farewell photographs the pre-WWII (1938) Class 483 units before their planned retirement at the end of the year and, hopefully, their “re-homing” in preservation.

After my successful and enjoyable walk last summer to discover a number of interesting photo-spots between Brading and Shanklin, the challenge I set myself this time was to find some new and photogenic locations on a walk back from Brading to Ryde.

Starting my island day-out on the hovercraft to Ryde and then the 11.09 from Ryde Esplanade to Brading, I was left wondering how the remote intermediate station would look when the planned £26m Island Line upgrade restores it as a passing place, allowing even-interval half-hourly services to be restored.

IMG_4595The former southbound platform remains fully intact, but the footbridge would need a costly replacement, so what we might see here is the solution adopted at Penryn on the Falmouth branch of a long single platform and loop allowing two trains into the same platform face.

IMG_4613With the charming station buffet and preserved signal box closed for the season due to COVID-19, I set off north from Brading station, pausing briefly at a foot crossing just north of the station (top photo) then following the Yar River Trail as it headed away from the railway, before doubling back to a vantage point at Wall End Lane bridge, though shown on my map as Quay Lane.IMG_4631The section of line between Brading and Smallbrook junction was always single track and the narrow alignment and significant hedgerow growth means the view looking south as the line rounds a left hand bend is limited but attractively rural.

From this bridge I walked some 200 yards west along Quay Lane before taking a marked footpath to the right indicating a route to St. Helens and which took me to my next vantage point, a foot crossing of the line at the end of Vicarage Lane.

IMG_4644Looking north from the east side of this crossing there was a lengthy stretch of straight line and the chance to photograph an approaching southbound train, as seen above when 483006 approaches with the 11.49 Ryde Pier Head-Shanklin.

Reaching my next vantage point was the least pleasant part of the day, as it involved a 1¼ mile walk northwards along the busy A3055 main road, which has no pavement (unlike the stretch south from Brading) and only a narrow verge.

Having originally planned to photograph from the bridge taking this road over the line I was put off by the lack of safe space to stand at the bridge parapet, so pressed on up the hill towards Ryde before taking a left turn into a quiet lane called Harding Shute and signposted to Ryde Cricket Club.

IMG_4661Walking 300 yards down this road brought me to a much more peaceful spot called Truckwell’s Bridge, where there were pleasantly rural views of the line, as seen here, where 483008 approaches with the 12.38 Shanklin-Ryde Pier Head (above) then 483006 passes with the 12.49 Ryde Pier Head-Shanklin (below).

IMG_4689Being keen to avoid having to walk another stretch of the main road, I then took a pleasant and mainly off-road route to my next vantage point, the over-bridge on Smallbrook Lane, by taking a signed path to the right (B18) just past a couple of houses, heading north past Whitefield Farm, crossing the Isle of Wight Steam Railway at a nearby foot crossing and then taking a path behind a sports stadium.

Smallbrook Lane over-bridge is another hazardous spot, with the road both busy and narrow, but for a view looking south I found a safe spot by standing on a section of crash barrier alongside the bridge parapet.

IMG_4703From here there is a good view looking south towards the end of the double track just north of Smallbrook Junction, as seen above as 483008 approaches with the 13.38 Shanklin-Ryde Pier Head, then looking north as 483006 approaches with the 13.49 Ryde Pier Head-Shanklin (below).

IMG_4713Escaping the traffic once again, it is then an easy ¾-mile walk to Ryde St. John’s Road station via a path called the Nunwell Trail alongside the line to a foot crossing of the line, crossing the line at this point near the up fixed distant signal, and heading north towards housing and a road to the station.

IMG_4736After only seeing units 006 and 008 in service on my last two visits, what was most heartening at the depot was to see 483007 in the workshops, where it is in the final stages of a C4 (wheels, brakes, bogies and couplings) overhaul and will presumably be the last such overhaul of a Class 483 unit.

IMG_4728An account of my August 2019 walk from Brading to Shanklin can be found here:

https://railwayworld.net/2019/09/01/a-nice-wight-railway-ramble/#more-3095

My trip was once again planned using Isle of Wight OS Explorer Map (OL29). Services on 5 August were operated by units 483006/8, with 483007 in the works at Ryde St John’s Road, while 483004 was stored at the north end of platform 3 (photo above) and 483009/002 stood out of use in the yard.IMG_4745