Island Line: Isle of Wight A History Part 1 - Standard Stock 1967 - 1991

August 15, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

 Having visited the Isle of Wight on 26th July, I decided I would write a blog post about my visit, however I wanted to explain a bit of the history of the Island Line first before I write about my visit. The history will be over 2 posts, with this post being mainly about the Standard tube stock and the line from 1967 onwards till 1990/91 and the second part will be about the 1938 stock and the current ex District Line stock, with my trip report being in a third post.  

Please note: the photo on this page is from Wikimedia Commons and is of a 3 Tis + 4 Vec (class 486+485) 7 car formation working on the Pier Head - Esplanade Shuttle in 1984. The original photo can be found at:


The Isle of Wight Railway history stretches back as far as 1862 with the building of a line from Cowes to Newport.   Ryde St Johns Road - Shanklin followed in 1864 with a later extension from Shanklin - Ventnor following in 1866.    Smallbrook Junction - Newport in 1875 and Ryde St Johns Road - Ryde Pier Head in 1880 also followed.   Other branches from Merstone - Ventnor West, Freshwater - Newport, Sandown - Newport and Brading - Bembridge ensured that by 1900, the Isle of Wight was served by 55 1/2 miles of railways.

By 1956 low patronage of many of the branch lines, particularly off season led to closure of the lines from Cowes to Newport, Merstone - Ventnor West, Sandown - Newport, Freshwater - Newport and Brading - Bembridge leaving only the Ryde Pier Head - Ventnor and Newport lines open.   Into the 1960s and the Beeching Report recommended the full closure of the remaining lines on the island other than the short but busy stretch between Ryde Pier Head and Ryde St John's Road.  A local hard fought campaign for the retention of the Ryde - Ventnor line eventually managed to save the 8 1/2 mile line from Ryde - Shanklin, with the closure of the Shanklin - Ventnor stretch and the Smallbrook Junction - Newport branch of the line in 1966.

Rationalisation and Introduction of the Standard Stock

With the line saved, British Railways announced a modernisation and track rationalisation programme for the 8 1/2 mile stretch of line so next came the challenge of replacing the elderly Adams Class 02 steam locos (with an average age of 74) and wooden bodied, non corridor, 4 wheeled Southern Railways rolling stock with their unique loading gauge.   The rolling stock was narrower and shorter that of the trains on the mainland, to allow them to pass under the bridges on the line and the Ryde Tunnel.   The option chosen was to approach London Underground to buy some of their recently withdrawn tube stock.    It was the right profile for the tunnel and the bridges so would be a suitable option!   By chance, London Underground was withdrawing some of it's pre 1938 stock (built between 1923 and 1934) so by 1965 and with the approval of BR to begin a programme of electrification of the Ryde to Shanklin stretch, 46 pre 1938 stock vehicles were purchased.  

This was soon reduced to 43 cars to save money, with 19 Driving Motors (numbered S1S-S11S, S13S, S15S, S17S, S19S-S23S and S25S), 6 control trailers (numbered S26S, S28S, S30S, S32S, S34S, S36S), 4 ex control trailers (Numbered S27S, S29S, S31S, S33S) and 14 trailers (numbered S41S-S49S and S92S-S96S) purchased.   Initially they were marshalled into 6x 4 cars ('4 VEC' or class 485 numbered 041-046) and 6x3 cars ('3TIS' Class 486 031-036) with one spare motor (S10S).   The formation was as follows: 4 car: Motor - Trailer - Trailer - Motor 3 car: Control Trailer - Trailer - Motor.   The initial plan was for 2 x 4 car sets to be used for winter traffic and as many as 6 x 7 car (4&3 car combined) on Summer Saturdays.   Each set had an 'A' motor (or control trailer) at the Ryde Pier Head end and a 'D' motor at the Shanklin end as A and D motors had different equipment underneath them, it was not possible to have 2 A or D cars as the Driving Motors in the one set.

4 Vec and 3 Tis original formations
3TIS Control Trailer (A) Trailer Driving Motor(D)  
031 26 47 1  
032 28 92 3  
033 30 93 5  
034 32 94 7  
035 34 95 9  
036 36 96 11  
4VEC Driving Motor(A) Trailer Trailer Driving Motor(D)
041 20 27 41 13
042 22 29 42 15
043 2 31 43 19
044 4 33 44 21
045 6 48 45 23
046 8 49 46 25
Spare 10      

The steam era on the Isle of Wight ended on 31st December 1966 as work to complete the electrification and cut the four platform tracks at the Pier head down to two continued whilst platforms at the other stations were lowered to allow the pre 38 standard stock to use them.   11 weeks after the steam era finished, the electric era began on Monday 20th March 1967 with trains operated by 4 VEC 041 and 3 TIS 031 (with the spare Motor car S10S attached to make it up to 4 cars).   The Sandown school special was operated by a 7 car set made up of 032 and 044.

Early years of the Tube stock services

By Autumn 1967, a shunting accident caused damage to Motor Car S15S which led to the car being scrapped in 1969 and a replacement was sought in the form of another car that had been withdrawn by London Underground.   It was repainted at Stewarts Lane and transferred by ferry over to the Isle of Wight, arriving during 1971.   In 1969, the Pier tramway, which ran on a seperate pier alongside the line closed and was replaced by a 7 car set shuttling between the Pier Head and Esplanade stations before running ECS to Ryde St Johns.   As a 7 car train was required for the shuttle, the timetable was reduced south of the Esplanade to 4 trains per hour, which meant that the up platform at Shanklin was rarely used in service and by 1971 the platform buildings were demolished and the subway between platforms was filled in.  

By 1973 the scissors crossing for access to Pier Head Station was worn out and in need of replacement also the Pier Head Signal Box which was its self in need of replacement.   Rather than replace it with a new crossover, plain track was fitted to both tracks and a trailing crossover south of Esplanade station on the ramp to the tunnel was installed, rendering the Pier Head signal box redundant at the same time and allowing its closure and demolition.   This led to the southbound track becoming a dedicated bi directional shuttle track for the pier shuttle and removed dead mileage of having to go to St Johns to reverse.   The main service used the former northbound track, which also became bi directional as the same time.  

Also during 1973, the number of trains available for use decreased following a shunting accident between 4Vec 045 and 3Tis 035, which resulted in the withdrawal and scrapping of 3 vehicles (Driving Motor S23S and Trailers S45S and S48S from 045) and the reformation of the remaining four vehicles into a new formation of 4Vec 045.   The fleet was further reduced during 1975 when S25S, the Shanklin end driving Motor from 4VEC 046 was severely damaged and with no spare motor vehicle suitable for working on the Shanklin end available, 046 was disbanded with the remaining vehicles being kept as spares.

By 1979, the service had reduced to 3 trains per hour during the summer and this allowed for further rationalisation at Shanklin with the removal of the headshunt (remains of the former line to Ventnor) beyond the station and the track in the up platform. This also meant that only 1 train could be south of Sandown at a time.

Rundown and Replacement

The pool of available vehicles was further reduced with the disbanding of set 033 in 1982.   033's driving motor replaced that of set 043 with vehicle S30, 033's control trailer being removed from the track at St Johns for use as a store, while S19 from 043 was moved to Sandown to the PW yard there also as a stores vehicle.

Attention started to turn to the replacement of the Standard Stock, with consideration being given to the transfer and use of the Merseyrail class 503s, which were about to be withdrawn and replaced by class 508s and the other option of 1938 stock from London Underground, which was about to be partially withdrawn from the Underground also being considered and initially rejected due to the electrical equipment being located under the floor and this was considered a risk especially with the line travelling along the pier.   Some 7 years later, the 1938 stock would come to the Island Line and would replace the Standard stock. 

With the replacement of the Standard stock having been rejected, the remaining fleet were treated to an £80,000 interior and exterior refresh, with an interior repaint, new lino and new moquette fitted in the interior and BR Blue / Grey livery painted on the exterior.     A further four vehicles were withdrawn in 1985 (Driving motors S13 and S21, Control Trailer S36 and Trailer 96)  leaving 29 vehicles for service, these being reformed into 5 x 5 car units (5 Vec) and 2 x 2 car units (2 TIS) and from January 1987, the remaining vehicles began to be repainted into Network South East livery.      Also in 1987, the first new station on the line in many decades was opened in the form of the single platformed station at Lake, between Sandown and Shankin, which opened on 11th May 1987.   Lake station could only handle a maximum of 5 coach lengths of standard stock, which effectively put an end to the use of 7 car trains.

In August 1988, it was confirmed that 'new' trains were on the way to the Island in the form of then 48 year old 1940 built '38 stock from London Underground, with 8 x 2 carriage trains expected to be delivered and at that point were expected to be in service by May 1989. Network South East were reportedly spending £900,000 on a full refurbishment of the 'new' trains.

Over the weekend of 29th-30th October 1988, the track between Brading and Sandown was reduced to single track, this had the added effect of making the signal boxes at Brading and Sandown redundant, with all signalling concentrated on the one remaining box at Ryde St Johns.  Brading signal box became a small museum in later years whilst Sandown box was demolished a year later in 1989.

The singling of the track from Brading (which was reduced to one platform, with the former island platform on the down side becoming redunant) through to just outside of Sandown station was fine for the then 20 minute service in operation using 3 trains, however when the service was further reduced to 2 trains per hour, the timetable became a lop sided affair with a 20/40 minute split.

The first class 483, 483001 was delivered during 1989 and made its offical debut on 15th July 1989 taking invited guests from the Pier Head to Sandown with a stop off at Smallbrook Junction to reveal a sign announcing the extension of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway from Havenstreet through to Smallbrook Junction, where a new halt would be built linking the 2 lines. 483001 would spend time during the summer working on the Esplanade - Pier Head shuttle.  Over the course of 1989, the remaining Standard stock reverted to 4 car formations, eventually being reduced to 17 vehicles.   By August 1990, there were sufficient class 483s in service for the Standard stock to be reduced to 7 vehicles in service, a 4 car set made up of 2, 26, 49 and 7 and a 3 car set made up of 28, 31 and 5.   However by the following month only the 3 car set remained available for service, mainly for de-icing purposes, but also occasionally in service, with the last official recorded passenger service use being on 12th January 1991, with the final de-icing run taking place on 17th January 1991, though unofficially, the train carried passengers from the Esplanade to Pier Head to connect with a catamaran service to Portsmouth.

Most of the cars once withdrawn, were scrapped either on the island or the mainland, however 5 of them were returned to London Transport as part of a Vintage Train project with Motor cars S2S and S7S and Trailers S49S, S27S and S44S chosen.  S27S and S44S were repainted into London Transport colours at Ryde St Johns however, the project never really took off and some of the cars remain stored or have been scrapped.

Island Line Standard Stock Fleet List

Number Type LT Number In Service (IOW) Withdrawn Disposal
1 'D' Driving Motor 3703 20.3.67 6.6.90 Scrapped 7.1.93
2 'A' Driving Motor 3706 20.3.67 7.9.90 LT Heritage Train Project
3 'D' Driving Motor 3251 20.3.67 1989 Scrapped 4.10.90
4 'A' Driving Motor 3702 20.3.67 28.9.89 Scrapped 4.10.90
5 'D' Driving Motor 3185 20.5.67 13.5.91 Scrapped 23.4.94
6 'A' Driving Motor 3084 15.5.67 1.2.90 Scrapped 1991
7 'D' Driving Motor 3209 26.4.67 7.9.90 LT Heritage Train Project
8 'A' Driving Motor 3074 20.3.67 6.6.90 Scrapped 8.1.93
9 'D' Driving Motor 3223 26.4.67 3.10.89 Scrapped 1991
10 'A' Driving Motor 3696 20.3.67 6.6.90 Scrapped 5.1.93
11 'D' Driving Motor 3705 22.3.67 18.1.90 Scarpped 15.1.93
13 'D' Driving Motor 3141 1967 03.85 Scrapped 1987
15 (i) 'D' Driving Motor 3253 20.3.67 7.10.67 Scrapped 10.5.69
15 (ii) 'D' Driving Motor 3273 1971 11.4.88 Scrapped 8.5.89
19 'D' Driving Motor 3045 20.5.67 12.82 Scrapped 21.4.89
20 'A' Driving Motor 3308 1967 11.4.88 Scrapped 8.5.89
21 'D' Driving Motor 3041 20.3.67 3.85 Scrapped 6.87
22 'A' Driving Motor 3010 20.3.67 14.11.86 Scrapped 16.5.89
23 'D' Driving Motor 3315 15.5.67 10.9.73 Scrapped 4.5.74
25 'D' Driving Motor 3313 22.3.67 8.9.75 Scrapped 10.82
26 'A' Control Trailer 5294 20.3.67 7.9.90 Scrapped 18.4.94
27 Ex Control Trailer 5279 1967 18.1.90 LT Heritage Train Project
28 'A' Control Trailer 5304 20.3.67 13.5.91 Scrapped 14.4.94
29 Ex Control Trailer 5293 20.3.67 25.9.89 Scrapped 16.10.90
30 'A' Control Trailer 5312 20.5.67 12.82 Scrapped 7.87
31 Ex Control Trailer 5283 20.5.67 13.5.91 Scrapped 16.4.94
32 'A' Control Trailer 5290 26.4.67 4.9.89 Scrapped 15.10.90
33 Ex Control Trailer 5291 22.3.67 20.9.89 Scrapped 13.10.90
34 'A' Control Trailer 5302 26.4.67 6.6.90 Scrapped 20.10.90
36 'A' Control Trailer 5350 22.3.67 3.85 Scrapped 6.87
41 Trailer 7286 1967 12.9.86 Scrapped 8.5.89
42 Trailer 7280 20.3.67 27.11.86 Scrapped 16.5.89
43 Trailer 7275 20.5.67 30.9.88 Scrapped 25.10.90
44 Trailer 7281 20.3.67 3.2.90 LT Heritage Train Project
45 Trailer 7293 15.5.67 10.9.73 Scrapped 4.5.74
46 Trailer 7283 22.3.67 7.9.90 Scrapped 16.5.89
47 Trailer 7279 20.3.67 11.87 Scrapped 25.10.90
48 Trailer 7298 15.5.67 10.9.73 Scrapped 5.4.74
49 Trailer 7296 22.3.67 7.9.90 LT Heritage Train Project
92 Trailer 7285 20.3.67 4.10.88 Scrapped 14.10.90
93 Trailer 7282 20.5.67 18.1.90 Scrapped 20.10.90
94 Trailer 7287 26.4.67 3.10.89 Scrapped 17.10.90
95 Trailer 7292 26.4.67 5.3.90 Scrapped 23.10.90
96 Trailer 7290 22.3.67 3.85 Scrapped 6.87



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