Trains are a subject that produces a lot of passion in some audiences and steam trains even more so. There are a number of smaller steam tracks scattered around the UK and the world running part time and small services and one of the larger is the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.
The IOW Steam Railway is based on the East of the Isle of Wight and runs a regular timetable back and forth from it’s central station to two halts. The whole trip takes around an hour and 20 minutes and runs multiple times a day. Depending on the day there are a number of different steam trains and carriages – restored from the Victorian and Edwardian periods. We attended on a clear March morning and took the time to go back and forth between the three stations. The trip takes you through open countryside, several cuttings, a short tunnel and past several old train houses. The combination of the countryside, the sounds of the stream train and the smell of the smoke kept our 5 year old happy and enthused but the out and back nature of the service meant that we could have stayed on for half the time if she’d been bothered.
The central station – Havenstreet – has a number of attractions and facilities available. The biggest of these is the Train Discovery centre which is a huge exhibition space – which functions both as museum and a storage area for the trains and carriages. There’s a opportunity to try out restored carriages of different types from different eras and see how they evolved and changed along with a number of exhibits aimed at kids. It’s all undercover and took us about an hour and a half to work through, although we could have easily taken longer.
Next was a woodland walk which was a pleasant half hour walk through a Site of Special Scientific Interest up and down hills and along a woodland stream. The woods also have a stage and amphitheater setup which our 5 year old took advantage of. The stage is more usually used on events for shows including music, story-telling and poetry.
The Bird of Prey Center Haven Falconry was rather a surprise. Its a new venture that only opened in April and didn’t know it was there until we arrived. The center is another business inside the Station’s grounds and needs a second admission fee of £5 for adults and £3 for children although there are package deals which will save some money. They have over 70 birds with over 25 species and it specializes in Barn Owl conservation. In addition to the birds they have a petting zoo and insect hotel and hold twice daily flying demonstrations (weather permitting) on the station field which you do not have to pay extra for. We didn’t go into centre but did watch the demonstration which lasted around half an hour and we found informative and fun.
Finally there is a train themed play park, picnic benches, a museum of small railway memorabilia, a cafe and a large train memorabilia shop.
Price From £11.50 / adult third class
There are numerous packages available including first class, third class, station facilities only, Tesco Vouchers and Kids go free on specific dates. There are also bulk prices for groups over 10 and reduced price ferry crossings available.
About The Isle Of Wight Steam Railway
When the Beechings cuts in the 1960s the Isle Of Wight’s already decreased rail system was pared to almost nothing and a charity was formed which managed to salvage a single engine and two coaches isolated from the remaining lines. The site at Havenstreet was secured almost five years later and after a great many problems they managed to get the engine running around a kilometer up and down new track. It was extremely popular and in fits and starts has built gradually to todays much larger operation.
Environment & People
The price of the railway is variable depending on the class of travel, and if you are booked online or not but perhaps the best value is an online family ticket – two adults and two children for £29 which compares very well to other similarly priced days out. If you’re travelling from the mainland they offer some deals with WightLink and HoverTravel which are worth considering. They also accept Tesco vouchers in whole or part payment on the gate.
Travel season: Spring, Summer, Autumn with some extra dates in December
Location: Central point – Havenstreet station, Isle of Wight
On-line booking: Yes
Three standard timetables that run on different days.
Map: PDF map can be found here.
Male, Female and disabled facilities available on at Havenstreet. No facilities on the trains.
Free car park at Havenstreet and Wootton, Wifi at Havenstreet, baby changing facilities, playground, indoor play room, guards van on the train for bikes, pushchairs and buggies, dogs allowed on short leashes.
If you or your little ones like steam trains then the Isle of Wight Steam Railway is one of the best options both to ride on and get close to a number of different trains and period restored carriages. The value adds of the woodland walk and the birds of prey will probably also appeal to most customers and will contribute to a good day out. If you’re on the Isle of Wight for holiday it should be on your list to check out. Recommended.