Published 21st January 2013
Defying the economically difficult times, The Isle of Wight Steam Railway continues to grow following Royal recognition and more Heritage Lottery funding awards. The railway’s progress has brought yet more top awards confirming its status as one of the South’s leading visitor attractions.
The first accolade came as the Havenstreet-based steam railway beat-off stiff competition from other Island tourism businesses to be crowned the Island’s top visitor attraction by winning the Tourism and Leisure Business Award in the IW Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism’s annual ‘Business Awards for Excellence’.
Just five days later the second major award was won in the prestigious Tourism South East Beautiful South Awards, establishing the IW Steam Railway as one of the very best visitor attractions in the South East of the UK.
In the Best Large Visitor Attraction category, the Steam Railway was positioned alongside Bleinham Palace to scoop a Silver Award. However, it just lost out on being awarded the Gold Award by the renowned Beaulieu National Motor Museum, a national institution.
The railway triumphed over competitors such as the Portsmouth Spinnaker Tower and as a Silver Award winner, the Steam Railway now goes forward to the Visit England national awards.
Chairman of the IW Steam Railway Steve Oates, said, “This is just brilliant for our Railway and will reassure potential visitors that their visit to the IW Steam Railway will certainly be a very special day out! The Island, and indeed the South East, has hundreds of successful and vibrant visitor attractions, so to receive these two awards is a great boost to our standing in the tourism community”.
“There is much to be proud of and the admiration for our Railway was in abundance at both award evenings,” said General Manager Peter Vail. “The current economic climate continues to present many challenges for our railway, but as we near the end of another successful year these awards are a very significant and appropriate tribute to the hard work and commitment of our staff and volunteers who do so much to ensure our visitors thoroughly enjoy their time with us. My sincere thanks to all for contributing to this continued success.”
Peter Colling, Managing Director of Tourism South East said, “Our industry’s commitment to providing the best possible customer experience is outstanding - The Award winners are truly the best-in-class.”
The Tourism and Leisure Business Award was presented at the IW ‘Business Awards for Excellence’ awards evening compered by BBC South Today’s Sally Taylor at Cowes Yacht Haven and attended by over 300 people from the Island’s thriving business community.
The Beautiful South Awards Best Large Visitor Attraction Silver Award was presented at a packed awards evening at Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey. Now in their 22nd year the Beautiful South Awards recognise businesses across the tourism industry for their exceptional levels of customer service and their dedication to raising standards.
The winners were announced by the Chairman of Tourism South East Ken Robinson CBE and guest host for the evening, Heart FM’s Toby Anstis.
These latest brace of awards to the IOWSR follow the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, received by the Railway last June and the receipt of a major £1m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the Railway’s Changing Trains project.
Over the years the IW Steam Railway has won a clutch of prestigious awards, twice winning the UK-wide Independent Railway of the Year Award (in 1997 and 2000), and in 2010 was named the UK's Best Heritage Project in The National Lottery Awards.
The Isle of Wight ‘Grand National’ also known as ‘The Ashey Scurry’ takes place on March 24 and the IOWSR run steam hauled race day trains to the event.
The Isle of Wight Steam Railway runs for five miles between Wootton, Havenstreet and Smallbrook Junction on the former Ryde-Newport-Cowes Railway. Alongside the 300-plus volunteers is a core employed workforce of 23 staff, many of whom were formerly volunteers on the Railway. The Steam Railway runs trains on approximately 210 days each year, and stages around 25 Special Events each year.
The Wightlink ferry and Fastcat services from Portsmouth serve Wootton and Ryde respectively. Wootton station is two miles from the ferry terminal at Fishbourne and Island Line services from Ryde Pierhead call at Smallbrook Junction connecting with the steam services.
Portsmouth Harbour station serves all Wightlink services and inclusive travel tickets from mainland stations can be bought to the steam railway. There are direct rains from Brighton, Cardiff, Salisbury, Southampton and London to Portsmouth Harbour and tickets can be purchased via www.redspottedhanky.com.
The IOWSR has been restoring locomotive No. W11 Freshwater and has bought a new boiler for it. This engine is expected to be in service by the end of the year providing another 100 year old vintage engine to match the vintage carriages which bare used on every service.