Published: 11th June 2015
The Isle of Wight Steam Railway (IOWSR) opened its £1.2million Train Story, a new building containing four railway lines incorporting a Visitor, Conservation and Education Centre in March 2014. A fifth line has been laid alongside the main building to offer a degree of protection to more carriages and locomotives.
Although open, it was not 100% completed but was officially opened on June 6 with two ribbon cutting ceremonies, one for photographers and the other for the invited guests. It was also named ‘Train Story Discovery Centre’ and the ceremonial ribbons were cut by the Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) South-East England Committee, Paul Hudson and the youngest Train Story volunteer interpreter guide, Kathryn Lockyer who lives in Havenstreet.
The HLF made a grant of £970,000 towards the total cost and the project came in on budget, no mean achievement and repaying the faith shown by the HLF who has now made three awards to the IOWSR. The other two were towards a Carriage and Wagon Works (opened by The Queen) and to help with the overhaul of the flagship locomotive, an ‘02’ No. W24 Clabourne.
The Train Story name was chosen to reflect the building’s purpose, which is to conserve the railway’s unique collection of Victorian and Edwardian locomotives, carriages and wagons. The building also houses interactive displays and screens which give the background to the Island’s railways.
The HLF’s Mr Hudson complimented the railway on its achievements and said that the new building would protect the IOWSR’s vintage railway collection, now deemed to be of national importance. It was already recognised that after just 12 months of being partially open, Train Story provides another attraction within the IOWSR, already one of the biggest tourist operations on the Island with around 110,000 visitors last year. It was anticipated that 30% of visitors would go and walk round Train Story but the actual number has been over 60%.
Mr Hudson emphasised the importance of the three hundred plus volunteers at the IOWSR which provided a solid workforce and that the number of younger volunteers attracted by the activities made sure that there was a successful future in prospect.
There were two official ribbon cutting events, one in front of Calbourne but because of the limited space, there was a second event alongside the engine so the invited guests could see the ribbon being cut.
IOWSR Chairman Steve Oates said the first one was really the unofficial opening purely staged for official photographers in front of LSWR 0-4-4T Class ‘02’ No. 24 Calbourne which had steamed into Train Story for the occasion. After the ceremonies, it was coupled to a vintage carriage and made a rare public departure from the building.
The second opening enabled guests such as the Island’s High Sheriff, Ron Holland and Andrew McLean, Head Curator of the National Railway Museum to look on.
Mr McLean made a short speech announcing that the National Collection, via the National Railway Museum, had gifted two original Isle of Wight locomotive nameplates to the IOWSR on a permanent basis. These were from Calbourne and No. W11 Newport and these had been on loan for some time at Havenstreet.
The third gift from the NRM had been at Havenstreet for nearly 40 years was a superbly restored 1922 London, Brighton & South Coast Railway built 10 ton Goods Van. It started out as a Cattle Wagon (No. 46924) and spent 20 years working on the Island until 1948 when it was withdrawn from service. It had been rebuilt in 1935 as a Covered Goods Van mainly used to carry luggage under the Passengers’ Luggage in Advance scheme.
In 1948, it went became a S&T stores van until 1966 when it joined the National Collection, stored at Fratton, then Preston Park. After outlining the wagon’s history, Mr Mclean said that more IOW relics would be gifted to the IOWSR because of their strong relationship which was nearly 40 years long. He and the NRM were impressed with the forward planning and ‘clear vision’ which he thought, the NRM could learn from.
The relationship worked both ways as the transfer on loan of 0-6-0ST ‘Austerity Juno from IOWSR ownership into The National Collection based at Shildon was to be completed soon.
IOWSR Chairman Steve Oates said that; “Train Story has been a massive game-changer for the Isle of Wight Steam Railway ensuring that dozens of our historic railway vehicles are now stored undercover away from the weather and is already an integral and hugely popular part of the visitor experience contributing significantly to the Railway winning the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence 2015.
He thanked the HLF for their confidence in the railway and in providing the principal funding for this fabulous new addition to our railway”.
IOWSR General Manager Peter Vail added that “The heritage locomotives, carriages, wagons and other artefacts at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway form a unique collection of Island railway heritage, recognized to be of national importance and to now formally take ownership of the ‘Cattle Wagon’ and two nameplates helps us to continue growing our collection for future generations to enjoy and learn from, and it further cements our excellent relationship with the National Railway Museum”.
Train Story tells the story of the Island’s railways as you walk along a timeline supplemented by film and audio displays bringing the history of the Island’s railways to life. Train Story is accessed by a path which takes you through the carriage and wagon workshop and loco yard offering interesting views of behind the scenes. There is no charge to visit Train Story as admission is included in the IOWSR admission and travel ticket!