On our trip to the Isle of Wight, we wanted to do things that not everyone does and we were lucky enough that the Isle of Wight steam railway had just reopened in a totally COVID safe way.
Here’s the thing. The Isle of Wight steam railway is run entirely by volunteers and exits off of the money made from the tickets sold. It is a heritage hot spot and a great place for history lovers and train buffs. If you fit neither of them, it’s still for you, trust us, it was great fun and exciting! If you aren’t lucky enough to be visiting the Isle of Wight steam railway in person, for the train lovers, or just darn nosy, they have live webcams for the trains here.
As with most things at the moment, you need to book tickets for the Isle of Wight steam railway in advance. It’s really simple to do – you book on their website, and they run about 4 trains on the days that they run the journeys. We went at the end of summer so they still had quite a full timetable on offer. Obviously this varies across the year, so plan ahead and check the days. Tickets were £13.50 for adults (£6.50 for children and babies free) and so worth every penny, as you get access to the Train Story museum exhibition too. Because of the world how it is at the moment, they’re only selling third class tickets, but this means you get a whole carriage to yourself!
We were lucky to have the car with us and drove to Havenstreet station where there is free parking (they ask for a £2 donation if you can to support the rebuilding of the carpark and the other costs). There are other ways of getting there, the bus and taxis go there, and you can store your bikes but make sure you’re on time! Trains wait for no man, or people.
When you’re there
Although at the moment you need to keep your mask on in communal areas, everything you could need is at the steam railway. From a café selling snacks, sandwiches and hot and cold drinks; to very clean toilets and a shop.
The whole of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway is run by an incredible team of volunteers that are so passionate about it you can tell from your first encounter at the ticket office. It makes the experience even better to be surrounded by the most amazing people working there too.
Do keep an eye on the times that the trains leave as waiting to see another train off is definitely part of the fun too. The whole station is an amazing place to hang around, with beautiful flora and fauna and even a falconry field behind!
The round trip on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway takes around an hour, and we highly suggest you do the whole round trip!
If you catch the train from Havenstreet, there are two stops – Smallbrook Junction and Wootton; where the train turns around and returns.
Their rolling stock range from 1864 to 1924 and have a load of freight rolling stock too – all from about 1860.
It’s unsurprising that the Isle of Wight Steam Railway have won so many awards for different things. From the beauty of the carriages, to the interiors decked out as was with original vintage posters and mirrors and luggage racks too. From the staff to the shop, the scenery to the atmosphere. It’s really one of the best days out we could advise on the Island!
At the end of the line is Wootton station. A quaint country terminus station that has been recreated in an Edwardian style. There’s a waiting room, ticket office and toilets. And all the retro signage you could hope for!
You can also alight (even if you’re getting back on to continue) at Smallbrook Junction. Smallbrook Junction is where steam engines meet electric trains. Passengers visiting the Railway by ‘Island Line’ electric train arrive at Smallbrook Junction to swap trains by transferring between platforms on foot. Island Line trains run from Ryde Pier Head to the seaside town of Shanklin (have a look at our post here about things to do).
Another thing not to make sure you do is watch out for the sheep and waving to people, you’ll be surprised how many people wave back!
Since 2014, a National Lottery Heritage grant meant that the railway could open up The Train Story. This huge exhibition shows you the sights, sounds and real trains from over 150 years.
From Victorian to Edwardian carriages; rolling stock; tubes; trains and trams, all present in the Story. nothing is behind glass, and so much you can experience first hand, just short of them working on rails.
The shop is as quaint as you can imagine, with everything from magnets to everything for model railways you could want. They even have a fully-functioning model railway around the top of the inside of the shop too. We were as restrained as we could manage, coming out with a hat and a board game, but we thought we did well!
Good to go!
As with lots of attractions in Britain, the Isle of Wight steam railway, they have been given the Visit England “Good to go” rating. This means that they are COVID safe, clean and secure. As mentioned, they’re only selling third class tickets, meaning they you can have a carriage to your own booking. You have to wear masks when getting on and off the train, to ensure the safety of everyone. You also need to wear a mask during the train story museum, but if you have a carriage to yourself you don’t need to wear one.
To find out more about the Isle of Wight, have a look at our trip overview here.