Isle of Wight Central Railway

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IWCR Stations & lines shown dark red
Ryde Pier Head
Ryde Pier
Mill Hill (Cowes)
Ryde Esplanade
Calbourne and Shalfleet
Ryde Pier Tramway
Medina Wharf
Ryde St John's Road
Ryde Works
Cement Mills Halt
St Helens
Smallbrook Junction
Ashey Quarry
(station opened 1991)
Ashey Racecourse
Ashey (1862-1966)
Havenstreet (1862-1966)
FYNR trains reverse
Wootton (1862-1953)
Site of Newport
Whippingham (1875-1953)
FY&NR station
Newport (1862-1966)
River Medina
Alverstone (1875-1956)
Pan Lane (1875-1879)
Newchurch (1875-1956)
Shide (1875-1956)
Horringford (1875-1956)
Blackwater (1875-1956)
Merstone (1875-1956)
Godshill (1897-1952)
Whitwell (1897-1952)
St Lawrence (1897-1952)
Ventnor West (1900-1952)
Isle of Wight railways diagram, showing closed and reopened lines and new stations.
Isle of Wight Central Railway
Main Line Stations

From Ryde trains used the Isle of Wight Railway tracks to Smallbrook Junction
Haven Street
Junction for the Freshwater and St Lawrence lines
Mill Hill
Freight line to Medina Wharf

The Isle of Wight Central Railway (IWCR) was a railway company on the Isle of Wight, United Kingdom. At its peak the company owned 21½ miles of railway line, and it also operated trains on some additional lines it did not own. Trains were first run on what became its lines in 1862, although the company was not formally created until 1887. The IWCR was merged into the Southern Railway in 1923, and over the next 43 years all its lines were closed. A heritage railway now occupies part of the network.


The first railway line to be built on the Isle of Wight was between Newport and Cowes. The Cowes & Newport Railway Company formed by Act of Parliament on 8 August 1859[1] and began construction of the line on 16 October. The line opened to passengers on 1 July 1862,[1] with the first Cowes-Newport journey taking under 10 minutes, while the full return trip took less than 30 minutes.[2]

The Ryde & Newport Railway was authorised by Parliament on 25 July[citation needed] 1872 and opened for trains in December 1875. The company was managed by the Cowes & Newport company.[2]

The Isle of Wight (Newport Junction) Railway (IW(NJ)R) was formed on 31 July 1868[3] to construct a line between Sandown and Newport, but it was not until 1875 that any trains were running, and the line was not fully completed until 1879. The company entered into receivership just one year later, in 1880. At this point, the line was bought by the Cowes & Newport company.[2]

The Isle of Wight Central Railway (IWCR) came into being by Act of Parliament on 1 July 1887.[citation needed] Due to this, the three railway companies owned by the Cowes & Newport were legally amalgamated.

Managed & worked railways[edit]

Newport, Godshill & St Lawrence Railway
Ventnor West branch Stations

Junction for the line to Sandown
St. Lawrence
Ventnor West

In addition the following two railways were managed and/or worked by the IWCR:

  • Freshwater, Yarmouth & Newport Railway (FYN). Services were operated by IWCR until 1 January 1913.[4]
    • With some backing from the London and South Western Railway the FYN, 12 miles (19 km) in length, opened for goods on 10 September 1888 and for passengers on 20 July 1889. From the beginning, its trains were worked by locomotives and rolling stock supplied by the IWCR. The railway had its own platform at Newport station. Conflict between the two companies led to the FYN beginning its own operations from 1913 including building a new station in Newport.
  • Newport, Godshill & St Lawrence Railway (NGStLR or Ventnor West branch). This 6¾ mile line was absorbed by IWCR on 8 April 1913. The line's completion was delayed due to the construction of a tunnel between Whitwell and St Lawrence.[citation needed] The line opened in two stages:[5]
    • Merstone Junction - St Lawrence, 20 July 1897
    • St Lawrence - Ventnor Town, 1 June 1900.


Number Name Builder Class Type Built Notes
1 Pioneer Slaughter Gruning Works 453 2-2-2WT 1861 Originally owned by C&NR from 9/1861. Withdrawn 1901.
1 Hawthorn Leslie Works 2663 Railmotor 1906 Sold out of service 1918.
2 Precursor Slaughter Gruning Works 454 2-2-2WT 1861 Withdrawn 1901.
2 Seaham Harbour 0-4-4T 1895 Originally owned by Marquis of Londonderry's Railway (later NER) until 7/1909. Sold out of service 1917.
3 Mill Hill Black Hawthorn Works 116 0-4-2ST 1870 Withdrawn 1918.
4 Cowes Beyer Peacock Works 1583 2-4-0T 1876 Originally owned by R&NR. Withdrawn 1925.
5 Osborne Beyer Peacock Works 1584 2-4-0T 1876 Withdrawn 1926.
6 Newport R.W. Hawthorn Works 1127 2-2-2WT 1861 Originally owned by Whitehaven Railway (later L&NWR) until 1874. Withdrawn 1890.
6 Black Hawthorn Works 999 4-4-0T 1890 Withdrawn 1925.
7 Whippingham Slaughter Gruning Works 443 4-4-0T 1861 Originally North London Railway 35A until 3/1880. Withdrawn 1906.
7 Beyer Peacock Works 2231 2-4-0T 1882 Originally M&SWJR Number 6 until 12/1906. Withdrawn 1925.
8 Beyer Peacock Works 3942 2-4-0T 1898 Withdrawn 1929.
9 Brighton LB&SCR A1 Class 0-6-0T 1872 Originally LB&SCR 75 "Blackwall" until 3/1899. Withdrawn 1927.
10 Brighton LB&SCR A1 Class 0-6-0T 1874 Originally LB&SCR 69 "Peckham" until 4/1900. Withdrawn 1936.
11 Brighton LB&SCR A1 Class 0-6-0T 1878 Originally No. 40 Brighton. To Wight in 1902. Renamed and renumbered in 1930. Returned to mainland 1947. Now preserved on Isle of Wight Steam Railway.
12 Brighton LB&SCR A1 Class 0-6-0T 1880 Originally LB&SCR 84 "Crowborough" until 11/1903. Withdrawn 1936.
A1 Class 'Terrier' locomotive "Freshwater" in Southern Railway livery at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. This locomotive was originally used on the FYN.

Between 1898 and 1905, the railway purchased 4 London, Brighton and South Coast Railway class A1 "Terrier" locomotives to operate its trains. One of these had been sent by the LBSCR to the Paris Exhibition of 1878, where she won a gold medal. In 1901, this locomotive was bought by the IWCR and was numbered 11, then brought to the island on 8 January 1902. This locomotive is preserved at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.[6]

Merge into Southern Railway[edit]

Under the Grouping Act the new Southern Railway took over all railways on the Isle of Wight in 1923. Developments under the SR included the construction of a short freight-only branch from the Cowes and Newport line to Medina Wharf. The Southern ran trains across the whole network, including through services to/from the former Isle of Wight Railway's east coast route and the FYN, in particular the island's only named train The Tourist, which ran from Ventnor through to Sandown, Newport and Freshwater.

British Railways closed the FYN, IW(NJ)R and NGStLR in the 1950s, and remaining IWCR lines in 1966.

The IWCR today[edit]

A 1914 Railway Clearing House map of lines around The Isle of Wight, showing Isle of Wight Central Railway owned lines.

The Isle of Wight Steam Railway operates part of the former Ryde & Newport railway between Smallbrook Junction and Wootton. A station built at Smallbrook Junction in 1991 provides cross-platform interchange with the Island Line.

The increasing population of the Isle of Wight and increasing traffic on its small roads has led to repeated discussion of whether it would be viable to reopen the Ryde & Newport and Cowes & Newport lines. Newport now has 24,000 inhabitants. Cowes has 17,000 and also handles busy ferry traffic to and from Southampton. Road and property developments now cover part of the line through Newport. This has led the island's local council to consider the possibility of a tramway rather than a statutory railway.


  1. ^ a b Bradshaw's Railway Manual Shareholders' Guide and Directory (1869). p. 68
  2. ^ a b c "The Isle of Wight Steam Railway". Isle of Wight Beacon. Retrieved 2009-03-22. 
  3. ^ Bradshaw's Railway Manual Shareholders' Guide and Directory (1869). p. 149
  4. ^ Notes taken from Railway Magazine May/June 1947 issue
  5. ^ Notes taken from The Railway Year Book 1912
  6. ^ "Isle of Wight Steam Railway - newport". Isle of Wight Steam Railway. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 

External links[edit]