The £1.2 million Train Story project will be open it was built with the aid of a £970,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) together with funds raised from supporters of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. The discovery centre has an interactive gallery and two exhibition halls of historic locomotives, carriages and wagons.
Train Story is a short stroll from the centre of Havenstreet Station and, on the way, visitors pass through the carriage and wagon workshop and loco yard, where the historic trains are restored and cared for. “Inside the discovery centre a timeline and interactive screens tell stories of the Island’s railways and how they have been restored”, said Chris Tagart, Interpretation Commissioner from the Steam Railway. “And along the walkway to Train Story is an unrestored carriage body which had a second life as a holiday chalet at Thorness after its working life on the railways came to an end in the 1930s. Now it’s in position outside Train Story, the Le Maq family who owned the carriage whilst it was a chalet are restoring it to the 1950s style of their fondly remembered childhood holidays.”
Train Story is already a major addition to the attractions at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, and entry is fully included in the Railway’s admission and travel ticket. To add to the visitor’s enjoyment, a guide or ‘interpreter’ is always on hand to answer any questions or to point out items of key interest. Linda Montgomery, Lead Interpreter, said, “The 150-year history of the Island’s once extensive railway system and the people who worked on it is really quite fascinating and often quite surprising. Train Story features interactive displays and film and audio from the heyday of the Island’s railways; and there’s very much something for everyone including opportunities to become a ‘locomotive driver’ in a half-scale model. Children from 2 to 102 can open the regulator, stoke the fire and even blow the whistle!”
Planning for the Train Story project started in 2008 as a means of protecting the Isle of Wight Steam Railway’s historic collection of locomotives, carriages and wagons from the ravages of the weather, and displaying them to the 110,000 annual visitors to the Steam Railway.
Already proving hugely popular with visitors, Train Story welcomed visitors for most of the 2014 season during which time various additional works were completed. It fully opened in March this year and now welcomes visitors daily until the beginning of November. First-time visitor Hazel White from Southampton summed-up the views of many, “The new Train Story building is great with lots of interactive things to do. The kids can dress up as a train guard, they can view some full sized restored trains and even go inside some of them.”
The ‘Cattle Wagon’ and Locomotive Nameplates
The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) ‘cattle wagon’ No. 46924 was one of six transferred to the Island between 1927 and 1929. It was rebuilt in 1935 as a Covered Goods van by planking over the open portions of the sides and was used principally for Passengers Luggage in Advance. No. 46924 was condemned in 1948 and transferred to the Signal and Telegraph Dept as a stores van No. 1066S. It remained in this role until 1966 when it was secured for preservation by the British Railways Board along with three other goods vehicles. After transfer to the mainland it was held in store with other National Collection items, initially at Fratton and then at Preston Park, Brighton. 46924 returned to the Island and to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway in 1978 on long term loan from the National Collection (under the management of The National Railway Museum) and ownership is now formally passing to the Steam Railway.
The nameplates from locomotive No.11 ‘Newport’ and No. 24 ‘Calbourne’ have also been on long-term loan to the Steam Railway since 1978 and, again, ownership is now formally passing to the Steam Railway.
The Railway Station, Havenstreet Station, Nr Ryde, Isle of Wight, PO33 4DS
For further information on the IW Steam Railway please go to www.iwsteamrailway.co.uk