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British Railway History Item


Southern Railway Ryde Locomotive Works

Ryde Works on the Isle of Wight was one of the smallest, yet one of the most interesting locomotive workshops in the country, its lack of size was certainly compensated for by the quality of its work. It is something of a miracle that the aged engines and carnages managed to carry the heavy summer loads and the entire credit must go to the craftsmen at the works. The last steam locomotive to be overhauled at the works was No 27 Merstone at the end of July 1966 and the last steam-hauled coach was No 2442 which left the carriage shops in mid July.

The original works were built by the Isle of Wight Railway Co, the oldest part being the locomotive erecting shop on which work was believed to have commenced in 1864. As at Swindon, the stone used was obtained from tunnelling activities, the stone for Ryde coming from excavations in the constroction of Ventnor tunnel. A second brick built locomotive shop was later added. On the roof of the older shop, a water tank inscribed IWR 1870 was supplied by means of a windmill which pumped from Monkton Mead brook. This water was also used to feed locomotives on the down platform and in the engine shed. Obviously this method of supplying water ceased with the introduction of town water. There was also a boiler house with a brick chimney which was demolished in 1924.

The old carriage and wagon repair shop was a wooden structure situated between the station and the locomotive shops. The layout in 1966 consisted of the two original locomotive shops and a new three-road carriage and wagon shop. Both locomotive shops had a single road, the older erecting shop containing heavier equipment including two hammers and a machine for metal cutting. Most of the machinery was situated in the new shop and consisted of lathes, planing machines and radial drills. The largest machine was the wheel lathe used to reprofile tyres. Impressive to watch, it machined locomotive driving wheels but equally impressive to see in action was the 25 ton hoist which could raise a locomotive. The speed with which a pair of wheels or bogie could be changed was well worth seeing.

Engines repaired at Ryde over its 102 years maintaining steam were mainly the Beyer Peacock 2-4-OTs in the early years of the owning company. Shortly after the Grouping, the Southern Railway concentrated all rolling stock repairs at Ryde and the Isle of Wight Central Railway's Works at Newport were closed for this purpose although they remained open as paint shops until 1959. Whilst this meant that the works at Ryde had to maintain a variety of locomotive types it was not until much later that these were reduced to three standard classes, the'02','E1' and 'A1X'.

It was true to say that the equipment available in Ryde works did not match that to be found in some major mainland motive power depots and that these depots would not have been asked to carry out such major operations as lifting a locomotive boiler out of its frames. This operation had been carried out at Ryde for many years. The last locomotive to receive what could be described as a General repair was No 24 Calbourne which was made ready to operate in time for the summer 1965 timetable. It was plain for all to see that the quality of work carried out was of the highest standard bearing in mind the age of the locomotives and the limited facilities available. It can be said that out of three locomotives sent to the island after World War 2, none was still running by 1966, yet No 20 Shanklin was still at work after 40 years of Ryde maintenance. By 1966 only 11 engines were available to cover the eight passenger diagrams from Monday to Friday, with eight on Saturdays and four on Sundays. In official circles it was reported that the condition of locomotives then was better than that three years earlier before the ultrasonic testing of components had begun.

One important alteration to locomotive design appeared from Ryde Works in 1932. This was to a design by A.B. MacLeod which increased the capacity of the coal bunker to three tons, which was sufficient to allow a full day's running of nearly two hundred miles. The first locomotive to receive this modification was O2 0-4-4T No 26 Whitwell, all others being dealt with as they became due for'shopping'. Other engines sent to the island were so equipped at Eastleigh Works before shipping.

Many famous engines passed through Ryde Works over the years. The first was the Beyer Peacock 2-4-0 T Ryde which was built for the opening of the Isle of Wight Railway in 1864. When withdrawn in 1932, it was the oldest working passenger locomotive on the Southern Railway and was removed to Eastleigh for preservation, but was broken up in the wartime drive for scrap metal. Another engine that was justly famous was No 11, a Stroudley 'Terrier'. Formerly LBSCR No 40, Brighton had appeared at the 1878 Paris Exhibition. The Freshwater, Yarmouth & Newport Railway had only two engines: No 1 Medina, a Manning-Wardle saddle tank had the distinction of being the most modern Island locomotive taken over by the Southern in 1923, and for that matter since. This engine had been used for shunting at Medina Wharf and for general goods and mineral work; the FYNR No 2 also had a chequered history. It had operated on no fewer than five different railways before ending its days on the Hayling Island branch. Together with IWCR No 10, this engine was rebuilt at Ryde Works from Class A1 to Class AlX. One machine built at Ryde Works in 1932 to a design by A.B. MacLeod was Midget, a geared manual tractor which sufficed to haul single loaded wagons in the yard and was in use until 1938. This machine was built entirely of scrap material.

A new carriage and wagon shop was erected in 1938. A spacious and well lit shop, it had l6ft of headroom and two roads, one 57ft long and the other 46ft. Because of the small number of coaches dealt with, Ryde Works often received cut-off rolls of carriage seating material from mainland workshops and as a result stocked a variety of patterns, some of which dated back to the days before Nationalisation. The carriages which lasted up until 1966 were all of pre-Southern Railway design, travelled smoothly and were very well upholstered, particularly those from the South Eastern & Chatham Railway. In an effort to increase the comfort in the third-class compartments of former LBSCR stock, a loose and wider rubber lined cushion was provided - a feature particular to the island.

A working life of 68 years for the locomotive Ryde was at one time a record, but by 1966, not one of the Isle of Wight engines was less than 74 years old. Of those the honour of being the oldest went to No 14 Fishbourne. The solid brass nameplates were removed in 1966, yet to replace these, the works provided cheaper, yet very distinctive replacements. This gesture gave much pleasure, not only to the local enthusiasts, but to all those who journeyed to see the last days of steam on the Isle of Wight.

Fortunately, one member of the '02' class, No 24 Calbourne survives in preservation on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, restored to working order.

The shed was on the east side of the line at the south end of Ryde, St. John's Road station. Note: the shed was on the opposite of the line to the works.
Ordnance Survey Grid Reference - SZ59639191
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Last Updated : Friday 13th February 2015 04:57

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