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The railways of the Isle of Wight were unique. Steam ended here in 1966 – but not before enthusiasts with borrowed 8mm cameras set about recording for posterity the last island trains and services. Shooting during the Spring and Summer of 1965, they captured the last full summer season of steam on both the Ventnor and Cowes lines.
From small beginnings as long ago as 1864, the Isle of Wight system blossomed into a 58-mile network – much of it single track – that was operated until the end by antiquated locomotives and rolling stock pensioned-off from more rigorous duties on the mainland. By 1960, this bustling network had been reduced to just two lines – from Ryde to Sandown, Shanklin & Ventnor and across the Island to Newport & Cowes – while the infamous Beeching Report published in 1963 presaged the complete abandonment of these lines too.
The last passenger train ran to Cowes one windswept day in February 1966 while April the same year saw the abandonment of services beyond Shanklin and scheduled Island steam passenger trains finally ceased altogether following a very last run to Shanklin on 31st December 1966. David Perry (a co-founder of what is today’s preserved Isle of Wight Steam Railway) and Chris Gosling were among those enlightened few and using borrowed 8mm cameras and as many reels of Kodachrome colour film as their pocket money could buy, they set about recording for posterity the reality of the Island steam trains in their final years. The result was ‘Island in Steam’. Shot during the Spring and early Summer of 1965 – the last full summer season of steam working on both the Ventnor and Cowes lines.