A thing that is old

The Isle of Wight is off the south coast of England. One of its claims to fame is that the late Queen Victoria bought herself a holiday home, Osborne House, on the island where she spent much of her later life and later died there. It’s open to the public and you can go and see her deathbed if that’s the kind of thing that lights your fire.

The island’s other claim to fame is that as it’s big enough for people to actually live and work there rather than just being a holiday destination it has its own little railway, the prosaically named Island Line. The line has the interesting and awkward peculiarity that overhead clearance at its only tunnel is unusually low and the only off the shelf rolling stock that will easily fit is that designed for the deeper lines of the London Underground. As island duty isn’t particularly taxing the line normally uses second hand stock from the underground. When I say secondhand, I mean really secondhand. The current stock began life as C38 stock. The name’s a clue. The stock was introduced in 1938, a mere 81 years ago. The four trains still in use on the island (another five have been kept for spares or sent to that great tin can factory in the sky) were originally delivered in 1939 and 1940. They retired to the island in 1989-90 and were extensively refurbished.


They still look quite smart inside. Note the wooden window frames.

Although less so for the driver:


After eighty years of service the Class 483 stock as it’s now called is finally reaching the end and next year it’ll be replaced by the new Class 484. By new, I mean new to the island obviously. This stock began its life underground as the D78 so as you’ll guess it dates to 1978. A mere forty-two years old at introduction then. They’ll be freshened up a bit though, with mod cons like wi fi, CCTV and electrical sockets to keep passengers entertained, fully charged, and spied upon.

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