Once upon a time a number of pleasure Piers around the coast of the British Isles had a tramway or railway running along them both as an added attraction for visitors but also enabling people to be transported from one end to other – often with their luggage having arrived by boat. One such pier was that in Ryde on the Isle of Wight and a project is currently ongoing to restore one of the 1927 built petrol-engined rail-cars used on the pier, with the hope it will be completed in time to return to the Isle of Wight during 2020.
No. 2, which was converted to diesel operation in 1958/9, ended its operating career on the Pier Tramway on 26th January 1969 when the line was officially closed but remained on the Isle of Wight and was purchased by the Island Vintage Transport Group. After a short period of time still on the Pier it then headed to Newport when a number of parts – including the majority of the bodywork – were removed leaving a chassis, engine and running gear. The remnants of the Pier Tram proved useful as a shunter until around 1972 when it was removed from use and remained stored for several decades.
In 2011 a small group set a plan out a plan for the reconstruction of no. 2 and this proposal was accepted by the board of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, giving the green light to important matters such as what condition should it be restored and, of course, potential funding.
In order to allow no. 2 to operate on a modern preserved railway, a number of decisions had to be made which although not fully historically accurate would allow this to happen. As such it would receive a more powerful engine, a driving position in the trailer car (in operation on the Pier Tramway the tram and trailer were always driven from the motor which included a precarious reversing manoeuvre) and an increase in floor height to meet platform levels.
Work on restoring no. 2 has been taking place away from the Isle of Wight Steam Railway with a number of contracts being let. This has included new chassis (designed by Graham Morris Engineering and constructed by A J Lowther & Sons Ltd), a engine was donated by Perkins Engines (a 404D diesel engine) and a running chassis from Alan Keef Ltd in Ross-on-Wye. With costs increasing it has been decided to just concentrate on no. 2 and not the trailer (which would be a reproduction) and as such the tram will be fitted out as a single railcar with driving controls and disabled access.
Good progress continues to made on restoring no. 2 and it is hoped that it may return to the Isle of Wight in 2020. No decisions have yet been made as to how it may operate when it is back and commissioned for service. Suggestions have included demonstration runs on a long siding at Havenstreet, the main base of the steam railway, or using it to operate services on the complete either early or late in the day or as a second diagram when passenger numbers don’t justify a second steam loco in action.
Further funding is required to complete the project and anyone who wishes to support can do so by sending a cheque (payable to Isle of Wight Railway Co Ltd) to the Havenstreet offices.
This lost piece of history could soon be returning to the rails once more, showing that preservation still manages to fill in those gaps.
* You can read more on the project on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway website.