The Isle of Wight Steam Railways latest attraction is the newly built Train Story museum, the £1.2 million project which was funded by the Hertiage Lottery and opened to the public in April 2014. Train Story is a huge exhibition space, enabling the Railway’s truly impressive historic collection of locomotives, Victorian and Edwardian carriages and other rare rolling stock to be available for visitors to see and enjoy at close quarters.
On entering Train Story, visitors pass through four interactive, scene-setting display areas:
Rebels with Rolling Stock – The story of Isle of Wight Steam Railway’s evolution from small beginnings in the mid 1960s, explaining how a determined bunch of young volunteers drove on to overcome many, seemingly insurmountable, challenges. Taking the story forward, Rebels with Rolling Stock explains how one of the most complete collections of railway history in Great Britain today was established at Havenstreet.
Once Unwanted, Now Unique – How the skilled staff and volunteers at Havenstreet go about restoring the unique locomotives, carriages and wagons.
The Island’s Essential Railway Service – Taking you back to the 1950s and before to discover how the railway system provided nearly all the transport needs for the Island; travel to school, work and holidays. How food and other goods were transported from farm to factory and from port to village station. Also included is the story of how May Joyce joined the railway as a guard in World War 2 and later married an engine driver.
Preserving the Island’s Heritage – Bringing the story of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway’s journey, from the vision of a small group of schoolboys to a nationally important museum of railway history, up to date.
Moving on from the entrance hall, visitors enter the main display area where they can get up close to many of our unique carriages, wagons and locomotives, some fully restored and others awaiting their turn for overhaul or initial restoration. Further interpretation displays tell the story of the Island‘s railways, its people, equipment and its importance to Island life before the motor car became the prevalent means of transport.
When I first visited the Isle of Wight Railway in 2013 with my daughter, I was very critical of the lines lack of entertainment for children especially the younger ones. Apart from an adventure playground which was soaking wet when I visited, the only entertainment the kids had apart from the train was a small play area that had a wooden train set with no trains, a few lego bricks and a model railway which they could watch go around the room. Unfortunately for me this meant that particular visit was cut sort because she was bored. However since this museum has opened my daughter had a far better experience then she did last time. Train Story featured many interactive displays, a game of IoW train top trumps and a wooden locomotive where they could play dress up. This has made for a far more family friendly experince and allowed us to make the railway a complete day out rather than just a stop as part of a bigger trip. This musuem does go to show that the railway is really investing time and money into making itself a far more family focused attraction and this bolds well for its future.
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