A family holidaying on the Isle of Wight from Romford in Essex received a special surprise yesterday (8th August) as they crossed the threshold of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway’s new Train Story Visitor Centre and, between them, took the total number of visitors to Train Story (which only opened in April) past the 25,000 mark!
Sian and Barrie Underwood and their two children Rhys, aged 7, and Phoebe, aged 4, were enjoying a day-long visit to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway when, after a trip on the steam train and a spot of lunch, they decided to visit Train Story. Upon entering they suddenly found themselves the centre of attention and being greeted by Train Story volunteer Guide Roger Fruen and Steam Railway General Manager Peter Vail. “We were monitoring the visitor count throughout the morning and knew the 25,000th visitor would be likely just after lunch”, said IW Steam Railway General Manager Peter Vail. “Sure enough, as the Underwood family from Romford stepped through the doors we passed through the 25,000 mark and we were able to make a special presentation to them!”
The occasion was marked by a presentation to the Underwood family with a bouquet, a bottle of bubbly and a whole package of goodies including IW Steam Railway Gift Vouchers.
As first time visitors to the Steam Railway, Sian Underwood said they had thoroughly enjoyed their day at the Railway and commented that they were ‘pleasantly surprised’ by the whole experience of the new Visitor Centre. “It wasn’t what we were expecting to find at this type of Heritage Railway,” she said. “But it’s been a fantastic way to find out some really interesting history and the children have really enjoyed it.” Youngsters Rhys and Phoebe were particularly impressed by the model of the Railway’s flagship locomotive ‘Calbourne’, where Rhys dressed-up as an engine driver and enjoyed putting the ‘coal’ in the boiler!
“This is a significant milestone in the development of this major new attraction for our Railway, said Peter Vail. “We quietly opened Train Story just sixteen weeks ago in mid-April without too much fanfare, as some external work needed to be completed during the summer months. So to have already welcomed 25,000 visitors is really gratifying”.
Asked to sum up their visit Mr. and Mrs. Underwood said that the whole day had been a real treat and fantastic value, with the lovely bonus of the surprise presentation!
Background to the Train Story Project
The £1.2 million Train Story project was built with the aid of a £970,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) together with funds raised from supporters of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. The discovery centre has an interactive gallery and two exhibition halls of historic locomotives, carriages and wagons.
Train Story is a short stroll from the centre of Havenstreet Station and, on the way, visitors pass through the carriage and wagon workshop and loco yard, where the historic trains are restored and cared for. “Inside the discovery centre a timeline and interactive screens tell stories of the Island’s railways and how they have been restored”, said Chris Tagart, Interpretation Commissioner from the Steam Railway. “And along the walkway to Train Story is an unrestored carriage body which had a second life as a holiday chalet at Thorness after its working life on the railways came to an end in the 1930s”.
Work to locate the delicate carriage body needed to wait for the summer months. Pete Jardine, Design Coordinator, said “Now it is in position we are really pleased that the Le Maq family who owned the carriage whilst it was a chalet are restoring it to the 1950s style of their fondly remembered childhood holidays.”
Train Story is already a major addition to the attractions at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, and entry is fully included in the Railway’s admission and travel ticket. To add to the visitor’s enjoyment, a guide or ‘interpreter’ is always on hand to answer any questions or to point out items of key interest. Linda Montgomery, Lead Interpreter, said, “The 150-year history of the Island’s once extensive railway system and the people who worked on it is really quite fascinating and often quite surprising. Train Story features interactive displays and film and audio from the heyday of the Island’s railways; and there’s very much something for everyone including opportunities to become a ‘locomotive driver’ in a half-scale model. Children from 2 to 102 can open the regulator, stoke the fire and even blow the whistle.”
Planning for the Train Story project started in 2008 as a means of protecting the Isle of Wight Steam Railway’s historic collection of locomotives, carriages and wagons from the ravages of the weather, and displaying them to the 110,000 annual visitors to the Steam Railway.
Already proving very popular with visitors, Train Story opened in April this year and welcomes visitors daily until the beginning of November. Also visiting for the first time, Hazel White from Southampton summed-up the views of many, “The new Train Story building is great with lots of interactive things to do. The kids can dress up as a train guard, they can view some full sized restored trains and even go inside some of them.”
The Isle of Wight Steam Railway is located at Havenstreet Station (PO33 4DS) – 3 miles from Ryde and 3 miles from Newport – and operates a preserved 5-mile section of the former Ryde to Newport Railway. The Steam Railway runs trains on approximately 210 days each year, and stages around 25 Special Events each year.
Train Story is located within Havenstreet Station, and visits to Train Story are fully included in the railway’s general admission charge with no extra to pay.
Peter Vail, IW Steam Railway – 01983 882204 email@example.com
Steve Oates, IW Steam Railway – 01243 555959 or 07774 188930 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. & Mrs. Sian and Barrie Underwood from Romford, Essex can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com
The Railway Station, Havenstreet Station, Nr Ryde, Isle of Wight, PO33 4DS
For further information on the IW Steam Railway please go to www.iwsteamrailway.co.uk
News release issued by Stephen Oates 07774 188930