Isle of Wight Observer August 27, 1864

OPENING OF THE FIRST SECTION OF THE RAILWAY FROM RYDE TO SHANKLIN

Ryde to Shanklin railway line opens – 1864

Tuesday, the 23rd of August, 1864, was a “red-letter day”, though the weather had changed from hot and dry to wet and cold, which damped the pleasurable expectations that the above event had raised. However, time and trains wait for no weather, so the first train left Ryde at 6.0am, and the last one left Shanklin at 8.10pm, on the “opening day”, and a fair amount of business was done under the circumstances. Thus a great revolution was inaugurated, which is destined to materially alter the character of the locality traversed; and, as the old system of coaching will soon become a matter of history, a few particulars may be interesting. In 1835 Mr Gloster Sheridan and Mr Emanuel Wheeler started the “Surprise” from Ryde to Bembridge, thence to Sandown and Shanklin, for it was considered dangerous to run a coach to Ventnor, as well as unprofitable, for that town had scarcely 100 inhabitants. However, in 1836, Mr Yelf started the “Felicity” to Brading, Sandown, Shanklin, and Ventnor, and it ran uninterruptedly till Tuesday last. In 1837 Mr Fisher started a morning coach from Ventnor; but in 1838 a “Rocket” ran it off the road, and that  in its turn is in danger of being run off, after a prosperous course of upwards of a quarter of a century. An extra “Rocket” ran during the summer months, but that ceased on Monday last, and is now plying between Shanklin station and Ventnor, pending the completion of the line. There are several omnibuses on that road, but the sooner they retire the better for their owners. We do not anticipate that hackney carriages of the better sort will be affected by the Railway to the same extent as the coaches, inasmuch as a drive through the sylvan scenery of the Island will never lose its charms with those bent on pleasure; whilst the Railway will attract men of business and travellers, and place the Island on a par with other places.

THE OPENING – In spite of the pouring rain and bitter north wind a great number of the inhabitants met to see the first train off, and gave a round of lusty cheers; Mr More (one of the directors), with his happy face, being present. As the train went on, Gilbert White, the great naturalist, ought to have been present, as he would have found that the sparrows were indigenous and not so migratory as he supposed, for they flew away terribly alarmed, not being used to railways; as for the horses and the cows they were in doubt what to do – some capered and some rolled. On arriving at “Ye Kinge’s Towne of Brading” there was no sign of welcome – the inhabitants seemed jealous, though they were the first to sign a petition for the Reform Bill in 1831 – yet, as compensation for them, the first ticket we heard asked for was “Brading return”. At Sandown there was a regular rouster, notwithstanding that the rain was driven at an angle of 45 degrees; flags were hoisted, guns were fired, and round upon round of cheers were given. Festivities were inaugurated at the “Nottingham Castle” and “Commercial Inn”, which lasted till the small hours in the morning. But the impromptu turn-outs were smothered; and the first day’s traffic was more business than pleasure.

THE SECOND DAY  – The “dragon-teeth” theory, as applied to Volunteers, was a fool to the rising-up at Monkton-mead this morning. Where did the folk come from? Mr Bourne, the general manager, had calculated for a press, but the fine morning and public enthusiasm beat him for a time; carriage after carriage was added to the trains, but the resources of the rolling stock are capable of meeting any emergency. Our young townsman, Mr Hopgood, the booking clerk, was tested very severely and came out well. The station-master, guards,signalmen, porters and enginemen all seemed alive and happy to do their best, but we do not know their names to particularise them. But one fact struck us very forcibly: at the 10.0 train, of the hundreds who went not twenty were known to us, and we found an hour afterwards nearly all of them bathing in Sandown Bay. This confirms us in our oft-expressed opinion that Ryde suffers from its miserable bathing accommodation. We are glad to see the “old whip” Spencer, of the “Felicity” on the ‘bus from the station to the pier at Ryde, for amidst all innovations no deserving men ought to suffer. As we came back on Wednesday afternoon from Sandown we met a gentleman who has taken a very active part in this line, and heartily congratulated him on the success of an undertaking in which he laboured heavily, but like the Levite of old, he passed on the other side. Postmasters and others may lay this consoling unction to their side that their occupation is not gone but diverted, for we heard enquiries out of number at Sandown and Shanklin for “traps”, and none were forthcoming, for an hour’s drive; and short drives are the most profitable. People must accommodate themselves to circumstances, and we do not preach and not perform; we started a newspaper in 1852 at fourpence, and now must sell at three-halfpence. In short the railway is a good, an absolute good, and it is no use to kick against the price.

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