Station Name: ST. HELENS


[Source: Nick Catford]

Date opened: 22.4.1882
Location: On the south side of Station Road
Company on opening: Brading Harbour Improvements and Railway Company
Date closed to passengers: 21.9.1953
Date closed completely: 21.9.1953
Company on closing: British Railways (Southern Region)
Present state: The station has been tastefully converted into a private residence. The canopy has been retained and incorporated into a sun lounge along the whole length of the platform.
County: Isle of Wight
OS Grid Ref: SZ628886
Date of visit: October 1967

Notes: St. Helens was the only intermediate station on the Bembridge branch. It has a single 232' platform located on the down side of the line. A signal box at the station controlled a short branch down to St. Helens Quay at Brading Harbour. The quay served the main commercial docks on the island until Medina Wharf was rebuilt in 1928.

After several failed attempts to build a railway to Ventnor, a Bill was proposed by the Isle of Wight Railway in 1860 for a line from Ryde to Ventnor. An Act was passed authorising the building of the line and by 1864 the line had reached Shanklin but following objections from landowners the intended route through Luccombe and Bonchurch was dropped in favour of a new route from the north passing through Wroxall. This route required the construction of a 1312 yard tunnel under St. Boniface Down; the line eventually reached Ventnor in 1866.

From the opening the line was well used losing little traffic to the Isle of Wight Central Railway who opened their branch from Merstone - Ventnor Town in 1900. Ventnor Town was in fact located a mile west of the town centre and was never well used and although the IWR station was also inconveniently sited high above the town it provided a faster and therefore more poplar route from Ryde.

Since the 17th C there has been various schemes to drain and reclaim Brading Marshes, none of these had been successful until the Brading Harbour Improvements and Railway Company obtained powers in 1874 to construct a 2 1/2 mile railway from the IWR at Brading to Bembridge across the reclaimed land. The scheme took eight years to complete, opening on 27th May 1882. From the outset the service was operated by the Isle of Wight Railway who bought the line outright for £430 on 2nd August 1898. The line initially proved very popular and was especially busy on summer weekends.

All the islands railways were absorbed into the Southern Railway in the 1923 grouping and the service was soon upgraded with the introduction of new rolling stock and a revised timetable that included some through running between the various lines. The Southern Railway itself became part of the Southern Region of British Railways after nationalisation in 1948 and initially there were few changes. However this was short lived; improved bus services and the popularity of the motor car soon and holidays abroad led to dwindling passenger numbers. Merstone - Ventnor was the first line to close in 1952 leaving the IWR as the only route serving the town. The following year the Bembridge branch closed.

During the early 1960s it was decided to replace the remaining aging Island locomotives but the end steam operation in favour of electric, put paid to the idea. Under the Beeching proposals the remaining island lines were scheduled for closure apart from a 1.2 mile section of the IWR from Ryde Pier Head - St. Johns Road. It was hoped however that a further section of the line as far as Shanklin could also be reprieved and in 1965 the Minister of Transport announced that line between Ryde Pier Head - Shanklin should remain open and be modernised. The remaining section of the line between Shanklin and Ventnor closed on the 18th April 1966.

British Railways decided that the line should be electrified and operated by ex-London Transport tube stock to overcome the problem of continuing to use the substandard tunnel at Ryde. 43 redundant tube cars were imported and the remaining steam service between Ryde Pier Head and St. Johns Road was suspended at the end of 1966 to allow the final stages of the third rail electrification to take place. The tube trains were brought across on the car-ferry with the passenger service reinstated on 20 March 1967. The line is still operated by ex-tube stock as the Island Line.

Since closure there have been numerous proposals to reopen the line from Shanklin to Wroxall and Ventnor, but none of these plans seem likely to come to fruition. Both stations have been demolished and the sites redeveloped. Much of the Bembridge branch has been incorporated into one of the island's cycleways

Click here for further selected reading

To see the other stations on the Isle of Wight Central Railway line click on the station name: Bembridge, Wroxall, & Ventnor

Click here for Isle of Wight station index

St. Helens Station in 1953

Looking north-west towards St. Helens station c.1964.
Photo by Bill Rawlinson

St. Helens Station in October 1967. The station canopy has been retained and incorporated
into a sun lounge.
Photo by Nick Catford

St. Helens station in February 2010.
Photo by Bob Wooton




Click to enlarge

[Source: Nick Catford]

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