London’s Retired Tube Trains Live on an Island
AtlasObscura Article Vintage rail cars hide in plain sight on the Isle of Wight
Though it lies just a few miles off England’s southern coast, the curious, diamond-shaped Isle of Wight seems to exist in another era entirely. Once a beloved vacation destination for Victorian visitors, the island – still reachable only by boat from the mainland—remains a British family holiday favorite that capitalizes on the kitschy seaside charm of yesteryear.
But the end of an era on the Isle of Wight is approaching. The island’s train line, whose rolling stock has consisted exclusively of former London Underground carriages from the 1930s, is undergoing its biggest transformation in a generation.
Taken out of service in London in 1988, these Tube cars were moved to the Isle of Wight’s Island Line to see out their final days, which made them Britain’s oldest passenger trains in regular operation. But after 82 years of service, the time for retirement has come. In true Isle of Wight style, the decade dial is stuck somewhere in the past. From April 2021, the Island Line’s vintage 1930s fleet will be replaced with “new” trains—former Tube carriages from the 1980s.
“The Island Line is not a museum and yet was operated by trains that are several decades older than can be found anywhere else on the network, and older even than much of the stock on many heritage railways,” says Richard Long, author of Ryde Rail: A History of Tube Trains on the Isle of Wight.