RAIL enthusiasts will be pleased to hear an exhibition to celebrate 50 years of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway has gone digital.

Off The Rails is now an online exhibition, organised by Quay Arts in partnership with the Havenstreet-based railway.

The exhibition will take place from today (Sunday) until March 20.

Expect to see artefacts, signs and memorabilia from the attraction's collection, related objects and artworks from the IW Heritage Service Collection, AJ Wells & Sons, as well as a series of works by artists and schools.

The exhibition was supposed to be installed in the West Gallery and open to the public, but due to the lockdown restrictions, the organisers have digitised the works and brought the exhibition to life online.

The first of the Island lines opened in 1862 between Cowes and Newport, but it was not until 1900 that Ventnor received its second railway and the Island rail complex was complete. However, by the mid 20th century, after two world wars and a lengthy depression, rural branch lines came under the spotlight and their economic status was in question.

The 1950s saw lines to Bembridge, Freshwater and Ventnor all closed.

On Sunday, January 24, 1971, at 8.30pm, the last steam train rumbled across the Medina Drawbridge, Newport, high above the river and its quays, ending a chapter in the Island’s transport history and thus, the Isle of Wight Steam Railway was born.

Rare footage of this is included in the exhibition.

As part of the exhibition, artists were invited to submit work to respond to ideas around

preservation, displacement and memory, and some wider themes on travel, engineering and


Works include painting, drawing, mixed media, digital, print, text and sculpture.

Artists are Archie Yates, Caroline Underwood, Cat James, Christopher Hicks, David Rodford, Gillian Hawkins, Mark Chettle, Michael Bruzon, Sandy Kendall, Sarah Vardy, Steve Miles, Victoria Fellows and Marion R Hunnisett.

As a further response, artist educator Ian Whitmore worked with Oakfield Primary School and Gurnard Primary School, exploring the heritage of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. They created work in response to the collection, resulting in two large-scale mosaic collages and a stop-frame animation film.

As part of the artist submissions, one artist will be selected to hold a future solo exhibition in Quay Arts’ Clayden Gallery. In addition, IW Steam Railway is offering a year's free membership.