2005 was the 31st annual steam show to be held at the Havenstreet steam railway on the Isle of Wight. As always it took place over the August bank holiday weekend and we decided to visit it on the Sunday. The day began with an adventure as we travelled by hovercraft from Southsea front to Ryde, the journey time across the Solent of 10 minutes being far too short as we were only just beginning to enjoy the experience when it was time to get off. The next form of transport was also a bit unusual. The railway network on the island consists of old London underground stock which gives rather a rough ride. At Smallbrook Junction we crossed over to the Isle of Wight steam railway line and travelled on a train pulled by a small ‘Terrier’ type loco to Havenstreet where the rally was being held.
On arrival we were a bit surprised at the compact appearance of the event, after leaving the station platform we walked straight into the fair, pausing to look at the attractive gallopers of James Horton, now steam powered, standing with Arthur Thompsons Fowler showmans ‘Lion’. It was the engines that we had come to see so we walked on to their parking area. Our first impressions about the cramped nature of the event were now justified, the engines, 20 in total were all squeezed together with very little space in which to make themselves at home, not only that, but the prospects of moving around on the site were virtually impossible due to the fact that there were exhibits everywhere. Later, the arena parade was rather a shambles and if there had been many more visitors would have almost been unsafe.
The engines were a varied selection with both local examples and machines on their way to the GDSF, one island engine met with an unfortunate incident on its way to the event when the low loader driver misjudged the height of a tree with the resulting collision knocking off the chimney and smashing the base. Luckily, it was possible to repair the damage and the engine was in steam when we saw it.
We discovered that there were several other engines in different fields so set off to discover them. We found a rolling demonstration in one of the public car parks and a wood sawing demo in another field on its own! It is painfully obvious that this event has outgrown its site and would benefit from a new larger field. It is nice to have the rally next to the station but it could be so much better with a bit more space.
Overall, the Isle of Wight steam show was an enjoyable day out, the passing trains added to the atmosphere and the railway staff were helpful and polite, it was only a shame that they had tried to cram too much into too small a space.