London’s Retired Tube Trains Live on an Island

London Underground 1938 Stock interior 6978290261

The mere mention of the UK’s Isle of Wight launches me into an enthusiastic humming rendition of The Beatles ‘When I’m 64’ (Every summer we can rent a cottage/In the Isle of Wight, if it’s not too dear/ We shall scrimp and save…) The place has always sounded so exceedingly charming, and this story about the history of its train system from Atlas Obscura definitely makes a significant contribution to the island’s charm deposit box.

The use of London Underground trains on the Isle of Wight can be traced back to a single tunnel. The island was one of the last places in the country to operate steam trains, which ran until 1967. As part of the electrification overhaul, the trackbed in a tunnel in Ryde, at the line’s northern end, was raised to prevent flooding. This seemingly minor change decreased the clearance of the tunnel by 10 inches, meaning British Rail’s standard-size trains would no longer fit through. Seeking smaller alternatives, the government found the perfect option in a place where space is at a premium: the London Underground. The 1938 trains—Class 483 Electric Multiple Units, to give them their proper post-Underground name—were the second set of former Tube cars introduced to the Isle of Wight; the first Tube trains used on the Island from 1967 to 1992 were called Standard Stock, built in the 1920s.

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