David Mee reports from the Isle of Man where the Isle of Man 50 Group had their usual private hires immediately before the Manx Heritage Transport Festival with a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the nationalisation of the Manx Electric Railway.
In December 1955 the Manx Electric Railway Company informed the Isle of Man Government that it would be unlikely to be able to carry on running the railway and would have to go into liquidation unless the Government decided to take it on and run it as an amenity for the Manx people and attraction for visitors to the Island. Much discussion in Tynwald followed which could easily have seen the line close forever, but instead from the 1st June 1957 the line was transferred to Government ownership.
2017 therefore marks sixty years of the line in Government ownership and a good excuse for a themed summer gala! One of the results of the change of ownership was a new, and largely detested, livery of white and green for the cars and trailers. Fourteen vehicle were treated to the new livery before a change of policy saw a return to traditional colours. In preparation for the gala several vehicle were turned out in the livery:
Open Toastrack 32
Matching trailer 62
Winter Saloon 21
Snaefell Car 4
Horse Car 45
Car 16 and trailer 60 which had previously been in a ‘prettified’ version of the green livery reverted to traditional colours. It is worth noting that the Horse Cars were operated by Douglas Corporation in 1957 and therefore its current livery is purely fictitious. Snaefell Car 4 is in a green variation on normal livery, in that those parts usually red have been painted green. The other three cars are good representations of the historic theme.
The following takes the form of a diary summarising my tram related activities on the island.
Thursday 20th July
I arrived on the Island at lunch time. A standard service D timetable with four Douglas based cars plus a Laxey set.
Horse Car 44 to Derby Castle at 14.45.
MER Cars 6+48 to Minorca at 15.10.
Took a walk around old Laxey and to the railway station. Viewed the old MER Turbine House, Power Station, Hydro-electric head race and weir along the way. There is certainly a lot of MER history to discover at Laxey.
Car 7+51 to Derby Castle at 16.25.
Horse Car 45 to Mona Drive at 17.00.
D2: 2+44 (22 earlier)
Friday 21st July
A full day on the island before Isle of Man 50 group charters started, so an opportunity to try a little bit of everything! Service D plus G in the evening.
With car 5 single motor to Ramsey at 8.40am
Noted single line working from Lewaigue on the sea side. We crossed over and worked wrong line to Ramsey. This was overrunning work which was completed today. My first view of the much reduced station at Ramsey Parsonage Road with the large empty space that was the old station beyond. Not very impressive.
With car 5 single motor to Laxey at 10.10am
Noted four Snaefell cars in the station: 1,2, 5, 6 – all the currently operational fleet. Service on the mountain suspended due to high winds. I had intended a trip up the mountain, but instead:
With car 19 single motor to Dhoon Glen at 11.10.
With car 20 single motor to Laxey at 11.40.
With car 7 single motor to Douglas at 12.25.
Horse Car 1 to the Sea Terminal at 13.00. Interestingly this was being driven by the chief executive of Isle of Man Transport, Ian Longworth!
I spent the rest of the day on the Steam Railway.
D2: 20 (+57)
Mainly single motors due to the bad weather, although car 20 was accompanied by trailer 57 part of the day.
Saturday 22nd July
The start of the Isle of Man 50 group charter period. A day tour of heritage sites on a vintage bus. Although I did not travel on the trams today I noted the allocations, again service D.
D2: 5+51 (40 later)
L: Poss. 22+47
Sunday 23rd July
50 group – Green Tram Hire
With car 5+40 to Far End at 8.40.
Walked the coastal path into town. Very scenic, but very overgrown. Then via Groudle Road to Port Jack. Walked down to Derby Castle. Plenty of MER action along the way!
Green Tram Hire
Plan was car 21 but this had popped a motor so instead green toastrack 32 substituted.
Very late departing Derby Castle at 10.05 and straight to Groudle to shunt out of the way. Stops as follows:
Car shed sidings
Long break here so I did a trip up the mountain:
With SMR car 6 to summit at 11.45.
Photos at the summit and of car 5 descending.
With SMR car 6 back to Laxey at 12.40.
Back on the charter with further stops at:
Above summit curves
Pole 706 above Murrays Road
Photographed the shunting and movement of our train into the old station at Ramsey. Transferred to:
With Car 2+47 to Douglas at 15.10.
With Horse Car 44 to Mona Drive at 16.30.
In the evening I led a group to see the historical aspects of MER power generation at Laxey (I had done a dry run the previous Thursday!).
Walked up the Glen footpath – the MER turbine House, head race for the hydro-electric power system, power station, Glen tramway and washing floors.
Spl: 32+51+Van 16
Monday 24th July
50 group – Isle of Man Steam Railway Charter
An all day private hire on the steam railway.
Tuesday 25th July
50 group – MER Triple Tram Tuesday. A service D day on the MER.
With 20+56 to Onchan Head at 8.40. Walked back.
With Horse Car 43 and Douglas to the Sea Terminal and back at 9am.
IOM 50 Group tram hires
Hire 1: Car 1+43 to Groudle and return
Departed more or less on time with stops at:
Howstrake, below summit Groudle side
Groudle, shunt and reverse
Howstrake summit shelter
Returned to Derby Castle for 10.45.
Hire 2: Car 7+48 to Laxey and return
Departed slightly late at 11.24. Stops as follows:
Pole 160 above Eskadale
Then non-stop to Laxey, departing for return at 12.17. Stops:
Crossed out of way at new Ballameanagh crossing
Halfway House (a bonus stop)
Returned late to Derby Castle at 13.10.
The new crossing at Ballameanagh replaces two crossings at Scarffes and Garwick which have both been converted to plain track. The new crossing is north of the new Ballameanagh Sub Station which is yet to be commissioned and will replace the current station at Groudle.
Hire 3: Car 6+60 to Ramsey and return
very late departure at 13.50, non-stop to Laxey, then:
I then left the charter and had a quick explore around Dreemskerry Quarry. This quarry provided ballast for the MER and there is much of interest still to see including dual gauge trackwork and a loading bank and siding. Then I did the following trips:
With Car 1+43 to Laxey at 15.18
Walked to SMR depot and photographed newly painted Car 4 on test.
With Car 19+46 to Derby Castle at 16.25.
With Horse Car 45 to Mona Drive at 17.00.
D1: 20+56 (later 41)
Spl 1: 1+43
UDE, Ultimate driving experience. Intermediate course involves tram and trailer and an opportunity to drive the whole length of the line. I did it some time ago and can heartily recommend it!
Wednesday 26th July
Heritage Transport Festival – Welcome.
Service F timetable. (Six car service all based on Douglas).
A very wet start to the festival
With car 5 single motor to Laxey at 8.40.
Then got caught out by the cancellation of the 9.55 service to Douglas. A road traffic accident at Eskadale had temporarily closed the line at that point. No alternative to the bus back to Douglas and a walk along the Promenade, noting the enclosed wet weather horse cars 1 and 29 on route.
With car 6 and van 4 to Groudle at 10.55. 6 substituting for 16 due to the weather.
Visited the excellent volunteer run railway at Groudle Glen.
With car 9 single motor to Douglas at 12.44.
With car 16+Van 4 from the Groudle Siding to Laxey at 13.00. Slight delay to 13.09 due to overhead repairs at Howstrake.
With car 16+Van 4 back to Douglas at 14.10.
IOM 50 Group farewell: Double Deck Horse Car hire
The groups last charter this year, delayed from the morning due to the weather.
Photographed the Double Deck Horse Car with two horses powering before:
With William and Douglas and Double Deck Horse Car 18 to Sea Terminal and return at 15.15. Great photos from the top deck. Transferred to the MER.
With car 33 single motor to Groudle. A further visit to the Glen railway in better weather.
With car 9+46 to Ramsey at 20.10. Refreshments in the local pubs.
With 9+46 to Douglas at 21.40. Excellent run to Laxey but then delayed 20 minutes waiting for the last car off the mountain. Arrived Derby Castle at 11.20.
D2: 22 then 20 (+57)
D3: 22 then 33
D4: 9 (+46)
D6: 7 (+48)
Groudle Shuttle: 6+Van 4 (first two trips), 16+Van 4
Notes: 22 left on D2 but could not get past the RTC at Eskadale. 20 took over its diagram and on its return 22 dropped on to D3. Bad weather at the start of the day and single motors. Bracketed trailers not out all day.
Groudle shuttle was scheduled for 16. 6 substituted for first two trips due to weather.
Thursday 27th July
Heritage Transport Festival – The Nationalised Navigator. Service F timetable.
With car 7+48 to Howstrake at 8.40.
Walked down with stops as follows:
Howstrake Holiday Camp
Camp shelter and gates
Lag Birragh – 16/60 passing
Braeside and Majestic stops
Top King Edward Drive – 19/47 passing
Nationalised Navigator Tour: Car 32 (wagon 10 to Laxey)
With car 32 and wagon 10 to Laxey at 10.20. Photo stop Far End. Wagon hand shunted to siding at Laxey Car Shed.
Car 32 single motor. Photo stops and activities as follows:
Non stop through Laxey Station
Princess Motors, reverse
Top point on loop, cross
Non stop through Laxey Station
Pole 294 views to Laxey Beach
Cross at Ballameanagh
Non stop through Laxey
Pole 619 Crossing
Pole 570 above Dhoon Quarry
Lunch 13.00-13.30 at Laxey
Departed from the new station siding and then reversed and we went wrong road to the bottom point on the loop at Browns/Ham & Egg crossing to the northbound line. Stops and activities as follows:
Murrays Road – stunning views
Lewaigue – crossed
I left the charter here and was informed that remaining moves were to Dhoon, Garey, Fairy Cottage and back to Laxey for the wagon.
With car 19+47 to Derby Castle at 14.50.
Green Hills Charter: Car 21 and trailer 43
Departed on time at 19.00 with stops as follows:
Dhoon – reversed, gravity shunt
After 20 passed on service we proceeded to summit corner. Walked the line to the ‘bulge’ repaired in 1967. Photos at:
On time at Derby Castle.
Friday 28th July
Heritage Transport Festival – Derby Castle and Steam Railway. Service F timetable.
With car 6+40 to Laxey at 8.40
Walked to Laxey Glen – a very tranquil spot. Walked back to the station and to SMR depot to photo car 4 outside the depot in its new livery.
With car 22 single motor to Derby Castle at 9.55
Photographed Horse Cars 18 with two horses, 43 and 44 in service. Walked up to the MER depot for:
Derby Castle Shed tour
At 11.15. Itinerary as follows:
R2 51, Van 16, 14
R3 36, 55
R1 7, Tower 1
R2 20, Horse Car 36
R3 Wagon 10, 56, 59, 29, 53
R4 33, 61, 17, 15
R5 48, 46, 18, 49
R6 32, 62
R7 16, 60, 37, 42
R8 58, 54
Walked down to Derby Castle sea side bus stop. Rest of the day spent on the steam railway. In the evening crossbench trams 32 and 33 were used in service with their matching large trailers 61 and 62. The large trailers returning to service this year after nine years awaiting new wheel sets.
D2: 22 (+43)
D3: 5+41 (+ van 4)
Saturday 29th July
Heritage Transport Festival – Back in the Red Tour. Service F timetable.
Back in the red tour
A special organised by the guys at manxelectricrailway.co.uk and not included in the Festival brochure. The tour featured items of rolling stock repainted in traditional red MER liveries over the last winter.
1) With 6+60 to Lewaigue
Stops as follows:
Back to Derby Castle by 11.50
2) With 16+tower 1 to Lewaigue at 12.10
Stops as follows:
Laxey Car Sheds, cross over
Wrong road to the Laxey Station siding
30 minute lunch break
I actually took a longer break here to do the following:
Walk to the SMR depot and photo the now externally complete car 4 fully numbered and carrying the fleet name.
I then visited the Great Laxey Mines Railway
Photographed the charter train 16+tower 1 at:
Ham and Egg Terrace/Princess Motors
Above the washing floors
Took a break from the charter to sample other cars as follows:
With Car 33+61 to Halfway House at 13.55
With Car 1+51 to Laxey at 14.26
Waited for the charter train to arrive. Apparently there are controller problems on the front platform. Arrived late and shunted to siding. Prompt attention from the maintenance support. Departed just after the 15.25 service tram with stops at:
Pole 293 above Laxey Harbour
Pole 281 above Laxey Harbour
Pole 98 above Groudle – great views including the GGR
I left the tour when it arrived at Derby Castle, although car 16 did go out again single motor. Dinner and refreshment at the Liverpool Arms followed, rounding the day off:
With car 9 single motor from Halfway House to Derby Castle at 22.08.
D3: 21+40 (Later 6+40)
Spl: 16+Tower wagon 1
Sunday 30th July
Heritage Transport Festival – MER Intensive Service Day
With car 32+62 to Ramsey at 9.10. Photo of shunting.
A quick look around Ramsey
With car 22+43 to Groudle at 11.10.
To the Glen Railway for its Gala day.
With car 6+60 to Douglas at 15.05.
Transferred to Horse Car
With Car 45 to the Sea terminal.
With Car 44 and Torrin for a last Horse Car ride to Mona Drive.
Another period of special trains and enhanced services draws to a close on the Isle of Man. Yet again the MER proves it can pull out all the stops and roster large numbers of cars in interesting combinations. As always I recommend a visit to those yet to fall under the islands charms – you will not be disappointed.
Next year the Manx Electric Railway reaches a milestone – 125 years. It will be celebrated in style from the 1st – 8th September, and although details are yet to be finalised, already planned are:
• Three No.1s in service at Laxey station – M.E.R. 1, Snaefell Mountain Railway 1 and Douglas Bay Horse Tramway 1.
• Cavalcade of MER trams through Laxey Station.
• Parallel run from Ramsey to Douglas using 1893 cars 1 and 2.
• Illuminated tram and trailer
• Operation of the Summer 1975 timetable for one day.
• Intensive ‘Edwardian-style’ Groudle service.
• Open days, evening photography, photographic tours.
Additionally next years event will almost certainly be the last chance to see some of the green ‘Nationalised’ livery cars before they revert to standard fleet colours. It is also likely that further members of the fleet will receive historical liveries in preparation for this event which should also see Ratchet Car 14 return to service.
An insiders tip: if you are planning to attend this event please be aware that the first two days coincides with the end of the Manx Motorcycle Grand Prix and the island will be busy. Book accommodation sooner rather than later!
* Photos from the events can be found in Gallery 689: Isle of Man – July 2017