Despite doubts expressed whether the Snaefell Mountain Railway would reopen at the start of 2018 the first services to the Summit were operated on Good Friday, 30th March – a day later than planned but it now seems to be all systems go with the Health and Safety Inspectorate satisfied with the changes made to the braking system over the winter. Meanwhile the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway is also back up and running for the year with the first trams operating on Thursday 29th March.
The saga of the Snaefell Mountain Railway has been well documented following the major “runaway” incident in August 2017. This saw one of the Snaefell cars unable to apply its brakes causing it to run through Bungalow station across the road before it was brought to a halt by the fell braking system. Although initially services continued to run it was eventually decided to cease operations early in 2017 although whether the line was under an official prohibition notice has never been fully confirmed either way.
Over the winter period the trams underwent maintenance which saw changes to the independent braking system. Test data of the revised braking system has been reviewed by the Health and Safety Work Inspectorate and a brake specialist and they are both satisfied that this will enable the SMR to run as normal in 2018. There have also been improvements to control systems’ procedures and training materials.
Bernard Warden, Head of the Health and Safety Work Inspectorate, said: “We have reviewed a report completed by a railways braking specialist which endorses the re-engineering of the fell brake system, together with improvements to other control systems recommended in a report commissioned by the Department of Infrastructure. We have also been provided with procedures and training materials introduced following the incident. Additional control measures have been put in place to improve the safety of the Snaefell Mountain Railway and these will be enhanced, as soon as possible, by the installation of more modern fail to safe braking and control systems. Having received advice from industry specialists we are now ready to support the commencement of passenger services and will be closely monitoring progress on the introduction of fail to safe systems.”
With this statement in place a service resumed on Friday 30th March allowing passengers to once again enjoy the spectacular views on both the journey and as Summit station.
The SMR isn’t the only tramway on the Isle of Man celebrating the start of a new season either as the previous day – Thursday 29th March – saw the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway run for the first time in 2018, as planned. A two tram service was provided on the opening day with the first trip of the year being in the hooves of William who hauled Winter Saloon from Derby Castle to the Sea Terminal and back. Oddly this was the only trip of the day for 1 – which had been returned from the MER Derby Castle works earlier in the week – as it was soon replaced by 36 – British Trams Online Tram of the Year 2017 of course! The other tram in service on day one was 44.
* For completeness sake the Great Orme Tramway is also now in operating for 2018 with the first services running on Saturday 24th March.