In the first of a two part article David Mee reviews the Isle of Man 50 Group charters which took place immediately before the 2018 Manx Heritage Transport Festival in July.
I guess it was inevitable that after eight solid weeks of sunshine on the Isle of Man the weather would break down just prior to these events taking place. A mixture of sunny days, wet and misty days and periods of torrential rain characterised the eleven days and nights I spent in Douglas.
I travelled to the island by train to Liverpool (by far the worst part of the holiday- why are train services in the UK so dreadful at the moment?), an overnight in the city, and the Steam Packet fast craft ‘Manannan’ to Douglas, arriving at Lunchtime.
The following notes take the form of a diary of my travels on the MER and Horse Trams, observations along the way, tram allocations and substitutions, plus car shed visits and brief comments on the other heritage transport on the Island. Both the MER and Horse Trams are looking at their best at the moment with recent investment reflected by the quality of the vehicles in use on both systems.
Thursday 19th July
The journey to Douglas: boats and trams
Timetable D in operation on MER until next Wednesday, fifteen departures from Derby Castle
With Mannanan to Douglas at 1115. Smooth and speedy crossing, the Merseyside towns looking good in bright sunshine from the vessels observation deck. Visited the conveniently located Welcome Centre at the Sea Terminal for timetables before taking a bus along the Promenade to the hotel for a quick check in. Later had some initial travels as follows:
Horse Car 42 to Derby Castle at 15.00, one of the cars to have recently received an extensive rebuild at the MER depot and looking absolutely stunning.
MER car 6+51 to Laxey at 15.10 (act.15.15)
Photos around the station area.
MER car 1+42 to Derby Castle at 15.55 (act.16.00). Trailer 42 being new to service this year after ten years laid up with defective wheels.
The rest of the day comprised bus journeys, dinner and real ale!
D2: 33 (+61) Trailer left in siding at Laxey most of day
Friday 20th July
A little bit of everything
Evening service G operating today and tomorrow on MER
An early morning bus ride to Union Mills to plan out a walk I was leading later in the week along one of the closed railway lines. On return to Douglas I had a ride on the Steam Railway before crossing to Derby Castle:
With car 20+41 to Ramsey at 12.40. Car 20 returning to 1960’s condition over the winter and looking great. Quick walk around.
With service 3 bus to Laxey at 14.15
I had intended to go up the Mountain at this point, but a combination of bad weather and a Snaefell Car full of cruise passengers led to a change of plan:
With car 19+44 to Derby Castle at 14.55. Car 19 now being in the brown and cream livery of the Douglas, Laxey and Ramsey Electric Tramway, a predecessor to the MER, and looking very nice.
With Horse Car 45 to Sea Terminal at 15.30.
With Horse Car 36 to Mona Drive at 16.20.
These two vehicles completing the trio of recently refurbished Horse Cars. Cars 27 and 29 are to follow.
An hour in the hotel room, fish and chips and then:
Service 1 bus to Derby Castle at 20.26
Car 20 to Laxey at 20.55.
A drink at the Mines Tavern, very conveniently sited for Laxey Station and tram spotting!
Car 6 to Derby Castle at 22.25, another car to have seen some recent attention and sparkling in the standard fleet livery of red and white. Walked along the Promenade to the hotel.
Evening: 6, 20
Isle of man 50 Group events: 21st – 25th July
Every year for the past seventeen summers the Isle of Man 50 Group have run a series of charters on the four or five days preceding the Heritage Transport Festival. This year was no different with hires of vintage buses, trams, both horse and electric powered, and steam trains.
Saturday 21st July
Vintage Bus Hire day
Started the day with a couple of bus rides, included in the cost of the island GO cards which are definitely the best way to get around – £47 for seven days and valid on all buses, trains, trams and horse trams – a real bargain!
Walked down from Onchan to Derby Castle for:
IOM 50 Group Bus Hire
Leyland PD3 Double Decker. Pick up at Derby Castle. Routes and stops as follows:
King Edward / Seacliffe to turn
Pick ups along the Promenade
Route 20 to Anagh Coar
Route 25 to Douglas Head
Route 4 to White City
Then followed a combination of route 13 and 3 to Ramsey with an unscheduled extra stop at Laxey due to a defect with the bus. Saw and photographed MER 33 and SMR 4 during this sojourn.
Lunch at Ramsey whilst the bus swapped at Jurby for:
Leyland Titan PD2 No.2 to Bride at 13.30.
Lighthouse, Gorsebank and Bride Garden Railway
On the road to the Point of Ayre. Excellent G scale LGB layout filling the garden. Three trains running on an automatic program. Good workshop facilities. Recommended and well worth a visit. It is open most Saturdays.
Back on the bus and away by 15.30 to Douglas via Ramsey, Mountain Road with a stop at Bungalow to photograph a passing Snaefell Car 5.
After a break at the hotel and dinner I decided to make use of the evening Horse car services:
With Horse Car 42 to Derby Castle. Photos of MER 33 and IOM Road Services 2.
With double deck Horse Car 18 to Loch Promenade at 19.00.
The rest of the evening comprised a group get together and film show plus the inevitable real ale!
Sunday 22nd July
Manx Electric Railway Historical Tour
Less buses today so walked along the Promenade to the sheds at Derby Castle. There is a footpath along the front of the depot and good photos of cars on shed can be obtained.
Noted on shed: 19, 41, 61, 43, 40
Walked back to the station. Photographed the Horse Cars – 36, 44, 45. During my stay on the island these cars plus No. 42 operated the bulk of services, with all having been refurbished except car 44.
With car 9+40 to Far End at 0840.
Walked the Coastal Footpath which was much clearer than last year. Large sea bird colonies and impressive cliffs. Back on road below Majestic and photographed 20+41 passing at Harbour Road. Walked back to Derby castle.
Historical Tram Tour
Car 19+51+wagon 8 with a commentary by renowned MER experts John Clarkson and Andrew Scarffe
Stops as follows:
Groudle – passed by L & D bound trams
Ballameanagh/Baroose – site of the new sub station replacing Groudle
Laxey Car Shed sidings – passed by L & D bound services
A bonus quick peep in the car sheds – 21, 26, 34 and tower wagon prominent. Trailer 54 which is being restored pushed out for photos.
Quick pathing stop at the station
Dhoon Quarry – shunt and reverse. Much contractor stock present, simplex LM344
Back to Laxey station for lunch break and visit to the Great Laxey Mines Railway, the cost also included in the GO card (as is the Groudle Glen Railway).
Further MER travels:
With Car 33+61 to Ramsey at 13.10.
Service 3 bus to Halfway House at 14.15. A positioning move to get the other open car in service!
With car 16+60 to Ramsey at 14.58.
With car 16+60 to Derby Castle at 16,10
Horse Car waiting to leave so:
With car 45 to Palace at 17.30.
The evening comprised bus trips, an historical walk along part of the old Peel railway line and the inevitable pub!
Spl: 19+51+wagon 8
Monday 23rd July
Isle of Man Steam Railway day
An all day hire on the steam railway with run pasts and photo stops. The steam railway is well worth a visit during your stay on the island.
Tuesday 24th July
MER – Triple Tram Tuesday
one of the highlights of the group calendar, our main tram hire day.
Tram trips as follows:
With car 9+43 to Onchan Head at 8.40. Walk back.
With car 5+41 to Majestic at 9.10. Walk back.
IOM 50 Group Tram hires
Hire 1: 20+61 to Groudle at 9.50
Stops at: Groudle Road near camp entrance
Groudle and shunt
Saw and photographed car 14 on test at Derby Castle, Ian Longworth and some of the restoration team posed for a photo with the tram.
Hire 2: 33+57 to Laxey at 11.15 (act.11.20)
Stops at: Eskadale
No further stops as running very late. Shunt to Laxey Car sheds and then on to station after service passed. Left charter here for:
Walk down the Glen Road to the Shore Hotel for a pint of their own Bosuns Bitter. Walked down to the beach.
With service 15 bus to Laxey at 13.08
Hire 3: 6+42 to Ramsey at 13.20 (act. 13.55)
Stops at: Summit curve
Ramsey – quick shunt and depart
Romes Crossing (passed by 16)
Murrays Road (passed by 9)
Pole 430 above Laxey Beach (Bonner Corner)
Laxey Station siding
Then direct back to Derby Castle for 17.40.
A group meal filled the evening hours.
Spl 1: 20+61
Spl 2: 33+57
Spl 3: 6+42
Wednesday 25th July
Douglas Horse Trams and Parallel runs
The end of the Fifty group events on the Island.
The group had hired a couple of Horse Cars, but instead I decided to join the first event of the Transport Festival.
And in the second part of this article David will continue his diary of what happened during the Manx Heritage Transport Festival before some conclusions of the current state of the Isle of Man’s Tramways.
Photos from the period reviewed above are available in Gallery 753.