Event Review: Ratchet Car 14 returns to service as Crossbench cars enter stage right

The 125th Anniversary of the Manx Electric Railway celebrations continued at the start of the working week with the big highlight being the official launch into service of Ratchet Car 14 after its high quality paid staff and volunteer restoration at Derby Castle sheds. As we continue our review of the week we take a look at days three and four where 14’s relaunch led to a period in sun for the four operational Crossbench cars.

Monday 3rd September

The day of the relaunch of Ratchet 14 and the big question was – would the weather play ball? And the answer was an unqualified yes! After the soggy previous couple of days the weather would remain fine for the majority of the remainder of the week (well, at least until the final day of celebrations on Saturday 8th September). As has been reported in depth, 14 had been undergoing a major restoration in the workshops at Derby Castle over the past three and a half years with a unique splitting of labour between paid Isle of Man Railways staff and volunteers.

14 had last run in passenger service since back in 1978 and following a brief period in use with the Overhead Line department it had been fully withdrawn in 1982, being stored ever since. This storage included a period off the Manx Electric Railway when it was one of a number of trams to be moved to Homefield Bus Garage (2002-2009). After a period Returning to Ramsey car sheds and then Laxey it then returned to Derby Castle in March 2015 when its restoration commenced. After three and a half years of hard, high quality work, 14 was ready to meet its adoring public once more (after the important testing and commissioning period of course).

With Director of Public Transport Ian Longworth, on hand 14 was officially launched at Derby Castle shortly after 0900 on the morning of the third day of the events. 14 then embarked on a special trip to Laxey for the staff and volunteers were involved in the stunning restoration. It had been 2000 the last time that a Ratchet Car ran in service (the last time 18 operated before withdrawal) and the return of 14 was very welcome by all present. After its special private trip 14 was then used in the afternoon on a series of Groudle shuttles and proved – as it would through the remainder of the week – to be very popular!

The day wasn’t all about 14 though as there was also the first of several special tours run on the system. This one saw Tunnel Car 6 run with two Wagons – nos. 8 and 10. Running from Derby Castle to Ramsey at 0925 (via a photostop at Laxey) before returning towards Derby Castle, with a further stop for photos at Summit Curve. The ensemble was back in Douglas at 1220.

Into the evening and there was another parallel run; this time for the full length of the line south from Ramsey. Cars 1 and 2 were the trams allocated to this once again with the pair back at Derby Castle at 2020.

Tram Allocations

D1 – 19+44

D2 – 9+48

D3 – 22+60

D4 – 20+46

D5 – 1+51 (replaced by 5+42)

Launch – 14

Tram and Two Wagons tour – 6+wagons 8+10

Parallel Run – 1, 2

Tuesday 4th September

The halfway point of the events was reached on this day with sunny weather once again prevailing. All four operational Crossbench cars would steal the show in the evening but before then there were two other significant happenings during the day.

Starting off at 0900 there was the very unusual occurrence of a motor running with two trailers. This utilised Crossbench 33 with trailers 51 and 60 running from Derby Castle to Dhoon Quarry and return.

Then just after lunch there was a re-enactment of a mail tram with mail actually being picked up by a serving postman once again. Up until 1975 this was a regular occurrence with post boxes at various tramstops and staff of the MER collecting the mail on behalf of the post office. Some post boxes remain at tramstops but they are now usually collected by standard post vans. This special saw Winter Saloon 20, trailer 47 and Mail Van 4 run between Ramsey and Derby Castle stopping at Bellevue (temporary post box for the occasion), Ballajora, Glen Mona (temporary post box for the occasion), Laxey (at Laxey Car Sheds the trams crossed over to allow a service car to pass), Ballabeg (temporary post box), Baldrine (then crossing over at Ballameanagh for another service to pass), Baldroma, Groudle and Majestic.

The evening was all about the four Crossbench cars with all disagrammed to a special photographic evening. With the four trams – 14, 16, 32 and 33 – leaving Derby Castle after 1600 they travelled to Laxey where the evening really began! Initially running in pairs the trams ran in parallel to various locations on the MER. This included 14 and 16 to Bonner Corner and 32 and 33 to Fairy Cottage. The trams then ran as a foursome to both Summit Curves and Ballaragh before they all returned to Derby Castle, with the last back around 2100.

Tram Allocations

D1 – 1+44

D2 – 9+40

D3 – 19+57

D4 – 5+46

D5 – 2+48 (replaced by 22+48)

Tram and two trailers special – 33+51+60

Mail re-enactment special – 20+47+van 4

Evening Crossbench photography special: 14, 16, 32, 33

UDE – 22 (morning), 2 (afternoon)

UDE – 6

* Photos from this period of the events can be seen in Gallery 758.


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