Each winter the Manx Electric Railway may close to the public but that doesn’t mean everyone takes a break until the following spring – far from it! Once again this winter Derby Castle Sheds have been a hive of activity with more trailers being prepared for a return to use whilst the completion of the overhaul of Douglas Bay Horse Tramway 29 is also starting to reach a conclusion.
We’ve reported on these pages before about the volunteer led restoration of Trailer 54 which should see the vehicle back in use for the first time in almost 50 years at this year’s Manx Heritage Transport Festival in July. This work is actually taking place at Laxey Car Sheds and the most recent progress has seen the seats being restored and prepared for varnishing whilst the floor has been cleared of layers of grey paint. This will allow the next stage of the project to commence which will see not only varnishing but also painting of the tram’s interior and exterior. Some wiring for the lighting also needs to be installed and until this is done external panelling at the Douglas end will not be refitted.
Built in 1893 54 was the last of six trailers built in that year by G.F Milnes in Birkenhead (initially numbered 16, renumbered 33 in 1898 and then 54 in 1903/4). It was withdrawn during August 1971 and hasn’t run in service since with it remaining stored at various locations on the Isle of Man until it was moved to Laxey in May 2018 for a start to be made on returning it to service. In doing so it will be the second of these six trailers to be used in passenger service – or should that be third?
For work is also underway at Derby Castle to return Trailer 49 to service – another of the six trailers built in 1893. This trailer should also be in service by the Manx Heritage Transport Festival and this will be the first time since 2008 that it will have run in passenger service. 49 is in the Maroon and Cream livery of the Douglas and Laxey Coast Electric Tramway.
Meanwhile a third trailer is also set to be returned to service although this won’t be until 2020. 36 was part of a batch built in 1894 and is another car which hasn’t run since 1971 but its fortunes are improving with work started on it to return it to use for the 2020 Manx Heritage Transport Festival. Work so far has concentrated on installing new channels and then once work is complete on 54 volunteers will fully commence a restoration and repaint of 36.
In other MER news Trailer 57 has seen a full repaint in the same standard Manx Electric Railway livery whilst there have also been various section of track relaid. The latest of these has seen the seaside line between Browns Crossing and Dhoon Quarry replaced.
It isn’t all about the MER either at the moment with Douglas Bay Horse Tramway 29 enjoying a high quality repaint as part of its major overhaul. With a high quality finish looking on the cards 29 should be cleared for service again in 2019. Details of when the Horse Tramway may return this year have yet to be announced with the Promenade reconstruction works now well underway.