In Preview: Manx Heritage Transport Festival – 24th to 28th July

The second and biggest transport event of the year on the Isle of Man is just a week away! The Manx Heritage Transport Festival takes place this year between Wednesday 24th and Sunday 28th July with events across the island including the Manx Electric Railway. Last year was definitely the year of the MER with the 125th anniversary of the line being celebrated and again this year it will also take centre stage over the five action packed days with the big highlight for fans of the MER set to be the return to service of three trailers, including 54 which was last used in passenger service in 1971!

There are events on the Manx Electric Railway each day of the festival kicking off on Wednesday 24th with the aforementioned return to service of trailers 37, 49 and 54 – the latter of which has been restored by volunteers at Laxey having last run in 1971. The other two trailers have been seen more recently (2009 to be precise) but that doesn’t take away from their welcome return to service with all three allocated to service throughout (see below for details of the planned allocations).

Other highlights on the MER will include current British Trams Online Tram of the Year Ratchet Car 14 featuring on Wednesday 24th (parallel run and Onchan Head & Groudle shuttles) and Saturday 27th (a return trip between Derby Castle and Laxey). The rest of the event will also seeother parallel runs along with photography events, special tours and behind the scenes tours at Derby Castle Car Sheds. As has become traditional the event will culminate on Sunday 28th with an intensive tram service (timetable to be released during the actual festival).

Its not all just about the MER for trams during the event either as there will be a special free walking tour of the Upper Douglas Cable Tramway on Saturday 27th (booking requiered) and the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway isn’t going to be left out (despite its rather shortened length of track at the moment) with a Meet the Trammers event at Summerhill stables on the evening of Wednesday 24th.

Away from trams and there will be events on the Isle of Man Steam Railway (including a staged photography evening at Douglas station on Saturday 27th and MNR No. 4 Caledonia carrying a special commemorative headbord to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the Manx Northern Railway). There will also be bus tours around the island including the Victorian Adventure Bus Tour on Wednesday 24th which also includes rides on the steam railway and the MER!

But perhaps the biggest excitement outside of the MER will be reserved for the Groudle Glen Railway where two new build steam locomotives – Otter and Brown Bear – are due to enter service for the very first time, having recently arrived on the Isle of Man. The railway will be running between 1100 and 2100 on Wednesday 24th, for a Victorian Day on Saturday 27th (1100 to 1630) and a Gala Day (Steam, Battery and Diesel) on Sunday 28th from 1100 to 1630. And the best way to get there? The MER to Groudle of course!

All in all its looks like being a busy five days of heritage transport action and you can see below for the full planned programme of events (the usual caveats apply to availability and weather possible causing alterations). Some events may need pre-booking and this can be done online here.

Wednesday 24th July:

* MER Parallel Run: Ratchet 14 and Crossbench 16 will depart Derby Castle at 0910 to Groudle Glen, returning by 0940. 16 will remain in service with Trailer 54 for remainder of day.

* Onchan Head & Groudle Shuttles: Ratchet 14 will re-enact a typical 1950s shuttle service between Derby Castle, Onchan Head and Groudle.

* Bulkhead Trailers Day: Bulkhead Trailers 37, 49, 51, 54 and 60 will be used on scheduled services. For 37 and 49 2019 will be first time since 2009 and 2008 they have been used whilst 54 was last used in 1971. The following combinations are due to operate:

2+49: 0840, 1140 and 1510 from Derby Castle

16+54: 0910, 1040, 1410 from Derby Castle

19+60: 0940, 1240, 1610 from Derby Castle

20+37: 1010, 1340 from Derby Castle

6+51: 1110, 1440, 1740 from Derby Castle

* Victorian Adventure Bus Tour: Departing Isle of Man Steam Railway by train at 0950 as far as Ballasalla where a vintage bus then takes tour members to Douglas Head for a look at some former tourist attractions. After a trip along Douglas Prom by bus to Derby Castle its on board the MER to Groudle Glen for the Groudle Glen Railway. Then its back to the MER for Laxey with a visit to the Laxey Wheel. The vintage bus then ends the tour leaving Laxey at 1700 – back in Douglas by 1800. Guides from Heritage Railways Volunteer Group will accompany the tour. £20 fare in place.

* Seven Kingdoms Dinner: Have dinner at the Summit of Snaefell.

Thursday 25th July:

* MER Parallel Run: Tunnel Cars 5 and 7 depart Derby Castle at 0910 for Laxey.

* Unusual Tram and Trailer Combinations:

32+61 depart Derby Castle at 0840, 1140, 1510

5+59 depart Derby Castle at 0910, 1040, 1410

20+48 depart Derby Castle at 0940, 1240, 1610

22+56 depart Derby Castle at 1010, 1340

33+62 depart Derby Castle at 1140, 1440, 1740

* MER Motorman Tasters: Using Tunnel Car 7 between Laxey and Lewaigue departing at 1050, 1250 and 1450. £25 – pre-booking recommended.

* Manx Northern Railway 140: MNR No. 4 Caledonia will carry a special commemorative headboard on buffer plates departing Douglas at 1150. MNR history leaflets and museum display at Port Erin with Michael Starkey and railway volunteers.

* A Night at the Museum: Port Erin Railway Museum open with free entry. No. 1 Sutherland will be on display.

* Pie and Mash Supper on Dining Car “Cock o’ the North”: Service hauled by Caledonia with Manx Northern commentary provided en route by Heritage Railway Volunteers.

Friday 26th July

* MER Derby Castle Workshop Tours: Including stored items of rolling stock on display plus a brief history of Derby Castle Yard. Tours limited to 10 with pre-booking recommended – cost £6. Tours at 1115, 1215, 1415, 1515.

* Lost Trams and unusual combinations: With cars 3, 4, 8 and 24 back from the scrap yard!

3+49 depart Derby Castle at 0840, 1140, 1510

4+60 depart Derby Castle at 0910, 1040, 1410

8+61 depart Derby Castle at 1010, 1340

24+59 depart Derby Castle at 1110, 1440, 1740

In addition 22+54 will depart Derby Castle at 0940, 1240, 1610

* Tunnel Vision Photography Evening: An evening with all four Tunnel Cars – 5, 6, 7, 9 – posed for photography between South Cape and Bulgham including parallel runs. First car leaves at Derby Castle at 1750 with all cars back before last service car.

* Stamps on MER & Snaefell: Special postal service will operate from Derby Castle at 0840 with Mail Van 4 running through to Ramsey. Departs Ramsey at 1010 and on arrival at Laxey (1055) 4 will be stabled in the siding. A Railway Letter Service will also operate from the Summit on Snaefell.

* Closed Lines bus tour: Bus leaves Douglas Railway Station at 1000 with return by 1830. Tour includes various closed lines across the island. £20 – pre-booking recommended.

Saturday 27th July:

* 1970s winter combination photography tour: Using 20+57 departing Derby Castle at 1250, returning by 1745. £12 – pre-booking recommended.

* Car 14: Operating a return trip from Derby Castle to Laxey departing at 1020, return by 1140.

* Unusual Tram and Trailer Combinations:

9+37 depart Derby Castle at 0840, 1140, 1510

32+42 depart Derby Castle at 0910, 1040, 1410

22+60 depart Derby Castle at 0940, 1240, 1610

33+43 depart Derby Castle at 1010, 1340

2+59 depart Derby Castle at 1110, 1440, 1740

* Upper Douglas Cable Tramway Guided Walk: Guided walk along the former route of the Upper Douglas Tramway. Departs the Bottleneck car park at 0900 and lasts approximately 90 minutes.

* Seven Kingdoms Dinner: Chance to eat at the Summit of Snaefell.

* Douglas workshop, running shed and signal box tours: Guided tours of the Steam Railway workshops. Tours at 1000, 1100, 1200, 1300, 1400 – £6, pre-booking recommended.

* Staged Photography at Douglas Station: Staged shunting at Douglas Railway Station with Steam locos and goods stock. £3 which includes trip to Peel Lane sidings for more photo opps.

* Travelling Post Office: 1000 steam railway service from Port Erin and 1120 return from Douglas will include a Travelling Post Office.

Sunday 29th July:

* Manx Electric Railway intensive service: Timetable to be announced.

* Laxey 125: Marking the 125th anniversary of the first tram to Laxey in 1894 with Tunnel Cars 5, 6, 7 and 9 in service with matching trailers throughout the day. A special tram will mark the occasion at 1300 when it will parade through Laxey Station.

* Fenella’s 125th anniversary: A special headboard will be carried with the loco due to be in charge of the 1150 service to Port Erin.

* Vintage Running Day at Jurby Transport Museum: Including a free circular bus service using some of the museum’s exhibits. Extra buses will run on service 19 linking with MER services at Ramsey.

* Illustrated presentation & social evening: Mike Buttell and Andrew Scarffe will give a talk in The Tickethall between 2000 and 2200.

* Manxman Sunday Lunch: Eat Sunday Lunch on the Dining Car departing Douglas at 1210.

All information above is given in good faith but if travelling for specific events please check with Isle of Man Railways beforehand.

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