Anger as work starts to remodel Laxey Station

Amongst a number of maintenance jobs being undertaken on the Manx Electric Railway this winter a major remodelling of the Laxey Station area is underway, a change which many supporters of the MER are saying is spoiling the Victorian character of the line.

The Isle of Man Government approved a £678,000 improvement scheme last month which it is said is needed as without the relaying of the tracks there are fears the Manx Electric Railway would have to close as it would no longer be safe. Laxey Station has always been in a timewarp with its rustic station building and interchange between the Manx Electric Railway and Snaefell Mountain Railway all surrounded by trees but critics of the plan are saying that the whole atmosphere will be changed forever.

So far a few trees have been cut down and tracks and poles within the station area have now been removed in preparation for their relaying. When the tracks are relaid it is planned that the dual gauge siding which could be used by both Manx Electric Railway and Snaefell Mountain Railway vehicles will be removed as will all crossovers within the station site (terminating trams at Laxey will in future run round north of the station) and access to the Blacksmiths siding will be severed. In addition it is planned that definite pedestrian walkways will be laid across the tracks rather than the traditional ad hoc way across the lines which has been enjoyed since Victorian times. Finally modern LED lighting is to be installed along with “modern street furniture”.

Although work is required to bring the track up to standard in this area traditionalists on the island believe these plans go too far. The Manx Electric Railway Society commented: “These plans are not only wholly unnecessary and ill-conceived but certain aspects have the potential to be downright dangerous and gives the strong impression of a Government who has no real understanding of tradition or heritage. At a time when revenue driven from the finance sector remains under pressure and the world economy is showing little signs of any significant short-term recovery, the Island needs to nurture that in what it excels. Heritage is a sector that offers potential growth.”

Sadly with the work now underway it would appear that no amount of dismay will stop the changes at Laxey Station and that when trams return next year it will have a much different feel.

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11 Responses to Anger as work starts to remodel Laxey Station

  1. Chris Callan says:

    Am in the minority as see these changes as positive one.

    Think the juxtaposition of old and new could actually look quite spectacular. We have to recognise that Transports Systems have to keep moving forwards. Think their is suitable provision to ensure the character of the overall line is maintained…

    • Geoff, Isle of Man says:

      Yes, I am afraid that you are very much in a minority. IMHO, your word “spectacular” should read “hideously inappropriate and vulgar”! The MER is NOT, unlike the Blackpool Tramway, converting itself from a traditional tramway to a modern light rail system, so what is proposed for Laxey will totally destroy the special ambience of the station area. Gareth says “Laxey Station has always been in a timewarp” and, in this instance, this is a totally positive comment.

      However, it does seem, as Gareth also says, that this is now a ‘lost cause’ – I am ashamed, on behalf of my country’s Government, for its philistinism, crass insensitivity and refusal to listen to reasoned argument.

      • Ken Walker says:

        Fully agree with Geoff on this one. I have been visiting Laxey via the MER for 50 years and the up changing charm of the area is one of its main attractions. Whilst undoubtedly track renewals are necessary, and moving the runaround location away from the main pedestrian area may be justifiable, the other proposed changes are over the top in my opinion, and will lead to the charm of the station being destroyed in the same way that the steam railway station at Douglas was when the platform canopy was demolished instead of being renewed in the 1970s / 1980s. Add to that the proposals for Ramsey and the cars themselves will be the only surviving heritage on the MER.

  2. David Mee says:

    I have made countless visits to the Isle of Man over the last thirty years primarily because of its ‘timewarp’ qualities and am committed to visit again in 2014, but that might very well be my last visit depending on what I see. One of the delights of visiting the island is/was spending some time at Laxey station, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the bustle of a busy heritage interchange with trams departing for Douglas, Ramsey and the mountain, plus short workings gravity shunting before a return to Douglas. Alas it seems this is to be no more with shunting movements banished from the station and the layout, unchanged for many decades, drastically simplified. The trees and the station ‘palm’ made the scene. Now the palm and some of the trees are no more – its all very sad and furthermore unneccessary. It will never be the same again.

    As mentioned elsewhere – this is not a modern transport interchange, it is a victorian heritage electric railway, but that very essence is being degraded with every change being made. This is just the start – Ramsey is next in the firing line.

    Personally I think the Isle of Man Government are ‘chopping off the hand that feeds it’. Tourists and enthusiasts don’t want bland, modern surroundings – I can go to my local network rail station for that. Visitors from across need to make a significant investment to visit the Isle of Man, transport to the island is not cheap. what made it special and worth the effort is being diluted with every change.

    • Ken Walker says:

      Unfortunately the island has lost interest in the tourist industry, the rot set in when the Steam Packet abandoned the day excursion business and made it almost impossible to visit for the day except for those who have the stamina to have a day trip of over 24 hours duration. The Manx government appeared to have not been the slightest bit bothered about this decline, and the island appears to be only interested in its financial business nowadays. The exception, of course, being the enthusiast events which are organised each year.

      • David Y Dredge says:

        Is it perhaps that the ‘Tourist Industry’ has lost interest in the IoM as well as Blackpool and other NW resorts? The IoM has had to re-invent itself to remain economically viable. Day trips to anywhere, other than by car, are unfortunately no longer commercially viable. The IoMSP is a shadow of its former self because the traffic is no longer there to carry. At least the rationalised railway and the tramways are still operating and attracting investment.

  3. Geoff, Isle of Man says:

    To see the current state of Laxey station (and to read local people’s comments), click this link : http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/isle-of-man-news/levelled-is-laxey-station-losing-its-timeless-charm-1-6281998

  4. Melway Leeds says:

    As a frequent visitor to the Island I cannot believe that the Government are destroying this wonderful Victorian “time warp” I imagine the little cafe will go that sold a much welcome cup-pa whilst waiting for a tram. Also one of the charms of Laxey was the wonderful sound of the crows milling around the impressive tree canopy. As they say “You do not know what you have got until you loose it”

  5. Alan Kirkman says:

    I fear that with all the coach parties transferring to the SMR if one passenger had tripped over the point levers boarding etc and sued the Coach Tour Operator in the KK courts compensation would have been massive. I an ordinary visitor fell that would would be dealt with in Manx Court and likely dismissed as not being carefull. But a customer on a tour with a UK etc. based operator would sue in their courts. So I am certain that like it or not action had to be taken. Sadly also the UK Joe Public seem a lot less sensible about stations etc. than they used to be maybe due to unfamiliarity and sadly gravity run rounds in public access areas are perhaps also inadvisable any longer. Perhaps the answer was to ban tourists from Laxey station area? But then that would mean total closure of the MER and SMR.

    • Ken Walker says:

      True enough Alan but I don’t think it’s the renewing / remodelling of the track that’s causing most of the criticism, that on its own wouldn’t spoil the appearance or charm of the place, it’s the upgrading with ‘modern street furniture’ and tarmac walkways that is causing all the furore.