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.