Snaefell Mountain Railway no. 3 destroyed after runaway

In one of the most serious incidents on any tramway in the British Isles in recent years Snaefell Mountain Railway no. 3 has been destroyed after running away from the Summit and derailing at Bungalow. Fortunately no staff or passengers were on board the tram as it ran away.

The exact circumstances of what happened are not yet known but what is known is that 3 was stabled just short of the Summit terminus when it ran away back down the mountain. It travelled a fair distance to Bungalow – fortunately before the road crossing – before leaving the tracks and it was then completely destroyed as it came to a rest on the side of the mountain. Officials from Isle of Man Railways attended the scene and covered the remnants of the tram with plastic sheeting. An official investigation will now start to find out what caused the tram to run away from the Summit and derail in such spectacular fashion.

Services on the Snaefell Mountain Railway were immediately suspended until further notice which left 30 passengers (and staff) stranded at the Summit restaurant with alternative arrangements being made to transport them back down the mountain.

The 2016 season on the Snaefell Mountain Railway had only started on 18th March and after winter flooding caused damage to the trackbed the line had been using single line operation.

No. 3 dates from 1895 and had only recently returned to service after an overhaul in the workshops following a minor fire experienced in 2014. This time however it won’t be a quick fix for the tram to return to service as it is now just a pile wood and metal.

* Photos of the aftermath of the incident can be seen at (including one taken before the sheeting was added which shows the severity of the damage).

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16 Responses to Snaefell Mountain Railway no. 3 destroyed after runaway

  1. Paul Thacker says:

    Sad pictures to see of any tram destroyed. Such a shame of a historic tram looking like its gone forever.

  2. David Mee says:

    A very sad turn of events, although we should be grateful that no one was hurt and that the car did not reach the mountain road with all the implications that might have resulted in. No doubt the reason for the car running away will become clear in time.

    I have just returned from the island having attended the excellent Rush Hour event over the Easter weekend. I had a trip on the Snaefell Mountain Railway on Friday 25th March in Car 3 and was impressed with the results of its partial overhaul. It had been tastefully fitted with a new commentary system which was not too intrusive and did indeed enhance the visitor experience with snippets of history and information on the locations which we passed.

    There were three cars in service on that day – 1, 3 and 5 and the line was operating to a special timetable due to the continuing aftermath of the winter floods. The whole lower section from Laxey to Bungalow being subject to single line working with a staff for protection. One of the crew commented that it was anticipated that full working would be possible from Tynwald Day (July). Cars waited at Laxey for the lower section to be clear when the preceding car arrived with the staff. The car then ran up to a temporary top terminus just below the summit were the previous car waited for our arrival before returning to Laxey. Both lines available and used above Bungalow although on the day I traveled it seemed to be the case that cars awaited the next arrival at Summit before descending.

    During the winter closure the line had been relaid at the summit and tidying up was still in progress (fencing, resurfacing etc) so trains were terminating just short in a slightly exposed position. In fact whilst at the summit the wiper on the top end of Car 3 was destroyed by a freak gust of wind.

    Hopefully investigations will be swift and this lovely line able to be reopened in the not too distant future. In the meantime my thoughts are with the crews and passengers affected who will no doubt be in shock after this terrible turn of events.

  3. Phil Caine says:

    How very sad and depressing, especially coming hot on the heels of the MER trailer falling over. Lets us be very grateful that nobody was hurt.

  4. Neil says:

    Very sad to see this beautiful tram written off.

    A bad week on the IoM with the fast ferry Manannan still out of service having collided with the harbour wall at Douglas last week.

    • Ken Walker says:

      I sincerely hope that the rule of things ‘happening in threes’ does not apply! We should be grateful that the SMR’s reputation of never having had a passenger fatality in its existence has remained intact and that it hasn’t been lost in spectacular style.
      It is surprising but pleasing that the incident does not seem to have reached the ears of Granada News, some of whose presenters seem to jump on something like this as an opportunity to make themselves into armchair experts and cause unnecessary scaremongering with their infantile opinions. BBC did manage to cover it with an article lasting a whole 15 seconds.
      The flooding has made single line working necessary below the Bungalow, now I presume there is also only one line fit for traffic above. This must already be the worst year in the SMR’s history. Let’s hope they are soon able to pick themselves up and leave these bad times behind. Sadly car no.3 will not be assisting.
      My last trip down the mountain in 2014 was on car 3 and I now appreciate my decision to get some interior photos at the summit before any other passengers joined!

  5. Erik Ickerbobs says:

    I wonder if they will get a replacement. Probably not. They got a replacement for 5 when that burned down.

  6. Nathan says:

    Very sad seeing a historic tramcar lying in pieces like that. Probably a total write-off, although I’d like to think that there are parts on there still undamaged that could be used to keep the others going. Given that this incident may have been the indirect result of the single line operation being used on the lower section, I don’t think the Snaefell line will re-open again until everything is repaired, hopefully before the main summer season starts.
    Glad no-one was hurt, thank goodness it didn’t crash at Laxey! That could have been disastrous for both the SMR and the MER.

  7. David Lawrence says:

    Massive relief that nobody was injured or worse killed by this rather worrying incident. Absolutely no point in speculating indeed unhelpful in the extreme. Note the various comments on-line. Will inevitably trigger wider debate around safety but am happy to let the experts take as long as they need to get to the bottom of how & why this serious incident occurred

    • Ken Walker says:

      The ridiculous allegations made about the new track layout at Laxey following last year’s mishap when the cause was found to be errors by the tram crew prove that your comment is absolutely right.

  8. Christopher Callan says:

    Thankfully nobody was hurt. Could of been so so much worse. Does feel a bit strange listening to a spokesperson for a preservation society talking about rebuilding it. Seems somewhat premature and quite frankly the last thing on peoples minds surely.

    • Geoff, Isle of Man says:

      Christopher, I’m somewhat puzzled by your comment. Had the mishap resulted in deaths or injuries, I would have agreed with what you say. Since (thank goodness) that was not the case, it seems perfectly reasonable that the spokesman for the MERS should express the hope that car no. 3 might ultimately be rebuilt. Whether the finance for such a rebuilding is forthcoming, is quite another matter.

      • Ken Walker says:

        Fully agree Geoff. If funds are to be raised it doesn’t happen overnight. The discussions seem purely to be based on finding out what financial assistance might be available if Isle of Man Railways conclude that the frames and running gear are salvageable, especially as government funding is not likely to be forthcoming in the present financial climate and with 5 other cars available. Nobody is trying to distract Isle of Man Railways from their current priorities, not that I can see.
        As for any rebuild being a ‘replica’, with the ex-Aachen gear replacing original equipment, the bogies being built only about 30 years ago at London Transport if I remember correctly, and wooden body panels no doubt having been replaced over the years, I wonder apart from the frames how much of the car is actually original anyway?

      • Phil Caine says:

        Well said Geoff, I’m glad I’m not the only one who was bemused by the remarks Chris made. The MERS has a very well earned reputation for having the best interests of the Island’s electric railways at heart. ‘It’s long track record prove just that.

  9. vincent says:

    It is a shame of any tram in a state like that

  10. Ken Walker says:

    The SMR fully re-opened today according to a statement from Isle of Man Railways.

  11. Phil Caine says:

    Well said Geoff.

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