Rush Hour on the Railway: 25th – 28th March

The following is a report on the first major transport event on the Isle of Man in 2016 – Rush Hour, running over the long Easter weekend. Circumstances conspired against the event this year with many potential visitors having difficulty getting to the island following an unfortunate accident befalling the Steam Packet Fast Craft ‘Mannanan’, resulting in it sustaining damage after hitting the pier wall at Douglas and being out of action throughout the holiday period. However, once again, the railways pulled out all the stops and produced a first class variety of events. David Mee reports from the weekend.

My trip started with a trip on the steam railway on Thursday 24th March followed by a pilgrimage to the Manx Museum to see their Horse Tram exhibit, largely dominated by double deck car 14. At the time I thought that this would be the only Horse Tram I would see this year, but common sense has now prevailed and the system will celebrate its 140 years although the future is still uncertain. The Manx Museum is well worth an hour or so, although the Horse Tram exhibit is the only transport related item on show.

Friday 25th March

The official start of the event with an introductory parallel run with car 20 and 16 (to welcome in the 2016 season!) to Groudle at 9am. I traveled on car 16 out to Groudle and got car 20 back. An excellent sunny photo stop took place just before Howstrake on the outward run.

I then spent a period of time chasing the trams for line-side photography in the sunshine. One very welcome innovation this year will be the use of either car 1 or 2 in service on all timetable D days, and to introduce this service both were in normal service today leading to some nice photo opportunities.

I arrived back at Derby Castle in time for a guided tour of the workshops at 11.15am. There has been much work carried out this winter with several cars and trailers repainted ready for the 2016 season. In particular car 7 and trailer 48 have been repainted in the blue and white livery. The various vehicles were arranged as follows:

Derby Castle Depot Visit

In yard: 7, 9 outside bottom shed

20, 6, 29, 16+60 outside top shed

Top Shed: R1: 59, 61, 62, 54

R2: 57, 51 (13), 37, 42

R3: Van 4

R4: 46, 41, 47, 18, 49

R5: 43, 44, 17, 15

R6: 53

R7: 59

R8: 5, 21, 48 maintenance road

Bottom Shed: R1: Green Wickham and flat wagon, 36, 55

R2: 7, 14

R3: 9

Paint Shop: 58


1. Trailer 58 is repaired and anticipated back in service for summer

2. Car 14 bodywork about 40% completed and electrical about 10% complete

3. Car 9 to be withdrawn after Rush Hour for repaint and proper illuminations to be installed

4. Car 7 repaint 99% complete, matching trailer 48 still to complete

5. Depot contents lists above are front to rear of shed

After refreshments in the Terminus Tavern, and as the weather was still bright, I decided to have a trip up the mountain as follows:

MER Car 22 to Laxey at 12.40

SMR Car 3 to summit at 13.15 (act.13.20). Delayed by single line working and awaiting incoming car (1). Working on a staff system to the Bungalow. Very cold and variably cloudy at the summit, but I walked to photo Car 5 on the spiral descending past Sulby Reservoir. Our car 3 back down the mountain was delayed due to the single line working from 14.10 to 14.30.

Note: SMR single line working Laxey to Bungalow. Outside line to Llergy Veg, slewed to inside line to Bungalow. Both lines available to the summit. Below Bungalow signs of wash outs and slips with retaining walls being rebuilt with rock gabions in places. It will be interesting to see if the work is complete by summer.

Car 3 was rewired last year and now has concealed speakers and a very professional recorded commentary.

Note: It is sobering to think that just five days later the car was destroyed in the runaway accident from the summit. My recent trip in it reinforcing the view that things could have been much worse had there been members of the public on board. Luckily that wasn’t the case and it seems that the car can be rebuilt.

I rounded off my MER trips for the day as follows:

Car 2 to Dhoon Glen at 15.10

Car 1 through to Port Jack at 15.40

Tram Allocations:

D1: 22 (16 on 16.10 dep. from Douglas)

D2: 1

D3: 2

L: 19

Spl1: 20 to Groudle

Spl2: 16 to Groudle

Saturday 26th March

Todays event activities centred around the steam railway and I spent most of the day on the south line. However, I did visit Derby Castle first thing in order to see the shunting prior to services starting. Today was billed as ‘unusual tram and trailer combinations’, although things did not go to plan. One of the changes implemented after trailer 58 ended up on its side at Laxey was the replacement of all the connecting bars between trams and trailers. There are, however, teething problems with the new bars and most of the shiny, repainted trailers were confined to shed this weekend resulting in the unusual sight of single car running during an event period. Apparently trailer 60 was affected and quickly returned to shed.

Anticipated MER allocations:

D1: 5+41

D2: 19+60

D3: ?

L: 16

Sunday 27th March

Probably the highlight of the weekend – intensive nine car service between Derby Castle and Laxey, with departures every ten to fifteen minutes. I spent the morning traveling on the south section of the line, followed by an afternoon of line-side photography on the northern section to Ramsey.

MER travels

I drove to Laxey and then had the following trips on the MER:

5+41 to Ramsey at 9.10

Noted Goods Shed at the terminus now behind a fence with asbestos contamination being treated by the JCK demolition company.

5+41 to Laxey at 10.10. Sat in trailer, one of the few out and about!

After refreshments at the cafe I made use of the intensive timetable to have the following trips:

2 to Fairy Cottage at 11.10

20+47 to Laxey at 11.20

22+46 to Baldrine at 11.55

2 to Laxey at 12.13

19 to Baldrine at 12.55

6 to Laxey at 13.13

16 to Ballagawne at 13.40

21 to Laxey at 14.00

Transferred to the car for:

MER line-side Photography:

Used the car to take the following photos on the northern section:

21 above the Laxey Valley Gardens

22+46 at Ballure

6 at Dhoon Quarry and Ballafayle Corteeens

6 across the valley with sea in distance

Drove to Ramsey and parked at the station. MER trips as follows:

6 to Dhoon Glen at 16.10

22+46 to Ramsey at 16.55

Drove back to Douglas via the mountain road in time for:

MER Evening Photography

Great evening of photography at the depot with cars posed in the sheds and on the fan. Magical as night fell.

Cars 9+1 on shuttle to Groudle

Cars 5, 22, 2 and 6 posed outside depot

Car 7 floodlight display in bottom shed – excellent

Other cars and trailers on display in top shed

Car 7 was lit for photography in the bottom shed and those on the top shed fan also lit as darkness fell.

Did the shuttle trip with cars 9 and 1 to Groudle at 8.15pm. Excellent photo stop at Howstrake and Groudle rounding off a wonderful day on the MER.

Tram allocations:

D1: 22+46+van 16 (to Ramsey, off at Laxey on return)

D2: 16

D3: 2+van 4 (van off at Laxey)

D4: 21

D5: 19

D6: 1

D7: 20+47

D8: 6

L: 5+41

Eve 1: 9

Eve 2: 1

Monday 28th March

Todays activities all centred around the steam railway with workshop tours and a photography event based around the stub of the old Peel line with simulated double departures and double headed trains. There were also Motorman taster sessions with a tunnel car on the MER.

In conclusion, another fantastic event on the wonderful railways and tramways of the Isle of Man. It is just a pity that there were not a few more people around to enjoy it and that its memory will always be overshadowed by the impending destruction of SMR Car 3 and the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway. I would urge enthusiasts to make the effort to visit the Island this summer. The Horse Trams will be running and celebrating 140 years and there will be a full program of transport events. The famous illuminated ‘Electric Railway’ sign on the cliff above Derby Castle is being restored and will once again advertise the delights of the MER to one and all. A question mark remains over the Bay Tramway for 2017 onwards, so I would recommend a visit sooner rather than later!

* Photos from this weekend can be seen in Gallery 603: Rush Hour on the Railway – March 2016 and Gallery 604: Snaefell Mountain Railway – March 2016.

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