Event Report: Isle of Man Heritage Transport Festival and preceding charters by the Isle of Man Fifty Group, 20th July – 1st August

The Isle of Man is an heritage transport jewel in the middle of the Irish sea. On an island barely 38 miles long and 13 miles wide you can experience three different steam railways, vintage bus, commercial vehicle, car and of course motorbikes, plus three wonderful and very different tramway’s. These tramway’s comprise a seventeen mile long electric tramway with interurban, country and coastal sections; a five mile long mountain tramway and the worlds last regularly operated Horse Tramway along the impressive Douglas waterfront.

In addition to regular services from March to November the Government owned heritage transport systems, namely the Isle of Man Steam Railway, Snaefell Mountain Railway, Manx Electric Railway and now also the Douglas Bay Horse Trams host a number of special events through the season, two of which are of particular interest to the enthusiast – a ‘Rush Hour’ event at Easter and the annual Heritage Transport Festival in July. The latter also coincides with gala events at the volunteer run Groudle Glen Railway. For the past fifteen years the Isle of Man Fifty Group, an enthusiast group comprising individuals from all over the UK and Europe, have held a series of charters just prior to the festival, this year resulting in a full fortnight of special trains and trams.

Early 2016 was a very turbulent time for the Horse Tramway, with its previous operator, the Borough of Douglas, unwilling to fund its continued operation, thus putting its 140th Anniversary year and whole future in doubt. At present the Government railways are operating the service and making an excellent job of refurbishing trams and enhancing services. This was reflected in the Horse Tramway playing a key part in the Heritage Festival for the very first time as a precursor to 140th Celebrations a week later.

The following takes the form of a diary summarising the main tram related events and highlights from my fortnight on the Island.

Wednesday 20th July

A brisk walk in poor weather along the promenade from the hotel to Derby Castle was rewarded with a view of Horse Cars 1, 29, 36, 42, 43 and 45 in the sidings at the terminus and outside the depot. The poor weather resulted in the bonus of enclosed cars in service on the horse tramway so I took a single trip with Horse Car 1 at 9am from Derby Castle to the Sea Terminal.

The rest of the morning was spent on the steam railway, a fortuitous decision as I had a ride with No.13 Kissack, recently restored to original dark green livery, but suffering with firebox troubles and not used again after today.

After lunch I took Horse Car 45 to Derby Castle at 13.50, transferring to the MER for:

Car 2+46 to Laxey at 14.10.

Car 7+48 to Ramsey at 15.10.

Car 7+48 to Derby Castle at 16.10.

Known tram allocations:

MER: D1 19+44

D2 2+46

D3 21+43

D4: 5+40

L: 7+48

Note: A timetable D service day with four diagrams for Douglas based cars and 1 for a Laxey based car. Ramsey Car Shed remains intact, but no longer wired or used to store a service car overnight.

Thursday 21st July

Not much to report tram wise from today as the Isle of Man 50 group had an all day hire of Douglas Corporation Transport Regent V double decker bus No.15 for a very interesting visit to Manx National Heritage large object store, followed by a tour with visits to the Sound of Man and Peel before a visit to the Bus garage and workshops at Banks Circus. For any bus enthusiasts reading this, our visit more or less coincided with the withdrawal of the last red and cream liveried Dennis Trident Double Deckers from service and they all departed back ‘across’ at the weekend.

I did manage to get one round trip on the Horse Tramway with car 36 from Derby Castle at 9am before the tour.

Known tram allocations:

MER: D1 5+40

D2 19+43

D3 21+44

Another timetable D day

Friday 22nd July

Again not much to report about the trams as the 50 Group had the first of two all day charters on the steam railway today, although I did start the day with my usual Horse Car trip from Derby Castle at 9am, today Car 43 and ‘Steve’.

At the end of the charter I caught a bus through to Ramsey for dinner in the northern town before returning to Douglas with the MER. With car 21+44 to Derby Castle at 20.40. Noted car 19 also in evening service. A nice way to round off the day.

Known tram allocations:

MER: D1 7

D2 19+43

Evening: 21+44


A service DG day, with service D during the day and service G in the evening featuring two evening round trips to Ramsey.

Saturday 23rd July

Again little to report from today as the Isle of Man 50 Group hired the Regent V once again this time to explore the north of the island and in particular visit Jurby for the Manx Motor Museum with its very extensive collection, and the separate Manx Transport Museum which majors on buses but does include two stored and very sorry looking Horse Cars – 11 and 47, plus the impressive Cable Car exhibit.

I did however get an early morning trip with ‘Torrin’ and Horse Car 36 for a round trip to the Sea Terminal at 9am.

Known tram allocations:

MER: D1 6+46

D2 19+44

D3 21+44

D4 7+48

Another service DG day.

Sunday 24th July

I started with a walk ending up at Derby Castle. I then saw and photographed two Horse Cars arriving/departing before meeting up with the 50 group and boarding our chartered set 19+44 to Laxey at 9.30, departing from the little used Groudle Siding.

On arrival at Laxey it was very wet and cloudy so opted out of the group trip on the SMR up the mountain and instead stuck with the MER:

With 7+48 through to Ramsey at 10.10 (10.20 act)

With 7+48 through to Groudle at 11.10

Still very wet, but walked to the Glen for our 50 group charter trains on the Groudle Glen Railway. This included trips with the steam loco ‘Polar Bear’ one of the original locos now based usually at Amberley, but over for the festival.

Walked back up the Glen to the MER station and then with 21+41 to Derby Castle at 14.43.

Surprised to see the open cars in use on the Horse Tramway in the rain, but still had trips as follows:

With Mark and H/C 45 to Sea Terminal at 15.00

With Mark and H/C 45 to Mona Drive at 15.20

Due to the weather and other commitments that concluded travels for the day

Known tram allocations:

MER: D1 21+41

D2 7+48

D3 6+46

D4 1+40

L 22+47

Spl 19+44

A service D day.

Monday 25th July

Little to report as the Isle of Man 50 Group had its second full day steam charter today with the small loco No.8 Fenella which had been turned to face Douglas for the duration of the festival – a very unusual occurrence!

Known tram allocations:

MER: D1 21+47

D2 6+46

D3 7+48 probably

A service D day.

Tuesday 26th July

Triple Tram Tuesday

The Isle of Man 50 Groups main MER based charter this year.

Took a walk from Onchan down to Derby Castle and photographed 21+40 crossing the road at Port Jack on the way.

Horse Kewin and Car 36 for a round trip to the Sea Terminal from Derby Castle at 9am.

Tram Hire 1: 16+58

Departed Derby Castle at 9.50 with a stop at Larragh Beg to Groudle. Passed by 21+56 and 19+43 at Groudle. On return leg had a photo stop at Majestic.

Tram Hire 2: 1+60

Departed Derby Castle at 11.10 for Laxey with stops at Fairy Cottage only.

Depart for Douglas at 12.10 with stop at South Cape.

Tram Hire 3: 7+48

Departed for Ramsey at 13.35 with stops at Laxey Car Shed.

I walked to the Car Shed stop and caught 2+47 through to Ramsey at 14.15. Photographed charter arrive at Ramsey.

The charter departed Ramsey at 15.30 with stops at Ballure Bridge, Dreemskerry, Browns Crossing, Dhoon Quarry and finally Ballaragh Top were I bailed out and caught the bus back to Douglas.

A good day despite variable weather.

Known tram allocations:

MER: D1 21+40

D2 6+44

D3 22+56 later 46

D4 2 later with 47

L 19+43

Spl1 16+58

Spl2 1+60

Spl3 7+48

PW 33

Another service D day.

Wednesday 27th July

Started the day with a few MER trips as follows:

With 6+46 to Laxey at 8.40 and noted 7+48 arrive wrong road direct into station siding on Ultimate Driver Experience.

With 21+44 to Derby Castle at 9.55, slightly delayed arriving 10.33.

Then followed the last 50 Group event this year, featuring ex Isle Of Man Transport Leyland Olympian Double Decker No.83, now the traveling tea bus! Nice tour of the Island whilst tea and cake was served. By the time we reached Laxey the weather was lovely so:

Snaefell Mountain Railway

With car 6 to the summit at 14.30.

Great commentary by the conductor and equally great views on the way. At the summit photographed the ‘Spitfire’ which had been installed for the upcoming Railways at War event. Walked to the actual summit.

With car 5 back down to Laxey at 15.40.

Perhaps the clearest views I have ever seen from the top. Features distinct on the mainland.

Manx Heritage Transport Festival

Now on to the official events and initially trips on the MER as follows:

With 21+44 to Derby Castle at 16.25

With 32+57 to Groudle Glen at 17.10 (act 17.20)

Groudle Glen all day running

Walked down the glen for some more ‘Polar Bear’ action plus a trip with its resident sister ‘Sea Lion’. On a hot summers afternoon there are few places nicer to wile away a couple of hours. Walked back up the Glen to the MER station:

With 19+43 to Laxey at 19.52

After sampling the local pub:

With 33 single motor to Ramsey at 21.25 (act. 21.40, but fast running saw us in Ramsey at 22.21 – 41 minutes)

With 33 single motor to Laxey at 22.25, back by 23.00 – 35 minutes. Picked up trailer.

With 33+41 to Derby Castle at 23.10. Arrived 23.35 – 25 minutes. Car very quickly shunted to depot.

An excellent end to a smashing day!

Known tram allocations:

MER: D1 6+46

D2 21+44

D3 22+40

D4 19+43

D5 33 (+41)

D6 32+57

UDE 7+48

Now on timetable F, all Douglas cars with no fewer than 19 departures from Derby Castle, the first at 8.40 and the last at 21.55, with the last car from Ramsey arriving back at 23.40. This excellent service also ran for the next three days.

Thursday 28th July

Bus to Derby Castle for:

‘Torrin’ and Horse Car 27 to Sea Terminal at 9am

‘Torrin’ and Horse Car 27 to Derby Castle at 9.20am

Both slightly delayed due to a police attended incident on the Promenade

Caught a bus to Villa Marina and then:

Horse Car 1 to Sea Terminal.

Walked in the rain to the South Quay for the new permanent Model Railway Exhibition. Shown around by the proprietor – very interesting but still a work in progress. Plenty of layouts and variety – one featuring Manx trams!

Bus back to Derby Castle at 11.25

Works and Wires tour – car 2 with wagon 1 (tower car)

Recreating the permanent way train from the 1960’s and 70’s

Departed 12 noon from Derby Castle to the Dhoon with stops as follows:

Onchan Head – wet and cloudy

Groudle – for repairs to tower wagon

Browns, Laxey – better light

Dhoon Quarry – shunt and passed by service

Summit curve – very misty

Bonner Curve – better

Pole 388 – good clear weather

Laxey – shunt to siding, some sunshine, service pass

Fairy Cottage – good elevated position

Pole 235 Garwick – great spot

Above Groudle – cloudy

A great charter despite periodically inclement weather. Back at Derby Castle 15.00.

Rest of the day spent on the Isle of Man Steam Railways

Known tram allocations:

MER: D1 6+43

D2 19 (+43)

D3 21+44

D4 22+47

D5 5+41

Spl 2, wagon 1 (tower car)

Notes on recent incidents: Car 2 was in collision with car at Eskadale on Tuesday 26th, Car ? was in collision at Groudle Holiday village Wednesday 27th. Minor damage only to both cars.

Friday 29th July

Bus to Onchan and walk to Derby Castle.

With 22+40+van 4 to Laxey at 8.40

Photographed car 9 on Laxey based service

Bus to Douglas at 9.33

Walked to Promenade from Victoria Street for:

Kewin and Horse Car 43 to Derby Castle at 10.20

Static display and rotation of cars on the horse tramway, details as follows:

Horse Car Sheds

Workshop: 28

Road 1: 38

Road 2: 32, 21

Road 3: 33

Road 4: empty

Road 5: empty

Road 6: 34, 39

Road 7: 40

Charles and Horse Car 27 to Villa Marina at 11.30

Bus back to Derby Castle at 11.48. Walked up to sheds for:

MER Workshop Tour

Through the machine shop and saw rectifier floor

Bottom Shed

Road 1: 20

Road 2: 14

Road 3: Wickham, 36, 55

Top Shed

Workshop: 58

Road 1: 61, 62, 54

Road 2: 57, 37, 42

Road 3: 60, 51 (13), wagons 10, 8

Road 4: 49

Road 5: 41, 47, Van 16, 17, 15

Road 6: 59, 29, 52

Displayed on depot fan: 5, 6, 18, 16, 32

Outside Bottom shed 1, 33

Walked back to the station for some more Horse Car action:

Mark and Horse Car 12 for a round trip to the Sea Terminal at 13.25

On return got a good photo of Keith and 45 plus Mark and 12 departing. Then walked to the bottom of Summerhill for:

Stables open afternoon

Rare chance for a look around the stables, greet the horses and see how they are cared for. The staff really seem to love the horses and they are well looked after.

Walked back to the station for MER trip:

With 7+48 to Laxey at 14.40

Drink at the Mines Tavern, newly reopened today after refurbishment.

With 21+46 to Derby Castle at 15.55, transferred to:

A remarkable feat of engineering tour

Car 9+58 to Ramsey at 16.50 (act.17.00)

Stops as follows:

Groudle Viaduct

Laxey Car Sheds for Glen Roy Viaduct

Summit Curve

Arrived Ramsey at 19.15 for talk by Jeremy Reece, Heritage Railways chief engineer, about the Bridges, Crossings and particularly the Ballure refurbishment – very interesting.

Back to the MER station for:

Car 9+58 back to Douglas at 21.15, stops as follows:

Ballure Viaduct

Windy Ridge

Then back to Derby Castle, arriving 22.50

Known tram allocations:

MER: D1 22+40 (Van 4 to Laxey)

D2 2+44

D3 21+46

D4 19+43

D5 7+48

D6 5+41

Spl 9 (driver taster sessions)

Spl 9+58 (Evening Bridge tour)

Saturday 30th July

Bus along the promenade for:

‘Torrin’ and Horse Car 42 to the Sea Terminal 9am.

Walked the North Quay to the railway station. Saw and photographed ‘Ant’ and the Steamplex at the mixed gauge gala event at the station. Nice line up of steam vehicles. Had a tour of the workshops and running shed.

Walked to the Promenade for:

Kewin and Horse Car 45 to Mona Drive at 12.20. Lunch.

Walked to Promenade for:

Bus to Derby Castle at 13.52. Transferred to the MER for:

With 19+44 to Laxey at 14.10. Walked to:

Great Laxey Mines Railway

With ‘Bee’ for a round trip at 15.10. Drink in the sunshine at the Mines Tavern before:

With 33+46 to Derby Castle at 15.55 (act 16.01). Crossed the Promenade for:

The rest of the day was spent on the steam railway.

Tram allocations:

MER: D1 21+43

D2 19+44

D3 20+41

D4 22+40

D5 33+46

D6 7+48


Sunday 31st July

Walked the Promenade to Derby Castle. Noted crowds waiting for the double headed Horse Car.

Decided to go with the MER and had trips as follows:

With 32+57 to Ramsey at 8.40

With 32+57 to Eskadale at 10.10 (act 10.18)

Good photos of 9 and 7 from the roadside before walking down the top path through Groudle Glen to Lhen Coan.

Groudle Glen Railway Gala day

A couple of hours enjoying all available motive power on this lovely line – steam, diesel and battery electric!

Walked the path through the lower glen and then up through Groudle Holiday village to Groudle Old Road.

Photo 1+51 passing to Douglas before further MER trips as follows:

With 16+60 to Laxey at 13.52

With 32+57 to Douglas at 14.25 (act 14.30)

Auto tripped at Howstrake so some delay whilst the crew checked the car over and requested permission to continue. Arrived Derby Castle at 15.10.

Horse Tram Cavalcade

A cavalcade of eight Horse Cars was planned for 4pm. Saw and photographed the Horses coming down for the cavalcade and then walked to the bottom of Summerhill to photograph the cavalcade passing. Order of cars was:

Car 18, 44, 45, 43, 12, 29, 42, 36

The day and the festival concluded with a vintage bus to Port Erin for a transport film show.

Known tram allocations:

MER: D1 32+57

D2 5+40AM / 33+56PM

D3 16+60

D4 21+41

D5 2+46

D6 1+51

D7 9+58

D8 7+48

L 19+44AM / 20+43PM

Notes: Intensive service day with 21 scheduled departures from Douglas. 7+48 failed at Laxey with brake problems on the 11.25 departure, service curtailed at Laxey. Problem later rectified and tram resumed duties. Car 20 failed at South Cape at 15.45 approx. with hot axle box. Reversed slowly to Laxey and placed in siding, eventually transferred to Laxey Car Shed. Some impact on the service, but generally worked well.

Monday 1st August

Bus and walk to Derby Castle. Photographed Car 33 being shunted at the depot.

With Car 7+48 to Glen Mona at 8.40.

Noted 20+43 on Laxey diagram, so obviously repaired.

Walked to Glen Mona School for:

Bus to Laxey at 9.53. Running late, but managed to get to Laxey just in time for:

SMR Car 6 to the summit at 10.15.

SMR Car 6 back to Laxey at 11.10.

With car 19+46 to Douglas at 11.55 (act. 12 noon)

Walked along to Queens Promenade for a bus to the hotel. After picking up luggage it was Steam and bus to the airport at the conclusion of a great fortnight.

Known tram allocations:

MER: D1 7+48

D2 19+46

D3 ?

D4 1+40

L 20+43


Once again the MER put on a first class show for visitors and enthusiasts with lots of variety and very few problems during the fortnight. Highlights included the intensive service day with eleven different cars in service through the day plus behind the scenes workshop visits and special themed charters.

The Snaefell Mountain trams went about their business efficiently throughout, and although there were no special events for the SMR, it was nice to see the building works completed at the summit and the double track reinstated throughout.

The real highlight though was the much higher profile of the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway, which for the first time in decades played an integral role in the festival. It was great to see a variety of different horse cars in service, double headed double decker, and tram cavalcade – what a sight! This must all bode well for the future.

Looking ahead – it will not be too long until the MER sports a working Ratchet car once again. A little further ahead is MER 125 in 2018. Much excitement ahead!

All in all another fantastic holiday on this Island of transport delights – if you get the chance do visit – you will not be disappointed.

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1 Response to Event Report: Isle of Man Heritage Transport Festival and preceding charters by the Isle of Man Fifty Group, 20th July – 1st August

  1. Larion says:

    For completeness on Weds 28th, 7/48 on UDE ran from Derby Castle to Ramsey where the trailer was stabled whilst 7 ran a round trip for the second guest driver to Laxey. On returning to Ramsey the trailer was collected again for the return trip to Derby Castle.

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