Event Review: Manx Heritage Transport Festival

Continuing his diary whilst on the Isle of Man, David Mee describes the action during the Manx Heritage Transport Festival at the end of July before concluding on the state of the tramways on the island.

Wednesday 25th July

50th Anniversary closure of the Northern Line.

Timetable F in operation on MER from Today until Sunday featuring no less than 20 departures from Derby Castle between 0840 and 20.55

Parallel Run to Laxey

Usually confined to the Douglas – Groudle section this parallel run operated through to Laxey with car 1 then used on Motorman taster sessions and car 2+51 remaining in service on the D2 diagram.

(Note: a later failure saw car 21 substitute for 1 on the motorman lessons).

Car 2+51 plus car 1 wrong line

with car 2+51 to Laxey at 0910

Noted at Laxey Car Shed were car 25 and freight trailer 26.

With car 2+51 to Derby Castle at 0955 (act.1000). Photographed car 7 and car 22 on shed and then cars 2 and 22 at Derby Castle station. Photos of Horse trams passing on the Queens Promenade whilst on the way to the stables for a look around to finish off the 50 group events.

50th Anniversary closure of the Northern Line

A group member very kindly offered to drive us to Kirk Michael to view the exhibition in the station and display of the locomotive Caledonia and the Foxdale coach. Very impressive. Spent about 25 minutes at the station and then walked to the bus stop for:

Service 5 bus to Ramsey at 13.07

Pint and Pasty before returning to the MER.

With car 32+48 to Laxey at 14.40. Transfer to:

Snaefell Mountain Railway

With car 4 to the summit at 15.45

Quick look around, photos and walk to the actual peak.

With car 4 back to Laxey at 16.40

With car 9+43 to Groudle at 17.45. Walked down the glen for:

Groudle Glen Railway

A quick visit to sample the steam outline Baguley diesel locomotive which had recently been restored for use on the line – Maltby – the famous Hi-De-Hi loco which featured on the credits of the programme.

Quick walk back to MER station for:

With car 32+48 to Douglas at 18.43 (act.18.48)

Excellent curry at the Queens Hotel before going back to Derby Castle.

With car 9 single motor to Laxey at 20.55

Yet another pub visit, this time to the Bridge, also convenient for the station!

With car 9 single motor to Derby Castle at 21.55

A very enjoyable day

Tram Allocations:

D1: 9+43

D2: 2+51

D3: 32+48

D4: 33+60

D5: 22+42

D6: 20+40

Spl: 1

Thursday 26th July

Enhanced services on MER plus ‘Cale’ returns on the steam railway

Note: Caledonia did not return due to ongoing issues with its overhaul.

Walked down to Derby Castle.

With car 7+51 to Fairy Cottage at 0910.

With car 33+56 to Laxey at 9.50, one of two additional services this morning featuring open cars

With car 33+56 back to Derby Castle at 10.10 (act. 10.35)

Photos of the shunt and 9+43 at the station.

With car 16+60 to Laxey at 11.25, the other additional service

With car 16+60 to Derby Castle at 12.10

Lunch in the adjacent Terminus Tavern

MER Photography tour

Car 19 and trailer 42 at 13.50. Stops and activities as follow:

Lag Birragh

Scarffes Crossing

Laxey Car Shed sidings – photos and look around the shed

Laxey Car Sheds/Rencell Road

Laxey Car Sheds

Opportunity for a quick look around, vehicles present as follows:

Road 1: 54, 26, 31 (26 and 31 protected by tarpaulins)

Road 2 : 21, Tower Wagon 1, 34

Road 3: Wagon 10, 28, Freight trailer 26

Road 4 : 25, 27, 23

Further stops:


Bonner Corner

Summit Curves

Dhoon Quarry, cross over

Above Murrays Road


Ramsey, shunt to old station

Ballure Bridge

Windy Ridge

Browns Crossing


Then non stop back to Douglas.

Hotel, dinner and bus trip to Castletown completed another very full day.

Tram Allocations:

D1: 1+43

D2: 7+51

D3: 2+48

D4: 22+62

D5: 9+40

D6: 20+44

A1: 33+56

A2: 16+60

Spl: 19+42

Friday 27th July

MER Workshop tours and unusual combinations

Walked to the Promenade and then bus to Derby Castle for a short tram ride.

With car 7+van 4 to Ballagawne at 8.40

Service 3 bus to the Manx Arms at 9.16

Walked to Port Jack to photo 9+42 on the crossing. Walked on to Derby Castle.

Derby Castle Shed Tour

A good guided tour, vehicles and positions as follows:

Bottom Sheds

Museum, Paint Shop (Trailer 59 being repainted), Power Station/Workshop

Road 1: Car 5

Road 2: Empty, car 14 displayed outside shed

Road 3: Trailers 55 and 36, both withdrawn

Top Shed

Service R1 Car 1 and Horse Car 27

Service R2 Car 2 and Trailer 44 in service shop

Road 3: 32, 33, 41, 29, 53

Road 4: 17, 15

Road 5: 62, 18, 49

Road 6; 43, 16, 56, wagon 8

Road 7: 40, 48, 46, Tower wagon, 37

Road 8: Van 16, 57, 58, 47

(all from front to back)

A couple of Horse Car rides:

With Nelson and car 36 to the Sea Terminal at 11.15

With Nelson and car 36 to Derby Castle at 11.35

Service 1 bus to railway station at 11.52 for a couple of steam train rides.

Relaxed in hotel on return before taking the bus down to Derby Castle for the evening tram service.

Car 9 to Ballajora at 19.40

Car 7 to Laxey at 20.48

Car 6+43+van 16 to Derby Castle at 21.40

Walked to the Queens Hotel to round of the day with the inevitable pint of real ale.

Tram Allocations:

D1: 7+van 4

D2: 19+51

D3: 9+42

D4: 22+60

D5: 20+61

D6: 21+62

Spl: 6+43+van 16 Evening trips to Dhoon

Evening cars: 7, 9, 19, 20

Note: Car 22 was hit by a car today, but remained in service following inspection.

Saturday 28th July

IMR Workshops and staged photography, plus a bit of everything.

Did not do the IMR workshop visits. Instead I decided to base my day around the MER and Snaefell Mountain Railway.

Service 1 bus to Derby Castle at 8.29

With car 1+42 to Ramsey at 8.40

Service 3 bus to Laxey at 10.15. Slight delay due to a tree on road following overnight storms.

Snaefell Mountain Railway

SMR Car 2 to the summit at 10.45

Nice and bright at the top on arrival, dark and wet on departure.

SMR Car 2 to Laxey at 11.40

Great Laxey Mines Railway

Round trip in the rain with Battery Electric loco Wasp

Walked to the MER station.

With car 33+58 to Groudle at 12.25

Weather variable but dry for walk down Glen to:

Groudle Glen Railway

An opportunity for a steam hauled trip, the line having not used steam for several weeks due to the fire risk.

With Bagnall ‘Annie’ to Sea Lion Rocks at 13.15

Break to photograph the foaming seas and visit the excellent tea rooms

With ‘Annie’ back to Lhen Coan at 14.00

With ‘Annie’ to Sea Lion Rocks at 14.15

Walked through the lower Glen on the recently reinstated paths and up to the MER station.

With 1+42 to Douglas at 14.43.

Horse Car Parallel run

From Broadway to start of Loch Promenade

Moves as follows:

With Douglas and car 45 to Sea Terminal at 15.30.

Back to Villa Marina at 15.45.

Parallel run with car 36 and Kewin

Finally returned to Derby Castle with car 45 and then back to Mona Drive.

Relaxed in room before dinner and attending the staged photography event at the steam railway and following talk by the head of the railways, Ian Longworth.

Tram Allocations:

D1: 1+42

D2: 32+57

D3: 2+60

D4: 33+58

D5: 22+43

D6: 20

Sunday 29th July

MER Intensive service and Jurby bus running day

A very wet start to the day and the possibility of even worse later – not good for intensive service day!

Service 11 bus to Derby Castle at 8.49

With car 32+62 to Laxey at 0910. Worsening weather so all shutters down!

Coffee break

With Car 9+47 to Ramsey at 0955.

With bus 184 to Jurby at 11.00. The newest bus in the fleet.

Jurby Bus Museum running day

Museum open and with a selection of the fleet running trips on a route comprising Ballaugh, Sulby and back via Sandygate, about a 35 minute run. Enjoyed a couple of vintage bus trips before lunch.

With bus 184 back to Ramsey at 14.40. Transferred to MER.

With car 32+62 to Dreemskerry at 15.10.

With car 5 single motor through to Derby Castle at 15.52.

Transferred to enclosed Horse Car No.1 for a trip to Mona Drive at 17.00.

A final social evening and slide show at the steam railway to round off the transport events.

A lovely if wet day to round off an excellent holiday.

Tram Allocations:

D1: 22+42

D2: 32+62

D3: 9+47

D4: 7+48

D5: 16+60*

D6: 5+40

D7: 20+46

D8: 6+41

D9: 19+57**

D10: 1+51*

D11: 33+58*

D12: 2+43

* Planned but did not run due to poor weather. A revised timetable operated from about 11.45 based on D but with some extras instead, majoring on enclosed cars, although 32+62 did remain out all day. **19 ran with 58 in afternoon. 5, 6, 7, 20 and 22 seen running without trailers later in the day. Weather improved after lunch.

Some final thoughts

In its 125th year the Manx Electric Railway appears to be in rude health. Chatting to those in the know on the island any talk of the section north of Laxey being at risk can be discounted as posturing by certain politicians on the island. In fact it was revealed that the Laxey – Ramsey section creates 40% of the tramway revenue and is an essential feeder into the Snaefell Mountain Railway. Tourism is the second biggest source of revenue for the island and the heritage transport systems are the premier attractions.

The section of the MER north of Dhoon has seen major investment in maintenance over the winter and early season, the Horse Tram cars are going through a program of rebuilding making them fit for many years service. The Snaefell Cars will see upgrades over the coming winter. Be in no doubt this is system with a rosy future.

In the first week of September the Manx Electric Railway celebrates 125 years with a magnificent weeks worth of special events – definitely not to be missed!

* Photographs from this period can be found in Gallery 754.

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