MER pay tribute to the Tunnel cars

The penultimate day of the 2014 season on the Manx Electric Railway saw this amazing transport system play host to its now established annual ‘Winter Photography Event’, and this year the star attractions were the four remaining Tunnel cars in recognition of their 120th anniversary year. Cars 5, 6, 7 and 9 all featured prominently in this superb event which included a parallel run, some unusual workings and behind the scenes tours.

The events of Saturday 1st November began with a parallel run utilising sister cars 5 and 7, which made a fine sight in their contrasting liveries; 5 wearing the familiar teak, red and white livery whilst 7 is blue and white. This took place before the start of the core service so as to keep any disruption to passengers to an absolute minimum, whilst also creating some memorable sights for enthusiasts. Better was to follow though, with a little-known aspect of these trams’ early history being recreated for what is thought to be the first time ever. Before the introduction of enclosed saloon trailers, it was common practice more than a century ago for two Tunnel cars to be coupled together during the winter months, one of them effectively becoming an honoury trailer. This practice was re-enacted using cars 5 and 7; oddly the use of the trams in wildly contrasting colours was historically accurate. Both cars took turns to lead with the other having its trolley tied down to become a trailer, and after a few runs, the pair returned to Derby Castle to be lined up with sisters 6 and 9 so that all four of this type of tramcar could be photographed together. Visitors were also able to view another item of rolling stock which turned 120 in 2014 – disused trailer car 36 which has not run since the 1970s and this was a very welcome addition to the day’s activities.

The next part of the day saw car 6 temporarily renumbered, assuming the identity of its long-lost sister car 10 and in this guise it was used to haul both Royal Saloon Trailer 59 and Mail Van 4 for a trip to Laxey, where guests were then invited to look around the depot to see various withdrawn vehicles, some of which had been moved around during a recent shunting operation. The trio then returned to Derby Castle so that passengers could transfer onto the illuminated car 9 to enjoy one final trip in the fading light.

The volunteers who invested so much thought and energy in the day’s events deserve considerable praise for putting on a truly fantastic show and for ensuring that the 120th anniversary of four of the hardest working trams in the British Isles did not pass by unnoticed. The end of season enthusiast events staged on the Manx Electric Railway have quickly earned a reputation for innovation and high enjoyment, and hopefully will carry on going from strength to strength in the years ahead.

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