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Isle of Man 2003

Getting to the Isle of Man has never been easier. For our little group (my wife and my parents) our journey started via the Docklands City Airport. Just over the hour after take off we touched down at Ronaldsway Airport on the southern end of the Isle of Man

Famous for its TT races, manx cats, Tynwald and most importantlyfor me its railways. I was aware the railway had had line closures but what I didn’t realise was there were other railways that have long since gone. I will go in to these next month but for this issue concentrate on the operating Trams

Our first railway trip was to take the Manx Electric Railway (Tram) from Douglas to Laxey. The line starts at Derby Castle which is located at the north end of the Douglas bay . Once next to the tram stop was the Derby Castle itself complete with a glorious ballroom. Replaced in the sixties by an ugle concrete monstrosity, which itself is due for replacement at the end of this year, called Aquadrome and the infamous Summerland (1973 fire)

I had read a little about the Manx Electric Railway but nothing prepared me for what can only be described as apiece of living history. It has a regular timetable and a sizeable fleet of vintage trams and trailers.

It is a strange feeling to ride on an open sided tram, bouncing around in open countryside. Far from being a suburban or city people mover this line was built for the views and holiday makers. I use the term bounced as some of the track was a bit lively to say the least.

Time wise Laxey is around halfway between Douglas and Ramsey and for us it was time to change trams. Here you disembark the Manx trams to board the Snaefell Railway. Oddly this line was built to a larger scale of 3’6” as against the island wide 3’ (Manx Electric Railways and Steam railway). The extra 6” being required for its unique centre “fell rail” which is used for breaking.

Above: Tram and trailer at Derby Castle.  
When the railway was being built the builders was unsure whether traditional adhesion was adequate to climb the 1 in 12 gradient and so the use of a gripping system on the double edged rail was planned. Although this system was not required the rail was retained to allow for a calliper brake system.
Above Right: A Manx tram passing two Snaefell trams
Left: Close up of the brakes on the Snaefell Tram
Right: looking up the line from Laxey. Clearly showing the fell rail. Also Highlights the condition of the track. Being laid on its side, the fell rail collects water and in numerous places it had rusted through.

The picture on the left is of a tram at the summit. The railing are to protect you from an unusual point lever to an unusual set of points or rather point. 

While the line to the summit is similar track standards to the Manx trams, the slower speed and magnificent views makes the line a much more pleasant and memorable experience. Interestingly the up line is on the right and no one could explain why, just an historical thing suggested the guard.


Above: Taken from the top of the Laxey Wheel (water wheel) view of a tram and the depot.   Above: Looking down towards Laxey from the summit. The black line in the hill side is the course of the railway.
Upon return to Laxey we changed back on to the MER (Manx Electric Railway) and continued our journey to Ramsey. This section of the line is the most breath taking. At one point the line clings to the rock face with what feels like hundreds of feet above the sea (over 600‘ actually). The line also climbs and descends an amazing amount as it cuts inland to get to Ramsey.
Instead of running around its trailer the railway use an interesting manoeuvre which we also saw repeated at Laxey. The tram pushes its trailer back up the line. It is detached and the brakes applied. The Tram then goes back down the line then reverses a cross points on to the up line.
The brake is then released on the trailer and it is allowed to roll down the line. Once it clears the points the tram them reverses and couples up to the trailer. Although this sounds messy it does save the need for an extra set of points.
Left: similar principle to our new points levers these are trailable.

Right Interior of one of the open cars..

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