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The Manx Electric Railway will make its final trip of the season on 2nd October. The closure of the 3ft gauge MER for the winter is to allow the demolition of Summerland complex next to the MER’s main depot at Derby Castle to be completed, and subject to Tynwald approval, £1.5 million will be spent on a track renewal programme. The MER closes on 2nd October to allow specialist demolition contractors access to the site at Douglas next day. The work will be carried out by off-Island specialist DSM and local firm JCK, and the first task will be the removal of the 550 volt MER overhead cables. That will allow safe access to the site, and the relocation of the MEA substation, embedded in the Summerland building.
Isle of Man Tourism Minister David Cretney, whose department owns the complex, is very pleased the work is getting underway. “Once that is done a rather unattractive landmark will soon start to disappear.” He said the demolition of the building, on the north end of Douglas promenade, had been organised to minimise disruption to MER passengers. In July, the Manx Parliament Tynwald voted £2m for the demolition for a building which MHKs said had become dangerous as well an eyesore. A portion of the complex will not be demolished pending further checks into cliff stability.
Summerland is on the site of a former Derby Castle villa which was converted into a theatre and ballroom in 1877. Douglas Corporation bought it in 1964 developing the site as the Summerland Complex which opened in 1971. Two years later on the 2nd august 1973 fire swept through the complex killing more than 50 people. The Summerland disaster led to a major change in fire regulations on the Isle of Man and in the UK. The building was rebuilt in 1976 and reopened in 1978. The Summerland site’s future use has yet to be decided.
This is the first time in many years that the Manx Electric Railway has not operated a winter service, although the high winds in Janaury that battered the island forced the MER to close for a couple of months due to extensive damage to wires and traction poles. The Isle of Man Steam Railway will continue to operate until 30th October.
Posted by David Lloyd-Jones on 12 September 2005
The now annual Isle of Man Railway Special Events Weekend from 22nd to 25th July 2005, featured unusual Tram and Trailer Combinations on scheduled Manx Electric Railway services, an Evening special to Ramsey on Electric Railway, replica ‘Ant’ & ‘Bee’ operating on the Laxey Mines Railway including ore train demonstrations. The main highlights of this year’s event is the 100th birthday of two-foot gauge Groudle Glen Railway Bagnall 2-4-0T ‘Polar Bear’ of 1905 which was on holiday from it’s new home at Amberley Museum.Old sister ‘Sea Lion’ (dating from 1896) and ‘Polar Bear’ had just returned to Isle of Man after a session operating at Amberley. This is the first time ‘Sea Lion’ had paid a visit to Amberley.
Back on the Isle of Man, Birthday girl ‘Polar Bear’ came face to face with her replacement – replica battery locomotive ‘Polar Bear’, a replica of Groudle Glen Railway’s 1921 battery-electric locomotive, which was constructed at Alan Keef Ltd. Both ‘Polar Bear’s, ‘Sea Lion’ and line’s replica Bagnall 0-4-2T ‘Annie’ operated all day on Groudle working in various formations on the 24th July.
It was also the twin 100th birthday Beyer, Peacock 2-4-0T No.10 ‘G.H.Wood’ and sister No.11‘Maitland’ on the Isle of Man Railway, who were both delivered to Isle of Man Railway in 1905. These two were the first of the enlarged version of the Manx Beyer, Peacock 2-4-0T design with a 3’-3” diameter boiler and 480 gallon sidetanks for use on the recent acquired Manx Northern Railway. The pair arrived on the Isle of Man on Thursday 19th January 1905, but they didn’t enter service until July of that year. No.10 was named ‘G.H.Wood’ after the railway’s company secretary George Henry Wood, No. 11 ‘Maitland’ carried the name of one of the directors Dalrymple Maitland. The pair spent their hundredth birthday double-heading service trains between Douglas and Port Erin.
Isle of Man Railway held a naming ceremony on Monday 25th July 2005 for their recently acquired 900 mm gauge Hunslet diesel locomotive No.18 ‘Ailsa’ at Douglas station. The locomotive was named after Marquis of Ailsa, who saved the Isle of Man Railway following its closure in 1965. Lord Ailsa leased the railway with assistance of the Isle of Man Government and reopened the whole system again in 1967. The railway purchased the locomotive from the contractor AWG, who used the Hunslet on the phase II section of the relaying of the Isle of Man Railway from Castletown to Port St Mary following the burying of the IRIS all island sewage pipe under the permanent way in 2004. The loco was originally built in 1994 for the construction of the Channel Tunnel and was 2’-6” gauge, and when it arrived on the island it was converted to 900mm gauge to run on the three-foot gauge Isle of Man Railway.
The return of working semaphore signals at the end of Douglas station platform is a very welcome sight. Although, they are not operated from the signal box, the re-appearance of the signals is better than the coloured lights they replace. The components for the signals came from the Ffestiniog Railway. The signals are to be motorised and controlled from the station masters office in the main station building.
Posted by David Lloyd-Jones on 12 September 2005