Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Isle of Man: A Paradise for Fans of Vintage Railways

I was looking at something on Google Maps last night and for some reason my attention was drawn to the Isle of Man, an island situated in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. The rail lines I saw caused me to dig further and do a bit of research online. I discovered that the Isle of Man is, for a relatively small island, home to a number of vintage rail lines from the late Victorian.

All of the railways are narrow gauge, and by mileage the majority of the trackage is three foot gauge. Many of these lines operate with their original equipment, or at least with vintage equipment. The largest two originate from either end of the city of Douglas. The Isle of Man Railway operates about sixteen miles of line south from Douglas to Port Erin, and is steam operated. It is the remnant of a larger railway system that once served much more of the island. The Manx Electric Railway operates about 17 miles running north from Douglas through Laxey to Ramsey, and is operated by electric interurban cars. Although it lacks street running and some of the equipment is of odd design, it is otherwise a close match for American electric interurban railways.

At Laxey a connection is made with the electric-operated 3'6" gauge Snaefell Mountain Railway that ascends the mountain of the same name. Snaefell is the highest peak on the Isle of Man, reaching over two thousand feet in elevation, which is made more impressive by fact that it reaches that height a bare four miles from the sea. Also at Laxey is the Great Laxey Mine Railway, a short 19" gauge railroad running from a former mine to a former mill, which is operated by tiny steam locomotives and despite its short length runs through a tunnel under the Manx Electric Railway.

Before reaching Laxey, the Manx Electric Railway also passes near the western terminus of the 2' gauge Groudle Glen Railway, which operates steam-hauled trains on a short run to Sea Lion Rocks, a rocky headland on the Irish Sea northeast of Douglas. Also, at least until 2016, the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway operated horsecars along the coast in Douglas, but its future is uncertain.

Check out the Wikipedia page for "Rail transport in the Isle of Man" for a decent starting point on learning more.

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