Friday, 27 September 2013

Groudle Glen Railway

You’d better grab a cuppa for this one.

Back in Victorian times the Isle of Man was the place for the English to go for their holidays.  As a result lots of beautiful buildings were built and tourist attractions created.  One hundred and twenty years ago, this month, an electric railway was opened. 

MH IOM 2013 small 013

At that time the terminus was at Groudle.

IOM 18 Aug 13 001

One entrepreneur opened a hotel at Groudle and developed various attractions, including rustic walks through the Glen to the little beach and the rocks beyond. 

IOM 18 Aug 13 100

There was a dance floor, music, rides, fortune tellers and stalls, as well as a pretty water wheel.

IOM 18 Aug 13 010

To add to all of this  he also opened a miniature railway.

IOM 18 Aug 13 011

Initially, there were two steam engines - “Sea Lion” and “Polar Bear”. At its peak the Groudle Glen Railway carried 100,000 passengers each year. 

IOM 18 Aug 13 018

The train ran out to the rocks by the sea where there was a tea room and a small zoo, the highlights being, funnily enough, sea lions and two polar bears, hence the names of the steam engines.  There was a high footbridge built over the water, so people could watch and feed the sea lions.

Unfortunately, World War One caused the railway to be closed for a few years.  When it reopened in 1920 the sea lions returned to the zoo, but there were no more polar bears.  At that time they also introduced some new fangled electric locomotives, also called “Sea Lion” and “Polar Bear”.  (The one below is a replica.)

IOM 18 Aug 13 051

They weren’t terribly successful, so the old steam engines were reintroduced in the early 1930s.

IOM 18 Aug 13 019

Once again the railway closed due to war and was reopened again in 1950.  The railway had suffered while it was closed and only “Polar Bear'” was used once the line reopened.  “Sea Lion” was stripped for spares and just left to rot.  The railway was troubled from then on, as the engine aged and vandals damaged things.  Finally in the early 60s the line closed.  Ohhhhhh!

“Polar Bear” and some spares were sold for 25 pounds and eventually what remained of “Sea Lion” left the island. The station and track bed was left to rot away and get overgrown.

But, all was not lost!!!

A trusty band of enthusiasts formed a group in 1982 and decided to try and get things up and running again.  They did lots of work on the overgrown track bed and were lucky enough in 1983 to buy a complete miniature railway, including two diesel locos, “Dolphin” and “Walrus”, from England.

IOM 18 Aug 13 059

“Sea Lion” also returned to the island that year and the first trains ran just before Christmas.

In the last 30 years the group of volunteers have done wonders.

“Sea Lion” was fully restored, commencing on the island and then being finished as an apprentice training project in the Lakes District.

IOM 18 Aug 13 021

MH IOM 2013 big 016

Carriages were restored and built.

IOM 18 Aug 13 022

The station has been rebuilt.

IOM 18 Aug 13 012

New workshops were built.

MH IOM 2013 big 015

A new Tea Rooms at Sea Lion Rocks has been built and staffed.

IOM 18 Aug 13 037

No, there is no zoo or polar bears.  There are just a few small reminders of what had been there in the past.

MH IOM 2013 big 028

All new signage has been put in place.

IOM 18 Aug 13 041

The track needs constant maintenance.

IOM 18 Aug 13 045

As does the rolling stock.

MH IOM 2013 big 008

The highlight for the railway each year is the Santa train.  Heaps of kids ride on the train and Santa’s helpers provide each with a Christmas gift.  Apparently it is hugely successful and now they have also introduced Easter trains.

The railway celebrated it centenary a few years ago and “Polar Bear” came to visit.  It is still going strong in England, which is great to hear.  It won’t be coming home permanently, though.

IOM 18 Aug 13 035

It is truly amazing what has been achieved in the time since the decision was made to try and get the railway up and running again.  Even if we had visited on our previous travels to the island we would not have seen as much as we did this year.

We were chatting to a couple of the volunteers and it was interesting that their day jobs are quite “white collar”, rather different to getting dirty with steam trains.  There are about thirty people involved and they run the railway each Sunday all day and on Wednesday evenings during the summer months.  Quite a commitment from them all.

They are also starting to restore another engine, which will be named “Brown Bear'”.  (Visitors could take brown bear cubs for a walk at the original zoo.)

IOM 18 Aug 13 054

As you can probably gather, despite not being a train buff by any means, this was one of the highlights of our visit to the island. It will definitely be somewhere we will visit next time we are on the Isle of Man.

IOM 18 Aug 13 030

By the way, there is also a miniature railway at Laxey Mine and one at the Wildlife Park.  That is in addition to the government owned one that runs down the south of the island all the time.  We’ll have to check out the others in the future as well


Fiona @ Dragonfly-Crafts said...

Awesome trains... Always love your photography Janice and Mick xx

loulee said...

Phew! All caught up.
I had a lot of reading to do.

Fairy Floss Stitches said...

Great story Janice. So good to see it all restored. Such cute little engines. (and cute names!) Thomas would be proud!!