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. 

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At that time the terminus was at Groudle.

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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. 

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

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

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

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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.)

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

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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.

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“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.

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Carriages were restored and built.

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The station has been rebuilt.

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New workshops were built.

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

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

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All new signage has been put in place.

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The track needs constant maintenance.

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As does the rolling stock.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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

Saturday 21 September 2013

Practice at Ballaugh Bridge

Thursday evening of practice week produced the best weather of the week after a misty day.  Ballaugh Bridge is a popular place to watch the races due to the hump back bridge and “The Raven” pub is rather conveniently placed.

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While waiting for the practice to start we watched the world go by.  Tractors with trailers are common on the roads.

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The houses across the road.

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On the right hand post of the front fence (just to the right of the above photo) there is a memorial to a previous TT rider.

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A professional photographer was set up with a remotely controlled camera. Rather technical.

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This couple and their dog were settled on the roof of their entry foyer, having an excellent view of the bridge.

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So what about the bikes?  They come over the bridge.  Unfortunately, the sun was in a difficult position for photos.  This Triumph sounded wonderful every time it went past.  Note that he just rode over the bridge.

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There are several different styles of tackling the bridge.

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Many completely  leave the road, although, they generally weren’t as spectacular as the TT.

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Once they cross the bridge, they disappear around the corner of the pub.

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Here they come, around the corner of the pub.

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They fly past the beer garden.  Impossible for me to take a clear photo – just too fast for my camera.

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Then, off they go into the distance.  You can see here just how close they go past us.

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This was as far as this poor fellow got.

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Unfortunately, proceedings came to a stop when the session was red flagged.  Never good.  However, it wasn’t as bad as it sometimes is.  There were four accidents around the course within a couple of minutes, which was too much to deal with.  No one seriously injured.  Phew!  It was just enough to end the evening’s practice.

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The only thing to do then was go into the pub and find a cosy nook to have dinner.

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While waiting for dinner to arrive we had fun looking at all the interesting names of beers on the tap badges on display on the ceiling beams.  They do well to come up with all the creative names.

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Then it was time to head back home before it got too dark.

Friday 20 September 2013

Renovator’s Delight

While travelling around the Isle of Man we saw lots of old stone buildings falling into disrepair and thought it was a pity that they weren’t maintained, but you have to be realistic. 

Well, while visiting one spot we were shown an old cottage that the new owner is planning to renovate/restore and then add to.

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It even comes with a sky light.

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It is heritage listed, so there are lots of restrictions as to what can be done.

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I love the idea of saving old buildings, but I’m glad it’s not me taking on this job.

I did see some pretty poppies near by.

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Thursday 19 September 2013

Let the Practice Begin for 2013 Manx Grand Prix and Classic TT

The format for the Festival of Motorcycling consisted of practice each evening for a week, followed by racing every second day of the second week.

We watched the start of the practice week at the start line, thereby seeing the very first of the racing.

We had a bit more wander around the pits and came across Dave Milligan from Get Routed.  He is the fellow who shipped our bikes over to the UK previously.  He was looking after the Britton.  This is a famous race bike designed in New Zealand in the 80s.  It was way ahead of its time and either won by a large margin or blew up.  It was also unusual to see a bike painted blue and pink.

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The remaining models are not often seen in action, so it was great to get up so close and personal.

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Kiwi Bruce Anstey was the lucky fellow to get to ride it in some displays this time.

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We saw lots more bikes in the pits that hadn’t been there on our earlier visit, but I won’t bore you with them.

Before the bikes go out on the road they have to pass scrutineering.  Lots of waiting around for them.

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While we waited for the start, we checked out the score board. All the scoring is done manually by the local scouts.  They do a fantastic job.

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We had a great bird’s eye view of the start from the grandstand. I was rather taken with one lady’s overalls. They stood out quite well.

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I always kept my eye out for the bright pink helmet going around in the races and gave them a little cheer.  I’ve no idea who they were.

And they’re off.

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After they all left the start, we headed around to Quarter Bridge, which is a popular viewing point and watched them go around.  It was quite hard to get photos as the light was fading.

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Unfortunately, this fellow had to pull out.

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The evening’s procedures were called off a bit earlier than planned due to an oil spill on the road, but it was good to see everything underway.

On the way home we called in at the Fairy Bridge.  Visiting the Fairy bridge is now a tradition for us each visit.  It is most important to say “Hello” and wave to the fairies whenever you cross the bridge, which for us was nearly every day we were on the island.  If you don’t, terrible things could happen to you.

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Check out all the Aussie stickers on the back of the sign. 

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It was a good way to end another day in paradise.