One of the many characteristics of the Manx Electric Railway that separates it from other tramways is its extensive freight and mail services provided throughout its 122-year life. While very rarely found on other similar lines, the M.E.R.’s non-passenger history is often overlooked in favour of the more glamorous aspects of the lines past and present, however the subject can provide a fascinating insight into how the M.E.R. was far more than a passenger tramway system.
Following the introduction of Postal services in 1894, with M.E.R. conductors emptying post-boxes locating at stations en route, the line quickly expanded with regular livestock services (with specially constructed livestock vehicles) and owning two quarries and generating extensive stone traffic, as well as conveying general goods on an ad-hoc basis right up until the early 1990s.
Over the last few years, members of the surviving Victorian and Edwardian wagon fleet have been restored to their former guises and now make regular appearances as part of enthusiast and photography events, with the fleet of historic vehicles now at its highest number for some years.
The latest to be restored, stone Wagon No. 8, has been restored to its 1960s appearence at Laxey by members of the Laxey & Lonan Heritage Trust, as can be seen above, and will be officially launched into service alongside sister Wagon No.10 as part of the April ‘Rush Hour’ enthusiasts event.
Currently four out of the lines wagon fleet (which totaled 26 at its peak in the 1920s) are either in use, or under restoration in their heritage guises:
- Van No.4, built in 1894, was used for both mail and general goods traffic, as was restored for the 1993 ‘Year of Railways’. The vehicle has been in regular use since, being used as a Travelling Post Office and painted in Post Office red colours.
- Wagon No.8, delivered to the M.E.R. in 1898, has provided several services to the line, including acting as a stone wagon, permanent way vehicle, weed-killing wagon and also a Diesel Generator! The vehicle has been restored over the past few months by members of the Laxey & Lonan Heritage Trust.
- Wagon No. 10, a sister vehicle to No.8, was converted into a Tower Wagon for overhead line maintenance duties, being restored to its original condition in 2011 and returning to service in 2014.
- Van No. 16, the final goods van built for the M.E.R. and a comparative youngster at 107 years old, is currently under restoration into its 1950s guise and is planned to be launched into service during 2015.
The latter three restorations have been carried out on a volunteer basis by members of the Laxey & Lonan Heritage Trust, who’s ‘Wagon Appeal’ project has secured the future of not only Wagons 8, 10 and 16 but also Van No.3, Van No.11 and Tower Van No.12 , all of which are based at Laxey awaiting cosmetic restoration. Manx Electric Railway Online has worked as a close supporter of the appeal, running fundraising tours for donations, and will be running another such tour during the July Transport Festival in 2015. Please click the button below for further details.
Further wagons survive on the M.E.R., with Wagon No.1 currently in store at Derby Castle, and Wagons 13, 14 and bogie flat 21 in store at Dhoon Quarry, alongside three tippler wagons brought to the line in 1997 for permanent way duties.
For further reading on the M.E.R.s freight rolling stock and history, please follow the links below.