During March, work has continued at an accelerated pace on both the Laxey Regeneration and Ballure Viaduct projects, with the former nearing completion before the season started on March 20th, and the latter before services were scheduled to start to Ramsey on Saturday March 28th. The decking on the viaduct has now been installed, along with the rail approaches to the bridge being bolted down and made available for ballasting.
The M.E.R’s fleet of cars and trailers has been fully prepared for service, with the exception of Car No.5 which is undergoing repairs to a traction motor in the Ramsey-end truck. The remaining cars have undergone the process of ‘drying out’, which is the practise of driving the cars in series at low speed to allow the motors and electrical gear to warm back to normal temperature, which during a period of store over the last Winter will have been subject to moisture and condensation. The most unusual to be prepared has been Car No.16, possibly the earliest ever that the car has been prepared for service in a season.
Work has also been completed on the restoration of Wagon No.8, one of two surviving open wagons built in 1897/98. The work has seen it fully overhauled, with new sides and ends fabricated, and work on the running gear. No.8 is rostered to work with Car No.32 and Trailer No.43 on Easter Saturday alongside sister Wagon No.10 (working with Car No.33 and Trailer No.44), its official inauguration back into traffic. Van No.11 has also returned to railway land during early March, following a period of storage at the Jurby Transport Museum.
March 19th saw the near completion of works at Laxey Station, with the return of a pair of ornamental Kiosks, albeit locally fabricated replicas replacing the original examples. Both are illuminated from beneath by LED lighting, and are fully function, with both understood to be available for letting over the summer months.
A number of unique wooden benches have also been installed, based upon the M.E.R’s original ‘rustic’ style – in addition to the more familiar picnic tables that are usually present outside the station building. Other works have seen the grass area to the rear of the station and to the front of Christ Church re-turfed (work commencing on the 19th of March), and Laxey Station Building has received new awning posts, replacing the originals which were found to be decayed.
The level crossing at Ballagawne also saw the completion of works with prefabricated rubber sections being installed, and short sections of track either side of the crossing having concrete sleepers installed.
Services commenced the next day on March 20th with ‘Winter Saloon’ Car No.19 working the service diagram from Derby Castle to Laxey, consisting of five round trips, starting at 09:40 and finishing at 17:25.
Two additional cars were out on other duties – Car No.33 in use on motorman training, and Locomotive No.34 in use on Permanent Way duties, leading to a three car turnout in total on the first day.