The 120th Anniversary of the opening of the Snaefell Mountain Railway took place on the 20th August 2015 with several events throughout the day marking the occasion.
The line, famous for being one of the first mountain railways constructed in the British Isles and completed in just under 8 months, has been in continuous service since its construction using its original fleet of six vehicles along the entirety of its original route. Constructed by the Snaefell Mountain Railway Association, the company was sold to the Isle of Man Tramways & Electric Power Company ( with many individuals being members of both parties) in late 1895. Following the collapse of the Dumbells Bank in 1900, the operation was taken over by the Manx Electric Railway Company and has been in government ownership since 1957. The line retains many of its original structures and all of its original buildings, with major refurbishment of the Cars taking place in the 1970s, and the line itself from 2010 onwards.
Celebrations on the day focused on covering all aspects of the lines history taking place at all points along the line. As well as the standard Timetable being in operation, Car No.5 was joined by invited guests, M.E.R. historian Andrew Scarffe and Victorian re-enactors including Alexander Bruce (Chairman of the Snaefell Mountain Railway Association) for a guided tour of the railway , departing Laxey at 13:20, with the National Methodist Youth Brass Band on hand to introduce the departures. The tour included several photo stops and a tour of the Snaefell Car Shed prior to arriving at the Summit, where SMR memorabilia and an exhibition of photographs from throughout the history of the line were joined by sculptures and paintings inspired by the anniversary designed by artist Michael Starkey and sculptor Anna Smart. Guided walks from the summit were also undertaken by regular Snaefell ‘Summit Dining’ host John Callister, with Alexander Bruce on hand to welcome passengers and invited guests in true 1895 style to the ‘brand new railway’ to the summit of the mountain.
The onset of rain from the mid-afternoon saw events continue unabated with a unique parallel run from the Summit to Laxey taking place using Cars 2 and 5 at 17:00 – it is understood that this is the first time in the lines history that such an event has taken place, despite similar ‘runs’ popular on the M.E.R. during enthusiast events. Several photo stops were undertaken including overlooking the Laxey wheel and the old Snaefell power station at the Bungalow.
Following the end of normal services, two additional Cars departed Laxey at 19:15 and 19:25 to the Summit, including Car No.4 which had been fitted with illuminations similar to those carried by Car No.9 on the M.E.R.. The illuminations were fitted in the week prior to the event and is the first time a Snaefell car has been illuminated in this manner. Upon arrival at the Summit, the dining facilities were made available while a re-enactment of the original opening ceremony took place alongside the first official performance of a specially arranged symphony composed by Ramsey based composer Tim Price entitled ‘Seven Kingdoms’. While played inside the station itself, loudspeakers were placed outside the building to broadcast to those outside who braved the worsening weather to take advantage of the atmospheric photo opportunities possible.
All photos © Andrew Scarffe