Following the end of the 2014 M.E.R. season and subsequent stock movements (covered in our previous news update), extensive works continued across the system to refurbish and renovate several sites along the line.
The relaying of the landside line between Howstrake and Lag Birragh continued throughout the month with the area between poles 75 and 86 being relaid with concrete sleepers as per the works carried out in previous years. This has been carried out with the use of on-hire locomotive LM344 ‘Pig’, a small purpose-built wagon and a collection of plant items. Further trackwork took place in the Dhoon Quarry area during the month, with ballast hopper F.70 moved south prior to the closure of Ballure Bridge for refurbishment. Car No.33 and Trailer No.45 also saw use removing stored sleepers from the area to Laxey.
A small length of track was also replaced at Halfway House level crossing, with ‘Pig’ also in use on these works in mid-December.
The £1.2 million refurbishment of Ballure Viaduct began in early November, with the rails and wires removed shortly after the last tram services ran. Scaffolding was quickly placed in the 80ft deep ravine with the timber decking removed to allow grit blasting of the steel girders below, which took place during December. By mid-January, work had continued onto the refurbishment of the A2 road crossing at the Ramsey end of the viaduct with track replacement taking place both on the road crossing and between the crossing and viaduct.
The planned refurbishment of the Rose Gardens, to the west of Laxey station, has been underway during the winter. The works, planned to make easy wheelchair access to the station area, involved the removal of some parts of the garden area around Tramway Close and the creation of a new ramp entrance near the Laxey No.1 road crossing. The works uncovered the remains of a wooden shop previously on the site until the 1950s.
Work on the M.E.R. itself in the Laxey area has extended to replacement of overhead wiring between Laxey No.3 road crossing and Minorca.
Also in Laxey two-little known M.E.R. innovations were returned to their roots. The first prototype of a replica ‘traditional’ bench, similar in style to those installed at Laxey station over a centenary ago, was placed next to the station building in early January. Following some minor alterations it is understood that several of these benches will be provided in the station area along with the return of the refurbished original kiosks in the next few months. On the Great Laxey Mines Railway, the original wagon used in Ballajora Quarry has been reunited with its hopper for the first time in many years.
At Derby Castle, this years winter repaints have concentrated on the 40-series trailers, with Nos 40, 46 and 47 all seeing attention prior to the new year, with all repaints returning the cars into the same liveries as previously carried. Work has also been carried out on Locomotive No.34 with a view to it rejoining the fleet as a reliable works vehicle during 2015.