The restoration of a Ratchet Car, a sight unseen on the Manx Electric Railway for over a decade, is taking place with the enthusiast-supported overhaul of Car No.14.
The 1898-built Car, the first of fifteen open ‘Crossbenches’ delivered to the M.E.R., will fill a vital ‘missing link’ in the lines current fleet by showcasing the history of the Ratchet Cars. Utilised in peak seasons only, the eight ‘Ratchets’ (Cars 14-15, 17-18 & 28-31) were mainly used to transport huge crowds of holidaymakers between Douglas and the tourist spots along the east coast of the island. The cars lacked the Air Braking systems present on the remainder of the fleet, instead forcing drivers to rely on the ‘Ratchet’ handbraking system. Despite seeing minimal use, all eight were the victims of early withdrawal from regular passenger use throughout the 1970s, and while two Ratchets were briefly returned to service for the M.E.R.s centenary in 1993, these again saw minimal use before returning to store in the early 2000s, closing the door for Ratchet Car operation on the M.E.R. until now.
Following assessment of the Ratchet fleet, No.14 was chosen for complete overhaul to running order, and, following retrucking at Laxey Car Shed, moved to Derby Castle Car Shed on 25th March 2015 where a full restoration has since been taking place.
Although the orignal intention of the project was to restore Car No.14 to its 1920s condition, an alternative decision was made following discovery of the exceptional condition of the woodwork to restore it to as built 1898 condition, with the correct trucks, traction motors, controllers and livery fitted to match this period of the Cars history.
The team from Manx Electric Railway Online has been heavily involved with the restoration thus far including the provision of historical and technical data alongside a detailed livery specification to assist with the restoration of the Car to as authentic a condition as possible.