Loco No.23 (1900)

Laxey Car Shed, 2015

Locomotive No.23 inside Laxey Car Shed, July 2015 © David Hennessey

Stored, Laxey Car Shed 1993 M.E.R Lined Green/Freight Grey


One of the more unusual items of rolling stock on the Manx Electric Railway is Locomotive No.23, designed and built in 1900 at Derby Castle Car Sheds by the line’s Chief Engineer, Mr Frank Edmunson. It was originally of a 12-ton steeple cab design, painted in an elaborate Lined Green colour scheme (initially with IoMTEPCo lettering, replaced shortly after by M.E.R), intended to handle the increasing levels of freight (previously handled by the 14-18 class), particularly stone traffic which became part of the M.E.R scene by the turn of the 20th century. No.23 was strangely never allocated trucks of its own, borrowing the Milnes Series 3 trucks from Car No.17 when in use – although when No.17 was pressed into use during the Summer months, No.23 was stored on barrels!

Unfortunately after only 14 years of operation, it suffered a major collision whilst hauling two 6 ton open wagons at ‘Bonner Corner’ (north of Laxey Old Road) on January 24th 1914, with it leaving the track and plummeting into a field, resulting in serious damage to the front end and frames. The majority of the parts were salvaged, the trucks presumably being withdrawn and/or de-motored and the rest stored at Derby Castle. (It’s handrails were rescued in the 1970s by the Isle of Man Railways and Tramways Preservation Society after laying in the bushes near the accident site for 60 years!)

An up-surge in goods traffic during the 1920s saw No.23 resurrected from store, it’s new form being remarkably different to that of it’s predecessor, with a brand new bogie underframe constructed in the Winter of 1925/26, and the loco’s cab mounted between two M.E.R-built 6 ton wagon bodies. From its re-debut in 1926, it maintained the practice of borrowing Motor trucks from another car, this time they were the Brill 27Cx trucks from Car No.33, the most powerful set available in the fleet. It was taken out of use in 1944, becoming disused (seeing a lot of use in the war years transporting stone for the rebuilding of Jurby and Andreas airfields), and was initially stored at Derby Castle on a spare set of Milnes trailer trucks, moving to Laxey Car Shed between 1956-58, and then stored on wooden blocks by 1965.

In 1978, No.23 was purchased by the Isle of Man Railway and Tramway Preservation Society (then the Isle of Man Railway Society) for the sum of £100, and alongside several other vehicles, was cosmetically restored for display in the Electric Railway Museum inside the Car Shed at Ramsey. In 1983, it was restored to full operational condition (using again the Brill 27Cx trucks from Car No.33), making appearances at the Vintage Transport Weekends in May 1983 (returning the trucks and control gear to Car No.33 by July) and 1984, working demonstration freights (in 1983 with Wagons No.8 and Van No.14, and in 1984 with Wagon No.8 and Van No.11), and on passenger services for the first recorded time in 1983 hauling  Trailer No.37, and again in 1984 with Trailer No.60.

Returning to display until the closure of the Electric Railway Museum in 1991 (No.33 having it’s trucks and control gear returned shortly after the 1984s events close), No.23 was named ‘Dr R. Preston Hendry’ after the founder of the IOMRATPS on the 25th of May 1992. It was then restored once more to service (using motored-Milnes Series 3 trucks from Car No.17 once again, the control gear being presumably sourced from No.17 too) for the Year of Railways celebrations in 1993, again appearing on passenger duties (carrying passengers in the wagon bodies, and hauling Trailer No.51 during a press-trip), and also on demonstration freight runs between Derby Castle and Laxey with Wagon No.8 and Van No.11. Use of No.23 during the 1994 events could not be settled due to running and insurance disputes, so it was stored at Derby Castle Car Sheds, later moving for further storage at Ramsey Car Shed during October 1996, the trolley pole and controller equipment being removed by 1999.

After this period No.23 slipped back out of the limelight, with little modern-day purpose outside enthusiast events. Although proposals for it’s return to service were announced in 1998-99 (including a visit to the Warley NEC Model Railway Exhibition in Birmingham!), these did not occur, and No.23 was moved by road for storage at the Homefield Bus Garage, Upper Douglas in January 2001, donating it’s trucks to ‘Ratchet’ Car No.31. Fortunately, a return to M.E.R metals was made in December 2009, however No.23 remains stored on wooden blocks (after spending a short period of February 2011 on a set of Milnes Trailer Trucks), in Laxey Car Shed.




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