1 – Construction to Opening

In 1887, a survey was undertaken for a steam-powered route from Douglas to Snaefell by George Nobel Fell, and it was approved by Tynwald, the Manx Parliament in 1888, but not built. Having reached Laxey in 1894 with the electric railway from Derby Castle, the Isle of Man Tramways and Electric Power Company announced plans at the end of the year to build a line from Laxey to the summit of Snaefell, the Isle of Man’s highest point, using the previously undertaken survey details, albeit with electric power.

Alexander Bruce and the M.E.R directors formed the ‘Snaefell Mountain Railway Association’ to build the line, appointing George Nobel Fell to supervise the construction, and Edward Hopkinson for the electrical matters.  It was not known during initial construction that the electric cars being built for the line could climb the projected 1 in 12 gradient by adhesion alone, and thus the ‘Fell Incline Railway System’ was adopted, with a double-headed centre rail laid between the two rails, with a wider gauge of 3ft 6 adopted. Although the initial plans were to use the rail for both adhesion and braking, the adhesion gear was found as not being required due to the power of the electric cars, the fitted rail in the event only being required for braking purposes.

Two gangs worked on the construction of the line, the first working up from Laxey using Manx Northern Railway No.4 ‘Caledonia’ (specially hired in from the M.N.R, and using an additional rail to make the gauge 3ft), and one working down from the summit. A Power Station was placed roughly half-way along the line just below the Bungalow to power the railway, the most powerful on the island at the time. A Car Shed was also built at Laxey, and 6 Cars were built by G.F Milnes of Birkhenhead for the railway, very similar to those built at the same time for the Manx Electric Railway, the 10-13 Class. All were equipped with Hopkinson Bow Collectors and Mather and Platt electrical equipment, braking being by using the Fell Caliper system fitted to each truck.

The railway, running from a terminus located next to todays Car Shed to the Summit was passed fit for use on August 16th 1895, opening on the 21st, a remarkable 7-month feat from construction to opening!

21st of August 1895 at the original Laxey SMR Station, with opening day-proceedings in full swing. © Website Collection

21st of August 1895 at the original Laxey SMR Station, with opening day-proceedings in full swing. © Website Collection

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