Snaefell Car No.1 (1895)

Snaefell No.1 at Laxey, July 2021 © Alex Fairlie

In Service In Service SMT Blue/White/Teak


Built in 1895 as the first of a batch of 6 cars, Car No.1 arrived in the Spring of that year. Power for the Car was by Bow Collectors with Mather and Platt electrical equipment, trucks and controllers, and Braking using the Fell Rail system. As new, the cars were delivered without glazed windows and clerestories. Both were fitted in Spring 1896 (following complaints of wind, as the original canvas roller blinds did not offer much protection), and in 1897 (after the window fitment, they became too warm in the summer!). In the 1900s the cars were fitted with distinctive roof advertising boards, which were used to promote the trip to the summit.

The Summit-end Control equipment was changed in 1903/04 from the original Mather and Platt example to use a General Electric K11 Controller, and later a K12 Controller in 1954. The original Laxey-end Controller remained in use, as it was only ever used for short amounts of time (shunting and starting the car down the gradient). After the disastrous fire to Car No.5 in August 1970, all of the distinctive roof-boards from the cars were removed, as it was believed that they may have acted as a ‘sail’ in the high winds that rocked the car and allowed the fire to spread.

In 1976 the original Mather and Platt traction motors of the Snaefell cars were becoming worn out, and the decision was made to re-quip the entire 6 car-fleet as a whole with materials and control equipment from German Aachen Tramcars. No.1 had it’s original trucks sent to London Transport at Acton, London for use as a template during Winter 1976 (new fabrications of the originals constructed on site, and fitted with the ex-Aachen motors), being re-equipped at the Snaefell Car Sheds with the brand new trucks during June 1977. Trials were held on the mountain during the 1977 Summer, with No.1 reportedly ascending from the Bungalow to the Summit in 8 minutes! These tests lead to the decision to equip the rest of the fleet. These improvements allowed for the fell-braking method to be phased out completely by the newly fitted rheostatic method, with the fell brake now only used in emergencies.

During Autumn 2010, Car No.1 was withdrawn for a full bodywork and equipment overhaul at the Laxey Snaefell Car Shed, which was completed in January 2013, the car repainted into it’s original livery of Blue and White, with the original ‘Snaefell Mountain Tramway’ lettering. It returned to traffic at the start of the 2013 season in May, and remains in service.

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