Isle of Man
Once upon a time there was a considerable network of steam railway lines in the ancient kingdom that is the Isle of Man, but time has taken its toll and only one remains – and that was saved from closure in the 1960s by the Marquis of Aisla, who funded the Southern Steam.
Railway personally until the Manx Government belatedly took it over as a tourist attraction in the 1970s. A further stretch is currently being restored by enthusiasts, and the Groudle Glen Railway provides a limited summer service along a scenic stretch of line near Douglas.
To travel this delightful line is to step back in history – the journey starts at a classic Victorian Station at the end of North Quay in Douglas, and the trains date back to the 1870s (with rolling stock and seven locomotives maintained in the same local workshops that were always used). Britain’s longest narrow-gauge steam railway at 24 km (15 mi) runs from Douglas to Port Erin, via Port Soderick, Santon, Ballasalla, Ronaldsway, Castletown, Ballabeg, Colby, Level and Port St Mary. Several of these stations are request stops and passengers can hop on and off as the fancy takes them.
Each train has an open carriage, plus closed first- and second- class carriages. It’s a case of ‘first come, first served’ when it comes to obtaining seating, with no premium fares. The route passes through pleasant countryside with distant sea views, climbing out of Douglas to a summit at Santon Station, before descending steeply towards Ballasalla with good views of sea-cliffs. The line then runs on across beautiful rolling farmland to the delightful seaside town of Port Erin, which has a Steam Railway Museum adjacent to the station
WHEN TO GO:
Mid-March to October
TIME IT TAKES:
About 45 minutes from end to end
The ancient Cistercian Monastery of Rushden Abbey at Ballasalla – recently restored and now with an interpretive
Milner’s Tower on Breda Head, overlooking the bay at Port Erin – built in 1871 to represent a lock in honour of
local benefactor william Milner, a Liverpool safemaker.
In Castletown – Castle Rushen, probably the finest medieval castle In the British Isles.
Ronaldsway Halt – close to the Isle of Man Airport, making this one of the few places In the world where one can travel from airport to town by steam railway.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
There are other worthwhile railway journeys on the Island – the Manx Electric Railway on the east side
(Douglas to Ramsey tramway), the Snaefell Mountain Railway and Great Laxey Mine Railway.