Groudle Glen Railway Fleet

Groudle Glen Railway


Early Years

The Groudle Glen Railway is a narrow gauge railway in the Isle of Man, built in the late Victorian era in response to increasing demand for transportation down Groudle Glen brought on by the introduction of the Manx Electric Railway. The headland was developed, with a zoo being created and the railway being built. The 2ft (60 cm) gauge line ran from the upper part of the glen, Lhen Coan, to the Zoo at Sea Lion Rocks. The line opened on May 23 1896 and started with one engine, called Sea Lion, and three coaches. The engine was built by W.G. Bagnall Ltd. of Castle Engine Works, Stafford. The line became so popular that a further engine, Polar Bear, and additional coach stock was purchased.

Operation and closure

Following the First World War, the two steam engines were replaced with battery-operated engines. However, these were only used for six years before being removed from service and replaced by the two original engines. The railway once again closed during the Second World War but was reopened afterwards. Only Polar Bear was put into service and the line had sustained considerable damage owing to landslips. The engine eventually broke down and the line closed in 1962.


Over the following twelve years, the engines and line were sold off or dismantled. Polar Bear was restored as an operating exhibit at Amberley Working Museum, West Sussex and Sea Lion was taken to Loughborough where it remained until 1987 when it was finally restored and returned to service on the restored line. The railway became a footpath, only to be disturbed by the occasional walker. It seemed that this unique piece of Manx heritage was lost.


Growth and development

In 1982, the Isle of Man Steam Railway Supporters' Association launched a plan to restore the line and by May 1986 a section of the line reopened to the public. Over the following years the operational part of the line was restored, firstly from the mid-way point at what is now known as Lime Kiln Halt, to the glen terminus at Lhen Coan. A station was created at the headland and this was lifted at the end of 1991 when excavation began to relay the original section to the outer terminus at Sea Lion Rocks. This was duly opened on 23 July 1992 and the railway was back to its original length. In 1993 the volunteers rebuilt the distinctive Swiss-style station canopy at Lhen Coan, a feature of so many postcards of the glen, and in 2007 a new purpose built locomotive shed was erected on the site of the original.

The future

In September 2007 the railway marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of restoration by unveiling a plaque at Lhen Coan station. This event also marked the official opening by Annie Craine MHK of the railway's new purpose built locomotive shed. The line is now maintained and operated by volunteers and runs popular services throughout the summer months on Sundays, and selected Tuesday and Wednesday evenings in peak season. Out of the usual timetabled trains there are several other events, such as the popular "Santa Trains", "Easter Bunny Specials" and various other events. It still takes the route to the old zoo at Sea Lion Rocks. Though the animals have long since gone, the remains of the zoo can still be seen.

Motive power

Original steam locomotives

When opened in 1896 the original locomotive Sea Lion hauled services, until 1905 when Polar Bear was delivered, both locomotives from W.G. Bagnall & Sons of Stafford. Apart from a brief period during the 1920s when battery electric locomotives (bearing the same names) replaced the steam engines, the line was operated by both original locos; latterly, only Polar Bear was in service however. In the years since closure in 1962, the engines and line were sold off and removed from the site. Polar Bear was restored as an operating exhibit at Amberley Working Museum, West Sussex and Sea Lion was taken to Kirk Michael on the island, and later Loughborough where it remained until 1987 when it was finally restored and returned to service on the restored line. Sea Lion now operates regularly in the glen and has been reunited with Polar Bear on three occasions; firstly in conjunction with the Year Of Railways in 1993 marking the centenary of the Manx Electric Railway, then in 1996 for the centenary celebrations, and in 2005 for the 100th birthday of Polar Bear when not only did the latter return to home metals, but Sea Lion made a trip to Amberley.

Other steam locomotives

In 1991 a further steam engine joined the fleet when Jack, an 0-4-0WT locomotive built by Andrew Barclay & Co was purchased and put into service. This loco was subsequently sold and her owner built a replica Bagnall type 0-4-2T Annie (built and owned by Richard Booth, 1998) which has since entered into regular service on the railway. Whilst Jack was sold off-island, the two regular shed-mates are now Sea Lion and Annie. Since restoration a number of visiting locomotives have operated on the line; firstly Kerr Stewart Peter Pan in 1991, then Rishra and Chaloner from the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway in 1995, followed by Quarry Hunslet Alice in 1998. Subsequent returns by Chaloner have also been made.

Battery electric vehicles

To avoid costly repairs to the original steam locomotives, in the 1920s the railway purchased two battery electric locomotives which bore the same names as their steam predecessors. These proved troublesome, and within the first year had pony trucks fitted in an attempt to reduce rocking; later it was decided that their batteries would not hold a charge and battery trucks were added, which in themselves were troublesome and often derailed. The engine named Polar Bear was involved in a derailment early in her career (accounting for the lack of photographs of her) and by the late 1920s the money was spent on re-furbishing the steam locomotives instead. However, in 2005 the railway took delivery of a replica of the battery-electric Polar Bear in original form, built on the body of a 1988 version which had operated in a factory in Liverpool. This locomotive now forms part of the running fleet on the railway.

Diesel locomotives

When restoration began in 1982 two Hudson-Hunslet locomotives were purchased from Doddinton Park in Chipping Sodbury, which homed a then-defunct stately home/safari park complete with railway. The two locomotives had been built in 1952 for use in the Twickenham Sand & Gravel Pit and by the time they were used at Doddington had been given "steam outline" casings which were retained when they arrived at Groudle. Named No.1 Dolphin and No.2 Walrus these two engines provided all of the motive power in the early days prior to the return of Sea Lion. In 1988 Walrus was withdrawn from service and wheels removed for re-profiling and major attention, it was to be some years before she turned a wheel again. Dolphin was the workhorse of the line alongside Sea Lion for a number of years. In 2002 Walrus was returned to service in a bright maroon livery and she remains in service today, whilst Dolphin is currently (September 2007) out of service awaiting major attention.

Other locomotives

As part of the railway celebrations in 1998 the railway played host to its most unusual visitor, a [rail bike] from Dr Karl Pischl in Austria. This unusual home-made vehicle was effectively a four-wheeled bicycle on flanged wheels. In early 2007 a steam-outline 0-4-0 diesel named Parracombe arrived at the railway from the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway in Devon, where it had seen service on the Lynbarn Railway at the Milky Way theme park in Clovelly. It was built by Baguley (works No. 3232 of 1947) and once worked at Butlins Clacton Holiday Camp, from where it featured on the closing credits to the situation comedy Hi-De-Hi in the 1980s. Currently in store, it performed a very limited number of passenger services as part of an enthusiasts event in July 2007.

Rolling stock

Four-wheeled toastracks

When the railway opened in 1896 it was supplied with three four-wheeled toastrack cars, similar in design to those used on the Douglas Horse Tramway from G.F. Milnes & Co. of Birkenhead. This was later increased due to popular demand in the railway's early years to four, with a further four coaches arriving with Polar Bear in 1905. This fleet operated all services until the line's closure in 1962. Some coaches were removed to Amberley with the locomotive in 1967, and others were pushed down the glen by vandals, with a large number of component parts being discovered on site when restoration began. In readiness for the centenary celebrations in 1996 a rebuilt coach was returned from the West Lancashire Light Railway and the railway's carpenter, the late Harold Flavell began work on constructing replacement woodwork for two further carriages. There are four coaches at Amberley, with one having been converted to provide disabled access and three on site at Groudle Glen, seeing service on high days and holidays. A fourth coach utilising the remaining spares is currently in progress, with the West Lancs coach having been returned to its owner in 2003.

Bogie coaches

When the line reopened new bodies were built on the frames purchased from Chipping Sodbury in basic design, featuring valences similar to those worn by the original coaches. There are three of these coaches on the railway, the first, being completed in 1986, the second (sans roof) followed and was later fitted with a roof in 1988, and a third (intended to be fully glazed but never completed) in 1994. The first two provide the passenger accommodation on service trains, with the third being used on the popular Santa Specials and Easter Bunny Trains each year. These coaches are in a maroon livery with yellow lining and originally had "G.G.R." painted on their panels. When repainted in 2000/2001 these initials were lost, but in 2007 new transfer crests were applied to the centre panels.

Other rolling stock

The volunteers purchased six ex-RAF Fauld wagons in 1982, two of which initially provided braking for the passenger trains prior to the fitting of brakes to the bogie coaches. Of the remaining stock, one was used for spares and never arrived in the glen, one was converted into a ballast wagon, one as a tool carrying van, a coal wagon and flat. Presently, three remain on Groudle metals in need of repair; these are No.1 (ballast wagon), No.2 (small tool box), No. 3 (now a flat) with No.4 in store on the headland section. No. 5 is awaiting removal, being deemed unusable. The railway also possesses a brake/works van, a bogie runner which can be converted for use transporting ballast, the frames from four 4-wheeled trucks (previously in use at Quiggin's Timber Yard two of which were used to construct the bogie runner, and finally a tipper wagon donated to the railway which is only used for storage. The latter was built by Allan's Of Tipton.


See also

External links

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