Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The Groudle Glen Railway...

Hello. Now, finally, the last one: No5. This was our visit to the Groudle Glen Railway, the final piece in our pentagon puzzle on the Isle of Man Adventure. To access this one, we alighted at Groudle Glen station on the MER, having rode in the toast-rack behind Tramcar No22 from Laxey. I was aware that getting from there to the railway isn't as easy as some railways but this was something else. What a fantastic place. The wooded footpath takes you along the glen, down the stream and past the lovely viaduct. The walk to the railway is actually quite spectacular, if a little off the beaten track!...
Five or ten minutes slogging through the wilderness was rewarded by the sight of Lhen Coan station, nestling like a treehouse up on the hill...
A final scramble up the steps to the station was rewarded by the sight of "Polar Bear", the railways replica battery electric. Now, you may be wondering how we got in as the GGR does not run on Tuesday's or even open on Tuesday's. Well, our kind contact at EVLR (Adrian), said that he knew the people at Groudle and would ask if we could have a quick visit during our big tour. Thankfully, the GGR kindly agreed but the amount of kindness we were shown during our short visit was over whelming. The sheds were open for us to look around and questions were happily answered, with "Polar Bear" actually being out with one coach ready to take us on a private tour of the 2ft gauge line...
The GGR was built in 1896 to serve the Zoo which was based down the line at Sea Lion Rocks. The run is around 0.9km in total. The Zoo was a popular feature of the area and housed not only Sea Lion's but also Polar Bear's. It even had one brown bear cub which, for a nominal fee, your child could take out on a lead for a walk along the cliffs. Health and safety would have three times a field day these days! The engine which opened the line, and still resident today, was the aptly named Bagnall 2-4-0 "Sea Lion", built in 1896 at the firms Staffordshire works. I've seen this engine on several programs and read about her quite a lot over the years and so it was a pleasure to finally see her at home...
The cab of the diminutive much-loved Bagnall...
As demand for the GGR grew and passenger traffic started to outdo "Sea Lion", a sister engine arrived in 1905 and was named "Polar Bear". This engine was built to a very similar design but slightly larger. The line ran successfully until World War I when it closed until the end of the conflict. The steamers returned, fully overhauled, after the war but by 1921 their place had been taken by battery electric engines. However, the battery engines didn't go down too well and further problems forced a return to steam for the Bagnall sisters. WWII saw the railway close again and the zoo closed for good. A landslide during the war also cut-off the original terminus of the line. The heyday of the line was over following the war, though services did return on an off and on basis. 1962 was the final season. "Polar Bear" was later purchased and found a home at the Amberley Museum in West Sussex. "Sea Lion" languished in Loughborough until 1987 when she was restored and brought home to run on the now preserved Groudle Glen Railway. In 1992, trains finally returned to Sea Lion Rocks, a location that had been inaccessible since before the second World War. Happily, "Sea Lion" and "Polar Bear" have since been reunited at Groudle on three occasions though it is doubted that "Polar Bear" will ever permanently return.
 
Due to "Polar Bear" now having a home in Sussex, the GGR has begun building a replica of the engines to become another sister for "Sea Lion". This engine will be named "Brown Bear" and is the subject of an on going appeal to get her into steam...
The team reckon they have enough there to make an air running chassis so far...
Another engine based on the line is replica Bagnall 0-4-2 "Annie" of 1998...
Having looked around the sheds for a while, we joined the replica of the electric loco "Polar Bear" for a run down the line. Despite its short length there are some stiff gradients in places, though with 1-coach the electric marched along with ease...
At the pretty terminus of Sea Lion Rocks you can view the remains of the zoo...
The now derelict animal pens of yesteryear, where Polar Bears once stood...
The battery electric "Polar Bear" then ran round the short train...
The station offers some wonderful views across the sea...
It was then time, with five railways accomplished in one day, for the inevitable crew photograph from our grand day out on the fantastic Isle of Man. Left to right: myself, John, 'Eddie the Late' and Arnold...
"Team Pic - GGR" (Pic by Eddie the Late)
With the crew photograph taken we climbed back on board the short train behind the electric for the run back to Lhen Coan...
'Eddie the Late' was plotting more 'Three Course Challenges'...
Once back at Lhen Coan it was time to say our thank you's and head off. We had a taxi booked for 5:30pm, and we were right on time so our brisk 45-minute or so visit to the GGR had been completed successfully. I've got to hand it to the guys there, they were great. They answered all of our questions, showed us every item of stock they had and even gave us guide books and a free train ride. The least we could do was give a good donation for "Brown Bear"s fund. Thanks very much Groudle Glen Railway...
Without the guys at Groudle Glen we wouldn't have made our five in a day and so thanks again, we loved it. From Lhen Coan station it was time for another meander back down through the Glen to find the road. The glen is just so impressive, its worth going just to walk down it! Now, back to the skies!...

2 comments:

Alasdair MacCaluim said...

Fantastic blog post! It gives a really good flavour of the line. I'm going to the Isle of Man for the first time next month and am really looking forward to visiting all the railways and writing about them in my rail blog: treanaichean.wordpress.com.

Sam Brandist said...

Thank you Alasdair. You will love the Isle of Man - I guarantee it. I'd been looking forward to the trip for some time but was blown away even more than I thought I would be. Its just grand, it really is, a very special place: enjoy!