Items of Interest
This section contains information on various items that the Great Laxey Mine Railway has acquired since the railway reopened.
In 2010 we became aware that a couple of old bus passenger shelters were just lying around on a convenient field, having been declared as obsolete and replaced by more modern ones. In the best tradition of all small gauge railways, we let nothing go to waste so after negotiations with Passenger Transport section of National Transport, they were donated to us and duly delivered to Laxey. They were in need of repair and Painting, which we then did over the next year. Doors were also made for the larger shelter to enable it to be turned into a shop/ticket office. The shelters were then erected on new concrete bases, one at the station In the Valley Gardens to act as the shop, the other at the top end of the line at the foot of the path up to the Laxey Wheel, this to act as a shelter.
Valley Garden Station
Research has shown that the ticket office shelter probably came from the Hope Corner just south of Ballacraine and the other one from outside the old school in Foxdale village. Both would have been constructed locally, possibly by National Transport joiners.
Many thanks to National Transport for their donation, and do we get an Eco award for our re-cycling efforts.
Wheels and items behind the station!
Thank you to Paul Marshall for his help and research on these items. Paul also created the drawings below to show how some of the items would have looked.
During the restoration of the mine railway, a number of artefacts associated with the Great Laxey Mine and other Manx railways were found on site. These along with others which have since been acquired form a small collection which can be found behind the Valley Gardens station building. The following notes describe the origins of each item and its place in Manx industrial and railway history.
MER Chilled Iron Wheel Set
The wheel set standing on end has its origins on the Manx Electric Railway. These wheel sets were delivered when the tramcars of the Manx Electric Railway were reequipped with new bogies and electrical equipment in 1903. Further wheel sets of this type continued to feature on newly delivered MER cars until 1906. These chilled iron wheels appear to have been replaced relatively quickly, probably due to the difficulty of lathes turning out flat spots in the hardened iron.
MER Tyre Wheel
The elegant curly spoke wheel propped against the low stone wall - now pressed off its axle - is an example of the type which replaced the earlier chilled iron wheels on the MER. These had the advantage of a separate tyre - currently highlighted in white - pressed on to the wheel which could be turned in a lathe after suffering a flat spot. Examples currently survive on a number of MER cars still in service, including no.s 7, 16, 33, 34 and trailer cars 56 and 58, along with other cars currently in storage.
MER Permanent-Way Trolley
These two axles complete with curly spoke wheels and chassis frames formed the basis of a MER permanent way trolley. It was most likely built in-house using brought in wheels and bearings. This example would have had deck planking across most of the length of the two frames, the protruding ends of which acted as lifting handles to allow swift removal from the track.
Snaefell Mountain Railway Wheel Sets
The two twin spoke wheel sets supporting the large wooden flower bed are examples of the original wheel sets used under Snaefell Mountain Railway cars when new from 1895. A third example stands on end alongside the “shorter” 3ft gauge MER chilled iron wheel set. These 3ft 6in gauge wheel sets were replaced during a reequipping programme in the late 1970s and early 1980s, during which newer electrical equipment accompanied by larger diameter wheels were installed. Evident on each axle are two sets of raised features/rings from which the original traction motors were hung.
Ramsey Quarry Wagon
These small curly spoke wheels of 15inch gauge belonged to a tipper wagon built by J & F Howard Ltd of Bedford for the Claughbane Quarry (also known as Clarkes Quarry) in Ramsey, now believed to be the last surviving example. The wagon was found burried in a bank and was uncovered when the bungalows on the Claughbane estate were being built. The remains of the chassis and all four axle boxes also survive, albeit in a very poor condition. The wagons side-tipping tub has long since disappeared.
Clark's Quarry wagon chassis with one axle box remaining in situ.
Dumbells Shaft Kibble Pulley Wheel
This spoke pulley wheel was once located at the Dumbells Shaft of the Great Laxey Mine. This, along with several other wheels directed a cable from the adjacent winding house down the near vertical shaft in order to allow the raising and lowering of kibbles of ore and waste rock to and from the adit level. Here the ore was tipped into the adit tramway wagons for transportation to the washing floors. This, along with six adit tramway wagons was discovered in the mine and raised to the surface by the Laxey Mines Research Group in 1971.
Great Laxey Mine Curly Spoke Pulley Wheel
This curly spoke pulley wheel was also employed in the Great Laxey Mine for the raising of kibbles of ore, though where it was located is unclear.
Snaefell Waterwheel Cornwall Attachment
Following the closure of the Snaefell Mine in 1908, the waterwheel formerly employed there - now christened the Lady Evelyn - was sold to a mine in Cornwall. To allow it to power different machinery to that found at Snaefell, this axle was attached to the waterwheel for the duration of its working life at its new home. Following the return of the wheel to Laxey for restoration, this attachment was removed, and has remained at the mine railway since. It is hoped to move this down to the Lady Evelyn Wheel to form part of an exhibition about the history of the wheel and this part of the washing floors. Anyone feeling strong?!
Washing Floors 42ft Waterwheel Cog
This is the remains of a substantial gear - 1/8th of its circumference - which formed part of the drive train from the 42ft waterwheel to the Jigger - a machine which sifted and sorted the ore and waste rock on the Washing Floors. The location of this waterwheel is now occupied by the Lady Evelyn. To give an idea of the scale of even this small section, the cog would have been over 6ft in diameter.
The remaining section of the gear wheel.
Drawing of how the wheel whould have looked with the remaining section highlighted.
Pump of unknown Origin
This twin cylinder pump has seized solid but it is easy to see how it would have worked. If anyone out there has any information on this item, please get in touch with the railway via our 'Contact Us' page.
The Water Tower
The 'water tower' was generously donated by Douglas Corporation to the Laxey & Lonan Heritage Trust in 2009. It is one of the original street lamp columns used in Douglas. It was cast by Gelling Foundry, of South Quay, Douglas, in the 19th century. It was originally powered by 'sewer' gas, and then converted to electrical power by the Corporation Electricity Department.
After many years in storage it was utilised by The Trust to act as a water tower for our two steam engines, Ant and Bee. Therefore, in its life it has been powered by gas, electricity and water, an unusual combination. Other examples of this column can be found outside the Shakespeare Theatre, in Stratford upon Avon, which has a collection of old lamp columns, and on Laxey Habour side where one is still in use.
The Bungalow Bell
A hand bell, which is believed to be the last surviving artefact of the former Bungalow Hotel, was donated to the Great Laxey Mine Railway during June 2013. It was rung at the end of each day by the stationmaster at the Bungalow to signal the impending departure of the last tram to Laxey on the Snaefell Mountain Railway.
The Snaefell Mountain Railway was constructed in 1895 and the Bungalow Hotel was built during the following year where the line crossed the mountain road. It was a popular "watering hole" not only for railway passengers but also for the many locals and visitors who travelled the mountain road by horse drawn carriage and later motor car and coach. It had a large public bar area, a silver dining room, refreshment area and stabling for horses.
In 1907 the Manx Electric Railway instigated one of the very first motor bus services on the Island when a charabanc service was introduced between the hotel and the tea rooms at Tholt y Will, at the head of the Sulby Valley.
In 1957 the Manx Electric Railway and the Snaefell Mountain Railway were nationalised by the Manx Government who demolished the Bungalow Hotel during 1958.
The bell was salvaged from the scrap men by the then permanent way foreman Johnny Corkhill and his colleague Alex Cain, both who lived in Glen Mona. Alex used the bell as a very useful door bell at his home opposite the Glen Mona Hotel. In 1983, Alex and Johnny having both by now passed away, the bell was given by Mrs Cain to the then Manx Electric Railway Engineering Superintendant, Maurice Faragher. Mr Faragher in turn gave the bell to the Great Laxey Mine Railway.
It can now be rung at the Valley Garden station to signal the departure of the last train of the day and remind passengers of the once famous landmark on the TT Course, The Bungalow Hotel.
The Pelton Wheel Story
The Pelton wheel is among the most efficient type of water turbine. It was invented by Lester Pelton in the 1870's. The Pelton wheel extracts energy from the impulse (momentum) of a jet of fast-moving water, as opposed to a traditional overshot wheel, where the weight of water is used. Although many variations in impulse turbines existed prior to Pelton's design, they were less efficient. Typically the water leaving the wheel still had high speed and carried away much of the energy. Pelton's paddle geometry (like two ice cream scoops) was designed so that when the rim runs at half the speed of the water jet, the water leaves the wheel at very slow speed, extracting almost all of its energy, and allows for a very efficient turbine.
Pelton wheels can be run from a small stream with a high head of water, unlike the local wheels which run from larger streams but with low heads of water.
Pelton, at that time, was working as a carpenter & millwright in the mines of the California gold rush, and they were dependent upon steam. Boilers required large amounts of expensive coal or timber to produce steam but water was abundant. He developed his design over several years, even making a turbine to drive his landlady's sewing machine. His design was first used in the Mayflower Mine in Nevada City, California in 1878. He then set up his own company to sell the design. He died in 1908 in California. His largest wheel was 30 ft. (9m) diameter and was installed in the North Star Mine in Grass Valley in 1895. This is now a California Historical Landmark Site.
The single Pelton wheel that we have is obviously much smaller at about 18 inches in diameter (everything in America is bigger, apart from the Laxey Wheel). It was installed in the old Sulby Water Treatment Works at the bottom of Sulby Glen, which were located in what was an old starch mill (the building is still there). It was installed in 1937 to act as the back-up drive to the agitators for the sand filter beds when being backwashed. It was taken out of use in about 1981, when a new treatment works was built. The water supply came from the Block Eairy valley, where a new, concrete reservoir was built towards the end of the Second World War, being opened in about 1945. This reservoir was purported to have been built by Italian prisoners of war. The wheel was donated to us in 2012. Recently a new wheel (by the same manufacturer) has been installed in the new treatment works to provide electricity to the works. There is still an old wheel in the treatment works below the Ballure Reservoir, which used to serve Ramsey.
The Pelton Wheel Set
The setup that we have here would be typical of a Pelton wheel driving a small piece of equipment in a works. The Pelton wheel is driven by the high pressure water, in this case from Block Eairy reservoir in the Sulby valley.
The belt drive output from the Pelton wheel then transmits the power to the second unit which is a transfer/gear box. The speed of rotation is reduced and the direction of drive is reversed. This gearbox arrangement would be different in different situations, depending on what was to be driven.
The final unit is a three cylinder, high-pressure pump which was used to drive the flush water for the sand filters at the water treatment works.
Unfortunately the boilers of both the Ant and the Bee had a number of problems which led to them being replaced in 2010/11. The welding on the boiler barrel ends where not to the correct standards (they were of a surface type weld and not a deep penetration type weld required for a high pressure steam vessel). The boiler tubes were not of the 'wasted' type but were parallel type and so replacing tubes proved to be very time consuming and difficult. Therefor the decision was taken to replace them and the new boilers were made by Bennett Boilers Ltd of Highbridge in Somerset and have proved to be far superior to the originals.
One of the old boilers was sent to Bennett's and used as a pattern to get the dimensions for the replacements and the second was retained and sectioned so that we could use this as an exhibit to show the public how a steam engine works.
MER repairs to wall and support over tunnel
The corner of the wall above the large tunnel has for many years had a lintel made from an old piece of rail and this was becoming an item of concern due to its condition. The MER and the Department of Infrastructure arranged to replace this rail lintel with a reinforced concrete item.
This involved removing some of the wall, replacing the lintel and then rebuilding the wall. Scaffolding was erected to enable this work to be carried out and this took place during December of 2015. The scaffolding fouled the GLMR line so the work had to wait until we were not running trains or needed access.
During September 2016 the track levels were checked with some fascinating results for those who enjoy these things.
The track rises by 1.79 meters from the carriage shed door to its highest point by point number 5 which is by Mines Yard. This is over a distance of 310 meters giving an average gradient of 1/173. The maximum gradient on the line is just after the Mine Adit stream bridge over about a distance of ten meters and is 1/38.5 (no wonder the trains work hard on this section especially if they have to stop before the point and then start again on this gradient!)
The Mines Yard end of the tunnel roof was reconstructed when the line was reopened and the track survey revealed that over the last fifteen meters of the tunnel's length the roof drops by 88mm whereas the track remains level. The clearance on the carriage roof at the tunnel mouth is about 40mm.