Ride on the Railway
Although trains can be boarded at either end of the railway, most passengers start their journey at the Valley Gardens end of the railway. The station has been constructed on top of the stone bunkers, known as the "teams" where the mined ore was initially stored. Ore was tipped from the wagons through trapdoors between the lines directly into the "teams" below. Near to the carriage shed are another set of "teams". Although older and of a different style they served the same purpose and stored ore tipped from the tramway wagons. From the station there is an excellent view overlooking the former Washing Floors and in particular the restored Snaefell Mine waterwheel, Lady Evelyn.
Passengers are welcome to visit the engine shed and carriage shed but are asked not to cross the railway line and to use the footpath around the perimeter of the station. There is a small souvenir stall at the station where train tickets can be purchased.
The carriages are of necessity very small so that they fit through the limited dimensions of the tunnel; passengers have to bend down to board. A single carriage is propelled to the Mines Yard by the engine and then pulled back again without changing ends. For safety reasons this ensures that the carriage entrance is always away from the engine.
When all the passengers have boarded the train, the guard gives two short blasts from his whistle and with a shrill whistle from the engine in response, the train moves out of the station onto the extremely sharp left hand corner which takes the line into the mouth of the tunnel. Just before entering the tunnel, the driver has to sit down on the small wooden seat on the engine. The tunnel is in two sections, the first section taking the line beneath the main road and Manx Electric Railway line. Built in 1854, the main road was carried across the valley on an embankment and crossed the mine tramway on a stone archway. Coal for the steam engines was stored in the tunnel and tipped from the roadway above through a stone shute in the arch. A replica blacksmiths forge has now been constructed in the tunnel.
The train then enters the second part of the tunnel which is of much more restricted dimensions and is much longer. Waste stone from the mine, known as the "deads", was tipped on the up-valley side of the main road. Eventually many thousands of tons of "deads" had been dumped there and the pile towered higher than the nearby houses on Mines Road. Unfortunately, loose stone continually fouled the tramway; this was overcome by building a tunnel beneath the "deads which was extended on a number of occasions. When the mine closed the tunnel was over twice its present length but unfortunately part was damaged when the "deads" were taken away during the Second World War. The surviving part of the tunnel survives in excellent condition and is the only true railway tunnel on the Island. Although electric lights are now installed, the tunnel is still dark enough for passengers to experience the underground conditions of the mine! The total length of the tunnel is 75.8 yards.
The engine and carriage squeezes through the tunnel exit and the train bursts into daylight at the rear of the Glen Mooar housing estate, where the "deads" were once tipped. On the opposite side of the valley, Dumbells Row, a terrace of former miners' cottages can just be seen. Behind Dumbells Row is the Snaefell Mountain Railway and often a tram can be glimpsed as it begins its steep climb to the summit of Snaefell.
Part way up the line, the train crosses a small bridge over a small stream formed from the flood water flowing out of the mine. The train stops on the bank of the Laxey river opposite the Laxey Fire Station where the Mines Yard and workshops were once located. A branch of the tramway once ran across the river into the yard which housed blacksmiths, joiners and fitting shops. Part of the waterwheel which drove the machinery is on display next to the fire station. At the top end of the yard, one of the original mine wagons is displayed in the garden of Mines House once the home of one of the mine managers. To the rear, the former "powder house" where the gunpowder used by the miners was securely stored, now contains an electricity transformer and public toilets! Directly opposite on the river bank is a small archway through which the miners once walked into the mine.
A footpath and mining trail leads from the railway terminus, through the trees to the mine entrance and adit level where the trains once ran into the mine. Flood water still flows from the mine entrance into the nearby Laxey River. The trail ends at the Copper Trial which was dug in the 1840s by miners trying to locate deposits of copper ore. Along the trail, a number of information boards explain the mining features.
The Laxey Wheel is a short walk along the footpath from the end of the railway.
We are sure you will enjoy a ride on the Great Laxey Mine Railway and look forward to seeing you!