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Sunday, 10 August 2014

Groudle Glen Railway

In a nutshell

Gauge:         2' (610mm)

Length:       Approx 975 yards (0.89 km)

Opened:      23 May 1896



Groudle Glen Railway Co. Ltd.
Groudle Glen,
King Edward Rd,
Isle of Man


Date of visit:     23 July 2014


Key Facts

  • The railway was constructed to transport visitors from Groudle Glen which was served by the Manx Electric Railway (MER) to a small zoo which was constructed in the rocks of the cliff face
  • The railway runs for around three quarters of a mile from Lhen Coan to Sea Lion Rocks. There is a run round loop at each terminus and a passing loop at what used to be Headland Station. There is one halt on the railway at about the midway point - Limekiln Halt
  • When the railway opened in 1896 it had one 2-4-0T Bagnall steam locomotive, Sea Lion, and three coaches. In 1905 another Bagnall 2-4-0T locomotive was commissioned, called Polar Bear, together with a second rake of coaches.
  • The railway was closed during the years of the First World War and soon after re-opening, in 1921, the line was operated by two battery locomotives. These proved to be unreliable and so the steam locomotives were brought back into service.
  • The railway continued to run until the outbreak of the Second World War when the zoo closed permanently and the animals released.
  • After the war the railway re-opened with Polar Bear as the only operational locomotive. The railway closed in 1962 and the one steam locomotive (Polar Bear) was acquired by the Amberley Working Museum and the other purchased privately by John Walton and moved to Loughborough. Sea Lion was eventually restored by BNFL apprentices at the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria and returned to the railway in 1987.
  • The railway re-opened in December 1983 with diesel hauled trains running between Lime Kiln Halt and Headland. The Lhen Coan to Headland section was restored to operation in May1986 and the final section from Headland to Sea Lion Rocks was re-opened in May 1992.
  • A replica of one of the battery locomotives (Polar Bear) was constructed by Alan Keef Ltd and entered service in 2003.
  • A new set of coaches is about to enter service and a replica of one of the Bagnall locomotives (Brown Bear) is currently under construction - due for completion in 2016.



My Impressions

As the railway is run entirely by volunteers it runs at weekends only during the summer season, but it also runs for two hours on Wednesday evenings, which was fortunate as the holiday I had booked originally was from Monday Friday.

I arrived at the Glen almost exactly as the railway started operations at 7.00pm. I'd travelled from Douglas on the Manx Electric Railway which has a station directly opposite the entrance to the Glen and the railway.

The glen itself is very picturesque. A brief descent took us down to the valley, with the viaduct built to take the MER dominating the view.

The footpath beside the stream was well defined........

..... though I suspected the water mill was more for decoration than for any practical application.

The path then divided, with the left hand track leading upwards.......

..... to the terminus of the railway at Lhen Coan, where the first train of the evening was awaiting the arrival of the last few passengers.

There was a brief opportunity to look over the dinky little 2-4-0 Bagnall loco before we set off.

We passed the loco and carriage sheds .........

.... before the line wound up the cliff between the trees.

After emerging from the trees we passed through Lime Kiln Halt and the track curved to the left to negotiate the passing loop which once marked the terminus of the line at Headland.

The line then wound its way along the cliff tops towards the line's terminus at Sea Lion Rocks

There was an opportunity to partake of a cup of tea, see the site of the former zoo in a cove at the foot of the cliffs. Meanwhile the loco ran round its train ......

..... before the train departed for Lhen Coan

I decided to trace the course of the railway on foot, taking pictures and video of the train as it passed by on the cliffs ........,

 and when it arrived at Lime Kiln Halt

 There is little opportunity to get lineside pictures in the woodland area of the railway, but there are quite a few woodland paths which can be followed.

 I spent a while at Lhen Coan, browsing the books in the shop and watching the comings and goings.

 In the yard, the replica battery loco, Polar Bear was parked......

...... and in the shed, it was possible to see progress on the construction of the line's second steam loco, Brown Bear, which now had frames, wheels and some superstructure.

I took another trip down and up the line - one ticket gives unlimited travel on the railway.

I boarded the final Up train of the day to Lhen Coan, together with the ea Lion Rocks station staff.

and then spent some time watching as the locos was cleaned out ......

and Polar Bear shunted the coaches into the carriage shed.

Fortunately, the MER runs late trams on a Wednesday evening and so I was able to board the tram back to Douglas.

 The Groudle Glen Railway is a gem and well worth a visit. The diminutive Bagnall loco is quite unique and surprisingly powerful. The volunteer staff are helpful and rightly proud of their achievements. One advantage of a ¾ mile long railway is that even when only open for two hours there is plenty of opportunity to see the entire railway and to travel on it several times.


[In preparation] 

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