Snaefell Summit railway station
|Snaefell Mountain Railway|
|Location||Garff, Isle of Man|
|Owned by||Isle of Man Heritage Railways|
|Line(s)||Snaefell Mountain Railway|
|Tracks||Two running lines & point|
|Structure type||Hotel building|
|Previous names||Manx Electric Railway Co., Ltd.|
The line originally opened in 1895 at which time a wooden "chalet" type building was erected including a waiting shelter and staff areas but the increased popularity with the Victorian holidaymakers ensured that a larger, brick-built structure was erected at the turn of the century. The original structure was entirely of wooden construction and offered only basic facilities to visitors and such was the popularity of the tramway that it outlived its usefulness within a few years. It is the replacement building that serves the railway today but it is in much-simplified format, the original being situated in the same location. Early views of the railway station and its environs reveal that there were timber boarded walkways around the terminus and these have been retained in recent times but are of concrete construction with metal handrails. Coin-operated telescopes were also a feature in the heyday of the line and these were reinstated in 2010.
The original building was installed for the line's opening in 1895 and was of basic timber construction, with boarded walkways around its environs to the various vantage points around the site. A replacement stone structure was installed in 1902 and featured castellated turrets and was more Gothic in appearance. A fire gutted the building in 1982 (which was allowed to burn out owing to the remote location and inaccessibility for the fire brigade) and the building was closed for two years thereafter. Owing to the lack of public water supply to the summit, each operating day a tram delivers a bowser of drinking water for use in the restaurant. There was also a bar (explaining the one-time title of "Summit Hotel" featured in marketing). The railway station features a number of small historical displays around its walls which chart the history and construction of the line and at one time was also home to a display of various side shows such as a What the Butler Saw machine among others; these have been removed in recent times and an extensive refurbishment carried out over the winter of 2010–11 completed in readiness for a Victorian Extravaganza event in July.
To mark the line's centenary in 1995, some remedial work was carried out to the exterior of the building and historical displays were added to the waiting area, many of which remain in place today. Generally speaking, however, the railway station building was in need of much attention to improve it to the high standards expected by today's traveller. These issues began to be addressed when central government funding became available, with the first phase of works commencing in January 2011.
The site is also home to a Civil Aviation Authority transmitter mast and station, and in the winter months a small diesel railcar accesses this. The overhead lines are removed at the close of each season for the electric cars to protect them from damage by the cold weather.
The most notable event of recent years that took place at the summit was the presence of all six mountain trams at one time in conjunction with the line's centenary and this was believed to have been the first time this had ever happened. Also, the Manx Northern Railway locomotive Caledonia revisited the summit in 1995 to recreate the events of a century earlier when she had been loaned for use in the construction of the line; this event was a highlight of a year-long festival of events which saw additional services on all of the island's railways. The locomotive reached the summit on a number of occasions carrying passengers in a Manx Electric Railway winter saloon trailer. There being a difference of six inches in gauge between the two lines, a third rail was temporarily laid to accommodate these services.
The building houses the café, bar, toilets and station master facilities; it remains intact today in a much fragmented form, having once been castellated but following a fire in 1982 these features were never replaced. It replaced an original wooden structure at the turn of the 20th century. The railway's operation being seasonal, the café and bar only open in conjunction with the railway.
The Civil Aviation Authority also has a presence on the summit and accesses it using a diesel railcar which is stored in Laxey when not in use, there being no shelter on the summit. The railcar is required for access in the winter months when the power cables are removed from the upper section of the line to avoid damage from winter weather. There are transmitter masts and associated buildings on the summit itself which are viewable from many miles around; they provide transmission for a number of island facilities including telephones, mobile internet and television.
It is said that from the summit of Snaefell you can see "seven kingdoms at a glance" and this legend was emblazoned on the railway's advertising for many years. Those kingdoms are: England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Mann (the local term for Isle of Man), the kingdoms of Heaven and the sea; sometimes the advertisements have read five or six kingdoms, but more usually the total of seven is cited.
An experimental service was provided in the summer of 2009 which offered visitors the chance to travel to the summit railway station after the day's routine timetabled services had ceased and enjoy an evening meal in the cafe; this was the first time in the line's history that regular scheduled evening services had been offered. The service proved to be very popular with the public and was repeated over a number of weeks in the summer of 2010 and demand was such that additional dates were provided supplementing the advertised ones, although some of these additional services offered a buffet service as opposed to a full meal. Over the following winter much refurbishment work was carried out to the building and in 2011 the Sunset Dinner dates are further expanded, so that these trams now operate once a week in the peak of summer season. Such is the popularity of these services that a choice of menus is now offered as well as a wine list, and a full three-course option is available as well as a two-course offer not including wine. The service was expanded in 2011 owing to continued popularity so that these meals are now available on Friday evenings from June to September in addition to the original Wednesdays.
Seven Kingdoms Lunches
A one-off Easter Lunch offer was also offered in 2011 to mark the reopening of the facility following refurbishment. Another new offering was introduced in 2011 titled Seven Kingdoms Lunches every Sunday, taking its name from the famous "seven kingdoms at a glance" slogan. These lunches take a similar format to the Sunset Dinners but take place on Sunday afternoons and offer different menu options, namely a full traditional Sunday lunch with optional starters and desserts. Since their introduction these offers have also been very well received and owing to the unpredictable nature of the weather on the island, and specifically the mountain, these can be boarded on the day without booking in advance, making another good source of income. Capactity and availability are, however, limited, owing to the remote location of the restaurant and its lack of access to suppliers to cater for last-minute diners on the busier days.
Pie in the Sky
In another first to maximize the potential of the unique mountain tramway, 2010 saw the introduction of a further initiative on the line which took advantage of the summit railway station; the Pie in the Sky excursion tram offered a return evening trip from Laxey Station to the summit where an astronomical talk and stargazing took place prior to refreshments before the return trip. These trips take place at key times of the year to maximize the stargazing opportunities with two sessions: the first options take place at the end of May when there are opportunities to view the rings of Saturn and further dates at the end of September and start of October for views of the Milky Way and Andromeda. As a contingency, in the event of poor weather and/or visibility an illustrated lecture is also available if required. These events, like the other meal offers available on the railway, are available to pre-book in advance, although rather than a choice of menus, the pie in the sky offer is a set meal with vegetarian option.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Snaefell Summit railway station.|
- Isle of Man Heritage Railways
- Manx Electric Railway Society
- Snaefell Mountain Railway
- Tram Travels: Snaefell Mountain Railway
- Goodwyn, A.M. (1976) Is This Any Way To Run A Railway ? - The story of the Manx Electric Railway since 1956., Manx Electric Railway Society website, accessed 24 November 2006
- Goodwyn, M., (1993) Manx Electric, Platform 5 Publishing, ISBN 1-872524-52-4
- Hendry, R., (1993), Rails in the Isle of Man: A colour celebration, Midland Publishing Limited, ISBN 1-85780-009-5