Who We Are...
The Isle of Man Steam Railway Supporters’ Association was formed in 1966, the year that the Isle of Man Railway was closed for “essential track maintenance work”, although the reality was due to dwindling receipts, mounting operating losses and no funds to replace or repair the worn out track, other infrastructure and locomotives.
After an enthusiastic re-opening in 1967 under a lease agreement with the Marquess of Ailsa, one of the first projects tackled by the fledgling Association was the repaint of locomotives for display purposes at St. John's Station. However, the lines to Peel and Ramsey were clearly not viable to maintain in operation and closed forever at the end of the 1968 season. The Port Erin line almost suffered the same fate, but tireless lobbying and continuing volunteer help provided by the Supporters’ Association persuaded Ailsa’s team, the Railway Company and the Government to maintain the southern service as an important tourist attraction for the Island. Ailsa’s lease agreement ended after the 1971 season, but with Government subsidy, the Railway Company continued operating the train services for tourists between Douglas & Port Erin from 1969. The trackbeds of the closed lines remained in place until 1975 when they were lifted and the lineside properties eventually sold off.
The centenaries of the opening of the Peel and Port Erin lines were celebrated in 1973 and 1974 respectively with special trains (the special from the south line centenary headed by No.4 Loch in her centenary year is seen, left, on Pumphouse Curve just outside Castletown Station. However, in 1975 the Railway Company decided to curtail the service to run only between Port Erin and Castletown. The Supporters’ Association led a public and political campaign on how the steam railway should be run for better taxpayer value and whether it ought to be nationalised. This led to an extension of service s in 1976, but only between Port Erin and Ballasalla, which again was not a success. The steam train service then returned to Douglas in 1977. The increasing yearly Government operating subsidy to the Railway Company resulted in a welcomed proposal and acceptance of nationalisation of the steam railway in 1978, securing its future as an important visitor attraction through to the present day. Since this time the railway has been operated by the government on a seasonal basis, its long-term future secured.
Since 1978 the Association has actively promoted awareness and interest in the Isle of Man Railway and undertaken or participated in many Manx steam railway heritage conservation projects alongside the day-to-day operation of the railway by the Government. During that period, we have also fully restored and re-opened to the public the historic Groudle Glen Railway, some two miles to the north-east of Douglas, now a fully independent charitable organisation separate from the Association. We remain the leading charity for railway preservation on the Isle of Man and in the last twenty years, the value of our input to the railway has been well in excess of £200,000 in both materials and volunteer labour, many of which are detailed on our Project Page and we continue to develop these on a regular basis, the most recent being the cosmetic restoration of No.5 Mona and No.9 Douglas. In addition to hands on projects we have in the past provided guides for tours of the workshops and sheds during the annual events periods.
What We Do...
We monitor and consult with Government departments, Ministers and other stakeholders on current railway operations and proposed changes to services, stock, infrastructure, buildings and disused trackbeds.
We support a broad range of restoration and overhaul projects by providing volunteer labour when required and financing specific components such as boiler tubes, injectors and rolling stock details
We promote awareness and wider interest in the railway through publications, websites and social media, and at special interest exhibitions such are modelling conferences and meet ups
We participate in railway heritage conservation projects, independently and in partnership with Government departments, Manx National Heritage and other island-based heritage interest groups
We publish a regular magazine journal, Manx Steam Railway News, recording and reporting the current news and events from the railway, with additional contemporary and historical articles, photographs and material of interest.
We maintain an extensive reference library with information on all aspects of the Isle of Man Railway operations, past and present including a wide range of ephemera, photographs, timetables, internal records, smaller display items and railwayana.
We maintain a regular series of meetings and correspondence with the railway management team to ensure we are doing are utmost to support the railway in the areas our support is most needed.