3-plank Open Wagon H.1
The winter edition of Manx Steam Railway News for 1998 not only showed images of the recently restored Ballast Wagon M.78 being handed over to the Railways’ custodianship following re-build by the Mainland Area Group of the Supporters’ Association, but also included the ambitious announcement that the next project would be the completion of an “H” class wagon, unseen on the railway since 1964.
Once again it was the Mainland Area Group that carried out all the fundraising work and oversaw its construction, whilst Island-based members were kept busy with the maintenance and operation of the Groudle Glen Railway. Preparatory work for the new project had begun in November 1997 with member Dave Booth again drawing up the necessary detailed working papers, this work being considerably more detailed than that for M.78 as only working sketches dating from April 1898 were available. After much research the finished drawing appeared in Issue 123 of Manx Steam Railway News for members’ perusal.
John Barchard Timber Limited had supplied the initial timbers, the main difference with this project being its complete construction by Supporters’ Association members through the hospitality of the West Lancashire Light Railway who offered their workshops for use. Once again Alan Frodsham did the necessary machining of timber parts, and members were encouraged to visit the railway to inspect the progress which was steady. By the April of 1999 the frames had been assembled, with nearly 400 man hours having been expended by the volunteers.
Neil Brierton of Studley Engineering in Liverpool manufactured and galvanised the tie rods free of charge, and delivered them to the West Lancashire Light Railway for installation. A further donation from the Narrow Gauge Trust in Towyn of £400 ensured the project proceeded quickly, and on 27th November 1999 the wagon was hauled by a steam locomotive for the first time. Planking and sides were added and the several coats of paint applied, including addition of the fleet number H.1, before the vehicle made its journey home to the metals of the Isle of Man Railway in the summer of 2000.
Since arrival, the vehicle has seen much use on the railway and been included on demonstration freight trains in conjunction with the enthusiasts’ events held annually.