Port St. Mary Station
Distance From Douglas:
Port St. Mary
2nd August 1874
Seasonally, Since 1965
Port Erin (South Line)
Station Road, Port St. Mary
Open Seasonally (Unmanned)
Above: the replacement 1898 structure which remains extant today replaced a structure from the opening of the line which was similar in construction to that provided at Santon Station, Ballasalla Station and Colby Station; in its original form the canopy was open-fronted, this was bricked up to form a waiting room in 1979 and remains in that form today, though out of use since 2021.
The building which survives today was constructed in 1898, replacing the timber structure which is believed to have been destroyed at the time. Local architect James Cowle, who had previously been responsible for designed the headquarters of the railway at Douglas Station some years earlier, was tasked to design the new station, as part of a policy to improve the facilities at all stations along the line, Port Erin being similarly treated in 1902. Built by local firm James Costain, the building was of unique design and by far the largest station outside of the capital, being the only two-storey construction on the line. It features Welsh Ruabon brick in common with other stations, with detailed brickwork in a cream shade and several other design elements incorporated, including accommodation for the station master and his family.
The ground floor was dedicated to railway use, the room at the north-easterly end being the station masters’ office, connected to a large waiting hall leading out to a canopied shelter and ladies’ waiting rooms and toilets. The square portion to the south-westerly end of the station housed the gentleman’s facilities, it being common practice for separate accommodation of this nature. The first floor provided living accommodation and was accessed by a staircase at the north-easterly corner of the premises. As built, the exit door which leads to the site of today’s Station Hotel, was canopied, this structure being removed when works were carried out by Campamarina Limited (The Isle of Man Railway, Norman Jones, Foxline Publishing 1993, P.40 shows this still in position in 1979). A waiting area to the roadside, site of today’s railway patrons’ car park was also provided for passengers to be transported onward by road upon their arrival at the resort.
Owing to its close proximity to the terminus, the station was never furnished with a passing loop commonly provided at the other major stations, although sidings served a modest goods yard, this being provided with a timber shed initially, and later replaced in 1899 with a stone-built edifice akin to that provided at Castletown Station in 1902, the two buildings being contemporaneous. One siding entered the shed and protruded beyond it, the other ran behind the shed itself, which was provided with both internal and external full-height platforms for conveyance of goods. A platform height cattle dock was also provided in 1911, in the same style as those at all other major stations, this was located at the south-westerly end of the yard. The gas works for the village was located directly behind the station premises, complete with its own staff living accommodation.
A full-height platform was provided at the station, one of only two to receive such a feature, the other being Port Soderick where it stood on the opposite side of the station buildings; this was 300’ long and 12’ wide, capable of holding a seven-coach train of bogie carriages. At the north-easterly end of the station the main Port St. Mary to Port Erin road was carried by a level crossing, and gatekeepers’ house provided accordingly. Such was the importance of the station to the Railway Company at this time. This structure also remains extant today although sold off as a private dwelling and much modified in recent times.
Upon nationalisation of the railway in 1978 some changes were made to the station. The open-fronted canopy was bricked in to create a waiting room in lieu of the main hall, the work was carried out in 1980 and remains in place today, sitting somewhat incongruously with the style of the building; note, the end wall of this area was always there, though initially it was a glazed timber feature, later being bricked in, though this was carried out several years prior to the frontage, evidence shows thgi in place by 1962.. The far portion of this area was later partitioned off to create a smaller station master’s office, and a ticket window incorporated into the design, this remains in place today. At this time too, the doorways and windows into the general waiting room were boarded over, this area being largely utilised for storage only in recent times.
With the rental of the building by Campamarina Limited beginning in October 1981, railway staff were provided with a wooden shed at the roadside end of the platform when the original office was used by this firm, who had similar undertakings using the premises at Port Soderick and Castletown Stations initially. However, by 1985, the business ran solely from Port St. Mary and possession of the other stations was relinquished to the railway. The enterprise was marketed under the banner of Trailblazers and aimed at the holiday leisure industry, focussing on a variety of outdoor pursuits which saw the site adorned with canoes, rubber dingys and the like, throughout this period. The scheme came to an end in 1989 and the premises were vacated. A large sign running the length of the goods shed promoting this endeavour was a feature during this period.
The station continued to operate seasonally, being manned latterly by seasonal staff, though not always open in shoulder season. Changes in timetabling at the end of the 2015 season ensured that the station was effectively closed (this police also affected Ballasalla Station which became unmanned at the same time) with all regular scheduled services now passing at Castletown Station since the opening of the 2016 season, the station is no longer used. As the waiting facilities and toilets for railway patrons are still a necessity, is has become common practice for the guard of the first arriving train to unlock the required doors upon arrival and close them on the final journey of the day. Much of the platform furniture and external adornments were removed at this time.
Subject to various proposals by different parties in recent times, it has been proposed to convert the site into accommodation, offices and tourist dwellings at various stages, the railway having declared it “surplus to operating requirements” since nationalisation. With a duty of care to upkeep their structures, work was carried out to the roof in 2007, and the goods shed was considerably renovated in 1999, later being used during the filming of the live-action film Thomas & The Magic Railroad in 2000. Prior to this, the station had been used a number of times for filming purposes, notably the BBC’s Seaside Special in 1979, the period drama The Ginger Tree in 1988 and The Brylcreem Boys in 1997, for which extensive night shooting took place using the locomotive Caledonia.
By 2018, the local preservation group the Isle of Man Steam Railway Supporters’ Association were successful in their bid to have the station buildings both placed on the island’s protected buildings register; this was achieved at the same time as the iconic station at Port Erin was also registered under the same scheme. The impressive terminus at Douglas Station was placed onto this register in 1984, being followed by Castletown Station in 1998 and various smaller structures along the line have also been protected since this time, notably the water tower and gate lodge at Ballasalla Station, and crossing keepers’ lodges at The Level and Four Roads in 2016. Despite being effectively “safe” the immediate future of this important building remains uncertain at the present time.
Proposals to convert the building, including the goods shed, into office accommodation were lodged in 2016, the premises being placed on the market as surplus to railway requirements. These remain pending in September 2018, the placement of the building on the protected register may well require the lodged plans to be modified; they included the removal of brick frontage to the canopy and replacement with “period” (sic.) timber panels, a glazed balcony atop the gentleman’s toilets, and conversion of these existing facilities to provide unisex toilets. The loss of the waiting room is to be made up for with the provision of a simple lean-to roof beside the toilets door. If the proposals proceed, it will prove a sad end to a once grand structure, though railway use of such a large building could not be justified within the current operating requirements.
Station Building / Goods Shed / Single Platform / Level Crossing / Gatekeepers' House / Goods Yard