Saturday, 5 August 2017

Last night, after I arrived in Douglas, I saw a large sign that reads, “Electric Railroad” located at the end of Douglas’ Promenade. Took that as a sign (haha) to take a ride on that railroad today. When I woke this morning it was very sunny outside and, after checking the weather forecast, it looked like it would be partly sunny all day. Nice!

After a cup of coffee here in the flat, I went upstairs for breakfast upstairs (free for those who rent). There I met some guys who were on a weekend holiday from Manchester, riding their bikes around the island. We talked a bit before breakfast was served.

Walking to the Manx Electric Railway

After breakfast I walked to the ticket office for the Electric Train – officially known as the Manx Electric Railway, which as been running since 1893 (world’s oldest running on their original line) along the eastern coast of the island. You can ride fro Douglas up to Ramsey. An all-day pass on this line, including fares for the horse-drawn trolley in Douglas and the train from Laxey (on the route to Ramsey) up to the Snaefell Summit – the highest point on the island. All for only £16. (Laxa is Old Norse meaning “Salmon River”.)

What is a Manx?   Is the ethnic group originating from the Isle of Man. They are primarily a Celtic people, though with significant Norse and English influences. The Manx cat is from here too.

Manx Coat of Arms: Actually more like a coat of legs. It dates back to the 13th century. The three legs are known in Manx as “ny tree casyn” (“the three legs”). The triskelion is an ancient symbol, used by the Mycenaeans and the Lycians. You can see this symbol everywhere on the island.

The train this morning had two coaches. One was open air and the other was enclosed. I chose the open air coach. There were only the two coaches and I guess the electric motor was in the enclosed coach. We traveled on a narrow gauge track up along the eastern coast before heading slightly into the interior. The children on the train were enjoying the ride along with the adults. Very interesting ride. Plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. Many farms with sheep grazing and each farm with rock walls separating the fields.

The “blue” route below is the Electric Railway. The green route is to Sneafell Summit. The red is the steam train.

At Laxey, I was getting cold so moved to the enclosed coach. I learned that I could continue riding to the of the line at Ramsey then back to Laxey and catch the electric train up to the Snaefell Summit. Ramsey was about another 20 minutes away and is the end of the Electric Railroad.

At Ramsey I got off the train and explored the town. A very remote small town with a population of around 7,000 but the second largest town on the island. It was there, as I passed an ice cream shop, that I decided that an ice cream cone would be good to have. Because I paused to get the cone, I missed the train headed back to Laxey and the next train would arrive in about an hour.

During my wait, I walked around some more then back to the stop to wait for the next train. I sat down next to an older gentleman and we talked and I discovered he was a train enthusiast. He has been on Isle of Man several times and knows the area very well. Another man approached who I guess was his son who was traveling with him, since it looked like he needed some extra help walking. As I boarded the train I met Gracie, who knew the conductor well and they kidded each other during the ride. She showed me where to take pictures and gave me more of the history of the train. The car we were sitting in used to carry the miners when the local mine was active.

Laxey

In about 30 minutes we arrived in Laxey and I waited for the train to Sneafell. When it arrived we were not sure that we (in queue) would all fit into the one-car train. Someone in line said it would hold 44 people so we started counting the number of people in line. The next train wouldn’t arrive for another hour. As it turned out we barely got everyone on board. I sat near the conductor and he let me take pictures from his small cabin at the back of the train. We talked most of the way up the hill to Sneafell Summit. He said the mine, that we saw along the way, was closed down in 1914 due to the need for the miners to join the war effort and the mine never reopened.

My Airbnb host told be earlier in the day to take along a hat since it could be very windy and cold up on the summit. He probably was concerned about the heat loss because of my bald head. (He was right.) It was much colder up there. On a very clear day you can see the seven kingdoms: England, Scotland, Ireland (North), Wales, and Isle of Man (also Heaven and the sea kingdoms). There is a stone marker at the summit. At the summit stop there is a small cafe and two communications buildings. While you could barely see Scotland and Ireland, the view was still amazingly clear in all directions. I met a guy from Slovakia who was working in the Lake District and came over on this weekend. He has climbed all of the highest points in the U.K. but disappointed that he took the train up – but I said he climbed from the train stop up the hill to this summit. He has traveled to all of the EU countries as well, which a goal of mine too.

Marker at the Sneafill Summit

Views from the Sneafill Summit

By this time it was past 3:00 and I only had the earlier ice cream cone so was a bit hungry so walked down to the cafe for a bite to eat. I’ve been eating tuna sandwiches, when available. Only rarely do I want to eat a meat sandwich. Also had some coffee to warm me up.

Lunch at Sneafill Summit 

It was time to get in the queue for the train. There I met a couple who had hiked up from Laxey, which must have taken several hours. He thought I was from Wisconsin based on my accent. We talked about “cheese heads” and various English accents. He seemed to be well-versed in identifying the various accents based not on the sound, but the different phrases used, and gave me some examples. He is a “Manx” from the island and his wife is from England. They met when she had a temporary job on the island and didn’t leave once they had met. (Nice story.)

Now, we had some discussion about where the queue started. We were all in one line, but were we at the beginning or the end? The couple were getting concerned about getting a seat since they had hiked up to the summit and hadn’t purchased a ticket in Laxey. The conductor found space for them and we were on our way down the hill. Before we entered Laxey, I was able to get a good picture of the Laxey Mine and also the Laxey Wheel, which is the largest surviving waterwheel of its kind in the world, and installed in 1854.

Lexey Mine

Lexey Wheel

It was now nearly 4:30 when we got to Laxey and still had another 45 minutes to get back to Douglas. Felt like it had been a very long day. Because of the partially clear sky I took many pictures. I met so many interesting and helpful people today and the weather was perfect. Glad I saw the “sign” last night and took this journey today.

After we arrived in Douglas, I took the horse-trolley from the Douglas station to Marks and Spencer to pick up some things I forgot to buy the day before. Though I was tired, I walked back to my room.

My hotel room is on the ground floor of a hotel and a small restaurant. The restaurant is directly above me so I hear some footsteps when the restaurant is open. I brought this to my host’s attention because he has one person who works for him who walks very heavily. Guess that is why I brought earplugs with me.

For dinner, I had planned to roast a chicken – which I did after my nap. It wasn’t done until 10:00 and was very hungry by the time it came out of the oven. While eating, for whatever reason, I came upon a YouTube link that featured some of the cast from Three’s Company and (couldn’t believe it myself) but I watched the entire 52 minute program from start to finish. The funny thing is that the program was one I rarely watched. I must have been very tired, but enjoyed it because the cast seemed to genuinely like each other and had great stories to tell about the making of the show and of the late John Ritter and Don Knotts.

Tomorrow I’ll take a day to rest.

 

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