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Great Laxey Mines Railway 12 August 2004

The Department of Local Government and the Environment is to give approval for the Great Laxey Mines Railway Ltd to start carrying passengers.

The narrow gauge railway runs from Laxey's Valley Gardens towards the old adit, not far from the Village's fire station. It follows the route of the original line, which was used to bring ore from the mine to the washing floors. A recreation of the one of the original locomotives arrived in Laxey some months ago and its twin is expected shortly. The line was rebuilt by the Laxey railway company, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Laxey and Lonan Heritage Trust, and is staffed by volunteers.

The original line was never intended for passenger carrying work, but the Trust is keen that visitors experience Laxey's mining heritage as closely as they can. So it was important that visitors would be able to ride the entire length of the recreated line. This meant that they would need to travel the length of the tunnel under the Ramsey Road and be 'steam-hauled' the whole way.

The Department is responsible under the Island's Passenger Transport Act for ensuring that passenger carrying railways are safe to use and that they are all inspected before operation. The railway company has been working with the Department's Health and Safety at Work Inspectorate for some time to find the best way to match modern safety requirements with historical authenticity.

Nick Black, the Department's Chief Health and Safety Inspector, said:

"The tunnel under the Ramsey Road is 70 metres long, is very narrow and has limited headroom. By working with Richard Booth of the railway company we have been able to agree the design of a coach that carries passengers safely and enhances the mining feel of the line. Whilst there is plenty of air movement in the tunnel, there is no provision to ventilate smoke and soot. Richard has been testing various coal types and has found one that burns cleanly. I am very pleased that we are now in a position to approve the Island's 7th passenger carrying railway."

Richard Booth added:

"Now that the new coach has been delivered we are working flat out to get the last few bits and pieces sorted. We have been training our volunteers and now have crews of drivers and guards. It won't be long now till we are able to carry our first fare paying passengers. Whilst we enjoyed giving demonstration runs, we always knew that this was our ultimate goal. We began working with the Health and Safety Inspectorate long before they had any formal need to look at the railway, which has meant that the approval process has gone very smoothly. Now we are all set to help make the celebrations of the Laxey Wheel's 150th Anniversary on 25th and 26th September even more enjoyable for visitors."

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