Drama on the mountain for passengers of ‘far too fast’ tram

Snaefell Mountain Railway tram number one, which a passenger believes may have had some braking issues on a descent toward Laxey

Snaefell Mountain Railway tram number one, which a passenger believes may have had some braking issues on a descent toward Laxey

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A carriage full of passengers had the ride of their lives when their Snaefell Mountain Railway tram appeared to experience braking problems.

Sixty-year-old Norman Henderson from Warrington was one of more than 30 people on board that afternoon earlier this month, and recalled the mountainside events.

Mr Henderson was in the island with for the weekend, tagging along with his sister who was here visiting a friend.

‘The last time I was in the Isle of Man was 1969, and the one thing I never did was go to the top of Snaefell,’ he said.

‘I went up the Snaefell line from Laxey, it was a lovely clear day, the journey to the top was fine.’

Norman said the descent was initially slow paced.

‘It got faster and faster; there was a young girl with her mother who started screaming, she was terrified.

‘From where I was sitting, at the back, I could see the guard, he was furiously winding the brake wheel, but it was having no effect. It got to the stage where I thought if we hit the bend at this speed it would flip over.

‘I was looking at the grassy bank outside; I was going to jump off. I thought I’d take my chance with that, but the tram just stopped dead and we all lunged forward.’

He said they stopped about half a mile from Laxey’s station, and a handful of passengers got off to walk the rest of the way, with most staying on for the slow trundle home.

‘The brake man sort of said “it seems to be OK now”. The driver was quite pale, as was the brake man,’ said Norman on the return to the station.

‘The young girl was very traumatised, and her mother suffered from an asthma attack.

‘The tram was taken away. All I heard was that the brakes failed; the actions of the brake man seemed to have no effect at all.

‘I’m not easily frightened by these things, but it was obvious it was going far too fast. I have never seen anyone screaming with fear before.

‘And that was my first trip up Snaefell!’ Norman quipped. ‘Though it wouldn’t put me off going up again. I can’t imagine it’s a regular problem!’

Director of public transport Ian Longworth added his assurances on passenger safety on the Mountain Railway.

‘The railway has been specifically engineered to cope with the challenges of a mountain,’ said Mr Longworth.

‘The fell brake is applied in each cab separately for each bogie. This brake requires significant winding on and off by a trained brakesman and the driver, one at each end.

‘Sometimes trams descending from the mountain can pick up pace. At no time are passengers in any danger.’

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