AROUND 7.30pm on the night of August 2nd 1973, on the verandah overlooking Douglas Bay, three holidaying boys broke into the little yellow kiosk adjacent to the crazy golf course for a quick smoke. On the railway below, Car 22 rattled past on a routine service to Ramsey. Such an event would have gone unrecorded had a discarded match not accidentally started a fire on the kiosk floor. Having failed to stamp it out, the boys fled. As the plastic booth burned, fire spread to the adjacent acrylic wall of the main building and quickly to the roof. As the compère on stage joked about chip pans, the organist played “The Blue Danube". Soon stunned disbelief, then pandemonium ensued. As the Summerland leisure centre burned, fifty people died and many others were seriously injured. It remains one of the worst peacetime fire disasters of modern times - a blot literally and metaphorically on the Manx landscape. As the 'Oroglas' inferno raged, a few feet away, staff in the Manx Electric Railway sheds, at great danger to themselves, played hoses on the buildings and tram cars, their actions that evening undoubtedly saving the depot and its contents from destruction and the line from closure. This was not the first time the MER faced a serious threat to its survival. It wasn't to be the last… CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING !


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