The only vehicles that can reach the summit of the island’s highest peak and only mountain are the electric cars of the Snaefell Mountain Railway. The steeply graded 5 mile line connects with the Douglas to Ramsey coastal tramway at Laxey Station.

Opened in 1895, the Snaefell line was the first and only electric mountain railway in the British Isles. It is now the only railway in the world equipped with the Fell patent centre rail, used for braking purposes, and laid in the centre of the 3’-6” gauge running rails as it climbs the lengthy stretches of the ruling gradient of 1 in 12 to the summit. At one time, other Fell equipped incline railways existed in Brazil, New Zealand and over the Alps between France and Italy before the completion of the Mont Cenis Tunnel.

The original G.F. Milnes cars of 1895 whilst still retaining their original form, were equipped with modern motors and control gear in the 1970s. Car 5 had received a replica car-body in 1970, its original Milnes body had been destroyed by fire.

Six of the seven ex Aachen cars (Nos. 1003 - 1005, 1008 - 1009, 1011) acquired by the MER Board in 1976 to re-equip the SMR cars, await their fate in the yard of London Transport’s Lots Road Power Station.

The seventh car (No.1010) was dispatched direct to Douglas from Aachen and arrived aboard the Lune Fisher on 12th November 1976. The appearance of this car at Derby Castle Depot was initially something of a mystery until it was discovered that London Transport’s original intention had been to send all the remaining spares loaded onto one of the tramcars to the Island. Only when car 1010 arrived in Douglas and was found to be empty was it realised that the wrong tramcar had been dispatched. The one loaded with the spares was found to be lying at Lots Road. At a later date, MER staff were sent to London to retrieve all of the parts.

In recent years Car 1 has undergone a heavy rebuild and effectively received a new body to the traditional style, similar work is currently taking place to car No.6 (as of Summer 2020), whilst car No.3's body was destroyed in an unfortunate accident in 2016, a replica car body is currently taking shape.

Over the last few winters most of the railway’s permanent way has been re-laid and the Summit Hotel has received improvements.

Read Mike Goodwyn's 1987 published history of the Snaefell Mountain Railway HERE.

A cartoon from the 'Unofficial Guide To Isle of Man Railways' published by the Manx Electric Railway Society in 1980.

The ascent (and descent) of Snaefell, which takes around 30 minutes each way, provides another unique experience on Manx rails, and the endless panoply of views is simply breathtaking. Under the right conditions at the 2036ft * summit, it is possible to see six kingdoms – those of England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Mann and – ah yes, the Kingdom of Heaven above !

Undoubtedly the most serious accident to occur on the Snaefell Mountain Railway took place at around 2.30pm on Wednesday 30th March 2016, when Car 3 was destroyed after it ran away whilst unattended from the summit of Snaefell, derailed and then rolled down the mountain-side. Thankfully, no injuries were sustained by staff or passengers. Photographs taken in the wake of the incident are available to view HERE.

* Traditionally the height of Snaefell was recorded as being 2034 ft above sea level. In more recent surveys, Snaefell has gained an extra 2ft in height and its peak is now recognised as being 2036 above sea level.

Snaefell which is Manx Gaelic for ‘Snow Mountain’ certainly lives up to its name in this fine view, which looks up Laxey Valley in the direction of the Bungalow and the abandoned Snaefell Mine. Snaefell Summit, its hotel and various transmitters can be seen in the distance. The main A18 Douglas to Ramsey road (TT Mountain Course) cuts across the centre of the photograph from left to right. On the left, the Snaefell Mountain Railway clings to the hillside high above Laxey Valley, as it makes its way to the top of the Island’s highest peak and only mountain, some 2036 feet above sea level. (Photo: Mike Jones – March 2009)

Ramsey Bay and the Northern Plains provide the spectacular backdrop as SMR Car 1 makes the ascent from the Bungalow to the Summit on the 28th August 1962. The hotels on Ramsey’s Mooragh Promenade and the white painted Point of Ayre lighthouse are just visible in the distance. (Neil Clifton)

SMR Fleetlist

SMR Car 3 was destroyed on Wednesday 30th March 2016. The unattended car had rolled away from the summit terminus of the line, before derailing and rolling down the mountain-side close to the Bungalow. Fortunately no injuries were sustained. Anybody making use of the public footpath which runs past…

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