Many of the Manx glens remain open to the public, but one above all recaptures the atmosphere of its late-Victorian heyday because of the restoration by a team of ten volunteers of the Groudle Glen Railway.
Richard Maltby Broadbent, the owner of Bibaloe Farm, Onchan, built the Groudle Hotel, and opened Groudle Glen as a resort to coincide with the opening of the Manx Electric Railway in 1893.
He added to the glen’s amenities by opening a miniature railway in 1896 to carry visitors to see the imported Californian sea-lions at a zoo at Sea Lion Rocks. The service became successful enough to justify supplementing the original locomotive, Sea Lion, with a companion, Polar Bear (1905).
After the First World War battery-electric locomotives were used for six years, but proved to be so unreliable that the original steam locomotives were overhauled and returned to service.
The Groudle Glen Railway reopened after the Second World War in 1950, but a landslip made the terminus inaccessible. The line was abandoned in the late 1950s, briefly reopened in 1962, but was then closed and lifted.
In the 1980s it was rebuilt by the Isle of Man Steam Railway Supporters Association: diesel-hauled trains as far as the Headland began running in May 1986, until Sea Lion, fully restored by BNFL Sellafield apprentices, was ready for service in October 1987.
The line was restored to Sea Lion Rocks in May 1992, and a tea-room with spectacular views now stands at the terminus.
The railway has gone from strength to strength in the past twenty years and is well worth seeking out: http://www.ggr.org.uk.
The 72-page, A4 handbook for the 2014 Manx Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £10.00 including postage and packing. To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.