Isle of Man Railways - Snaefell Mountain Railway Track Renewals

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GHD provided design and programme management services for the Snaefell Mountain Railway track renewal programme. Opened in 1895, the Snaefell Mountain Railway (SMR) carries passengers in vintage trams between Laxey, a coastal town, and Snaefell’s summit, 2,036 feet above sea level. The five mile long double-track line is 3 ft 6 in gauge and uses a Fell Incline Railway System center rail for braking on the steep gradients, some of which exceed 1 in 12. Its overhead wires supply 550 V direct current.

In 2010 the Department of Community, Culture and Leisure, the railway’s operator, appointed GHD to design and programme manage the SMR’s three year track renewal programme, following on from the Manx Electric Railway’s seven year track renewals programme, also managed by GHD.

GHD's experience of specifying and managing track renewals in demanding environments helped overcome challenges such as:

  • Both designing and specifying the renewals and developing a contracting strategy, that would allow safe and reasonably efficient construction on the exposed mountainous route, taking into account factors such as the limited availability of specialist plant on the Island
  • Developing solutions safe to build, maintain and operate whilst respecting the line’s heritage nature
  • Difficult design constraints at Bungalow, where the railway crosses the Island’s famous TT course
  • Design, from first principles, of the replacement for the unique ‘Y’ switch at Snaefell’s summit.