The Manx Electric Railway will make its final trip of the season on 2nd October. The closure of the 3ft gauge MER for the winter is to allow the demolition of Summerland complex next to the MER’s main depot at Derby Castle to be completed, and subject to Tynwald approval, £1.5 million will be spent on a track renewal programme. The MER closes on 2nd October to allow specialist demolition contractors access to the site at Douglas next day. The work will be carried out by off-Island specialist DSM and local firm JCK, and the first task will be the removal of the 550 volt MER overhead cables. That will allow safe access to the site, and the relocation of the MEA substation, embedded in the Summerland building.
Isle of Man Tourism Minister David Cretney, whose department owns the complex, is very pleased the work is getting underway. “Once that is done a rather unattractive landmark will soon start to disappear.” He said the demolition of the building, on the north end of Douglas promenade, had been organised to minimise disruption to MER passengers. In July, the Manx Parliament Tynwald voted £2m for the demolition for a building which MHKs said had become dangerous as well an eyesore. A portion of the complex will not be demolished pending further checks into cliff stability.
Summerland is on the site of a former Derby Castle villa which was converted into a theatre and ballroom in 1877. Douglas Corporation bought it in 1964 developing the site as the Summerland Complex which opened in 1971. Two years later on the 2nd august 1973 fire swept through the complex killing more than 50 people. The Summerland disaster led to a major change in fire regulations on the Isle of Man and in the UK. The building was rebuilt in 1976 and reopened in 1978. The Summerland site’s future use has yet to be decided.
This is the first time in many years that the Manx Electric Railway has not operated a winter service, although the high winds in Janaury that battered the island forced the MER to close for a couple of months due to extensive damage to wires and traction poles. The Isle of Man Steam Railway will continue to operate until 30th October.