The Railway Goods Shed, Ballaugh
Brief history and recent use
With the investment in the infrastructure of the Isle of Man during the latter part of the 19th century, there was a pressing need to improve communications across the Island. The Douglas to Peel railway was opened in 1873, closely followed by the line from Douglas to Port Erin via Castletown. In spite of opposition from the Isle of Man Railway (IoMR), the Manx Northern Railway (MNR) began operating in August 1879. The 17-mile route linked Ramsey with St John’s and Douglas. Four years later the railway was extended along the Quay in Ramsey. The bitter relationship between the IoMR and MNR was only resolved in 1905, when the MNR and Foxdale lines were absorbed by the IoMR.
The goods shed in Ballaugh was built when the northern line opened in 1879 but appears to have been heightened, possibly as a result of the 1905 takeover. From the start, Ballaugh Station was provided with a passing loop, extended over the level crossing in 1883. There was also a goods loop and sidings.
With the improvement in roads and road transport, all the Island’s railways declined during the 1960s. The last service on the St John’s to Ramsey route ran on 6 September 1968, although there was a freight service operating until the autumn of 1969. The tracks were lifted in 1974 and much of the route is now an extended public footpath.
In 1979 Ballaugh Commissioners purchased the goods shed and a section of the railway line from the Government for £2,500. The building has since been used as storage by Ballaugh Commissioners.
‘Really nice to have the chance to see the railway come to life. Our walks will have new meaning.’
‘I look forward to seeing rolling stock in the shed in the near future.’
‘Great exhibition – I had no idea that the track was still in the goods shed. Would be lovely to see some rolling stock here.’
When the Goods Shed was opened to the public for the first time, it was clear from these comments that there was a lot of interest in the building. It spurred on the members of the Heritage Trust to make this a more permanent situation and plans were put into action.
The first major step was to sign an agreement with the Commissioners for a ten-year lease, and this was signed in April 2012. This was the signal for action! A fund-raising operation was set into motion and there were plenty of discussions on how the space can be used.
The building is generally structurally sound but, in order to stop the deterioration of the main fabric, the following essential work is planned for the winter of 2012-13. The main priority is the re-pointing, and work on this began in October. Doors and windows have to be restored and essential woodworm treatment is to be carried out. With commendable foresight, members of the Trust managed to salvage guttering in the original style when Albert Road School was demolished.
The Trust has been fortunate to receive considerable funding for the preliminary work. The first award was in March 2012, when thegenerously granted £8,000 towards the re-pointing. Once the essential work has been completed, work can then begin on the internal renovation, so that the plans for an exhibition centre can begin.
An Exhibition space for Ballaugh
A permanent poster exhibition is planned. This will highlight aspects of the parish which makes Ballaugh special, and will feature the Curragh, an internationally-recognised wetland of special significance, the Great Elk, the Iron Age fort of Cashtal Lajer, the Old Church at the Cronk with the runic cross slab, the growth of the present village, Ballaugh Bridge, emigration and, of course, the railway itself. Over the years, the Trust has begun to gather information and artefacts relating to the area. There have been some generous donations of railway-related items, photographs and, importantly, personal reminiscences.
It was clear from conversations at the History Day that there are some fascinating memories of the village and parish. A few of these have featured in earlier issues of the Newsletter but there is still a huge source of these. Some will have been recorded, on paper, tape or video. These provide valuable, and often entertaining, insights. It’s important that these are preserved.
It’s planned to have a basic permanent display which will stand alongside temporary exhibitions on specific topics. The information gathered will then form an archive of the history of the parish.
Using the Goods Shed
The Goods Shed will provide an educational resource for schools in the area. Dr Graeme Cushnie, Head of Ballaugh School, has already expressed enthusiasm for the project. The building could provide a showcase for children’s work, either on paper, computer or audio-visual, including interviews with parents, grandparents, etc re their experiences of living in Ballaugh. The project also offers opportunities for A level and undergraduate research into Ballaugh’s history, including the trades and occupations (milliners, tailors, auction house, public houses, etc), natural history, archaeology, and local history.
What will the opening hours be?
We shall also need volunteers to man the Goods Shed. Opening hours will probably be during the race weeks of the TTs and the Grand Prix, Bank holidays, and by appointment for visiting groups and schools..
It will be a great opportunity to show off the village and the parish to visitors.
Categorised as: Railway