Isle of Man Railway Beyer, Peacock Steam Locomotive No. 8 ‘Fenella’
IMR No. 8 'Fenella'
The eight member of the Isle of Man Railway’s fleet of Beyer, Peacock Co. Ltd. 2-4-0T design locomotives was ordered and delivered to the island in 1894. She was named ‘Fenella’ and was pressed into service as soon as possible due to the increase traffic figures due to the Victorian holiday boom the Isle of Man was enjoying.
Although fourteen passed since the Isle of Man Railway had took delivery of pervious class member No.7 ‘Tynwald’ and the advancement of railway technology in that period, the only real improvements to ‘Fenella’ was the introduction of steam operated sanding gear and to increase the boiler pressure from 120psi to 160psi. Outwardly, No. 8 ‘Fenella’ looked no different to her other class members. Much of her life seems to been spent on the Ramsey line, the former Manx Northern Railway route between Ramsey to St John’s from 1905, where traffic and loadings were a lot lighter.
She received a special one 2-101/4 diameter boiler fitted with Ross ‘pop’ valves, which effectively made her into a medium size version of this class of locomotives, but ‘Fenella’ often ran short of steam on heavier trains, which is probably the reason for her use on the Ramsey line. Fenella survived in service longer than any of her small boilered sisters, and was final withdrawn from service at the end of 1968 season with a badly wasted firebox. In 1969, ‘Fenella’ was tested as far as Castletown station, but was completed withdrawn and placed in storage.
After a decade in storage, on 28 February 1979, the Isle of Man Railway sold No.8 ‘Fenella’ and two of her sisters, No. 5 ‘Mona’ and No. 9 ‘Douglas’ to the Isle of Man Railway Society, which today is known as the Isle of Man Railway & Tramway Preservation Society. After another 11 years in storage, ‘Fenella’s boiler was removed and despatched to mainland to the workshops of the Severn Valley Railway at Bridgenorth for full refurbishment. The new owner’s hoped to get the locomotive back into steam for her centenary in 1994.
Also in 1991, No.8’s chassis was taken up to Laxey by road on a trailer and placed on the Manx Electric Railway metals for a test run up to the Dhoon Quarry sidings and back towed by an MER tram around some tight curves to test to see if the ’Steam on the MER’ for the 1993 ‘Year of Railways’ was feasible or not.
The trail was a success and ‘Fenella’ chassis was returned to the Isle of Man Railway the same day. Fenella’s overhauled boiler was loaned to the Isle of Man Railway, which was fitted to No.1 ‘Sutherland’ to allow the original engine to be the centrepiece of the railway’s 125th Year of the Railways celebrations in 1998.
The boiler was subsequently returned to ‘Fenella’, and the engine restored to full working order again. ‘Fenella’ has been used several times by the railway in recent years, but has been the centre of a huge row which broke out in 2010 between the Isle of Man Railway & Tramway Preservation Society and the Isle of Man Government, who own and operate the Isle of Man Railway. The row has been over the storage of their stock, along with two engines No.5 ‘Mona’ and No.9 ‘Douglas’ which had harmful asbestos that needed removing, and the operation of the locomotive ‘Fenella’, which were all owned by the society.
After a major very public row, an agreement appears to have been almost reached and both ‘Fenella’ and her two sisters No.5 ‘Mona’ and No.9 ‘Douglas’ will be back in the ownership of the railway in due course. Hopefully, ‘Fenella’ will be back in traffic on the Isle of Man Railway very soon hauling service trains once again.
© David Lloyd-Jones 2011