It certainly was a moving and historic day at Groudle…. and something you very rarely experience in the heritage railway world. The launch of two brand new steam locomotives at the same time on the same day!
We were honoured that our patrons the President of Tynwald Steve Rodan OBE and local historian Charles Guard launched the locomotives; ‘Brown Bear’ and ‘Otter.’
The completion of ‘Brown Bear’ is the result of 6 years of fundraising and construction work through the Build Brown Bear Appeal to construction a perfect replica of Polar Bear, Sea Lion’s sister locomotive and the 2nd original Groudle Glen Railway steam locomotive of 1905.
‘Otter’ has been built by the North Bay Railway engineering works in Darlington and is one of two locomotives constructed by them based upon the historic locomotive ‘SIPAT’ design which was built by Bagnalls of Stafford, the first being ‘Georgina’ which entered service on the North Bay Railway in 2016 with construction work on Otter started at the time with the view to finding a buyer which didn’t materialise.
The volunteers at Groudle Glen Railway have been working closely with the North Bay Railway in recent years assisting with the provision of patterns and designs for the ‘SIPAT’ locomotives. Also more recently Groudle’s original locomotive; ‘Sea Lion’ built 1896 by Bagnalls of Stafford, was rebuilt at the North Bay Railway following major unexpected boiler works being required with the support of the Manx Lottery Trust, The Elizabeth Clucas Trust, The Scheinberg Family,The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and Culture Vannin.
Steam locomotive maintenance issues at Groudle over the past two years reinforced the aspiration that the volunteers have held that the railway requires three steam locomotives to maintain the basic service at the railway, as with major works required on ‘Sea Lion’ and the privately owned locomotive ‘Annie’ left the railway at times without any steam motive power.
As part of this aspiration, in 2013 Groudle Glen Railway launched an appeal project to build a replica of their other original Bagnall steam locomotive, ‘Polar Bear’ of 1905 as she now resides at the Amberley Museum in Sussex. The “Build Brown Bear” appeal has been successful and she is in the final assembly stage and is expected to be launched at the railway during the 2019 Isle of Man Heritage Transport Festival in July.
To complete the aspiration of owning three steam locomotives, the opportunity arose for Groudle Glen Railway to purchase ‘Otter’ when construction had been halted due to the lack of a buyer. At this stage Groudle Glen Railway was extremely fortunate to be generously supported by the Alan Chinnery Trust in providing funds to ensure the locomotive was completed. She is ideal for Groudle Glen Railway due to her design, power capabilities and being of a Bagnall design similar to ‘Sea Lion’ & ‘Brown Bear’ which will aid future maintenance of the locomotives.Once she arrives at the railway she will undergo testing with a view to seeing her enter service this summer season and be launched alongside’ Brown Bear’ in July. With her striking blue livery, the volunteers are confident she will be a very popular addition to the railway with local families and visitors alike.
The volunteers are delighted that this once in a lifetime opportunity arose to acquire ‘Otter’, and alongside her Bagnall designed stablemates Sea Lion and Brown Bear will be the realisation of the railway’s aspiration to own three steam locomotives to safeguard the railway’s future.
Despite the damp conditions, large crowds attended to witness the event including honoured guests such as the Chief Minister Howard Quayle MHK for Middle and Garff MHKs Daphne Caine and Martyn Perkins along with descendants of the railway’s builder; Richard Maltby Broadbent.
An emotional event to remember for all is us and we look forward to a long and happy career for the new locos down the glen.
From all the volunteers our heartfelt thanks for all the support to the various individuals and organisations that made Brown Bear and Otter possible.