Transport Trials and Tribulations on

– Posted on Friday 1st March 2013

Over 900 newly digitised transport images from the Manx National Photographic Archive have now been added to Manx National Heritage’s new digital research facility

The images reveal some significant events on air and land in the Isle of Man.  Here’s a snapshot of the highs and lows from the collection:

Visit of the First Aeroplane to the Isle of Man

This momentous occasion formed part of the Isle of Man’s Jubilee celebrations in the summer of 1911, when Mr Graham White was invited by Douglas Celebration Committee to take part in a “great race around the Island, in which the Ben My Chree will try conclusions with the greatest of flying men”  (reported in Peel City Guardian, 01 July 1911).

Graham White’s Farman bi-plane was described in local media of the time as a big and elaborate construction with wingspread of about 30 feet and head and tail length of greater distance. The build of the machine is very light, the stays being mostly of piano wire.

It was originally planned that Graham White would race the Steam Packet Co. steamer Ben my Chree around the Island but this did not happen due to strong gusts of wind. He instead took a 17 minute flight from the Playing Fields at the newly opened Noble’s Park over Douglas Bay, heading towards Laxey before returning. He then waited for the Ben my Chree to circle the Island and flew out to meet the steamer, flying ahead of it on its return to Douglas Bay.

Graham White gave several passenger flights during his stay on the Island. Mrs Hull, wife of a King William’s College master, seized the opportunity to be the first person to be a passenger by aeroplane “to the delight of the hundreds who had paid the moderate charge of sixpence for admission to the Playing Fields…Several times the playing fields were rounded, and then the able aeroplanist made a beautiful vol-plane and brought the high-flying lady, without a jar of her nerves, on to mother earth again” [Mona’s Herald, 12 July 1911].

Mr Robert Adamson, visiting from Buluwayo, Rhodesia and staying in a Douglas guesthouse was reported in the Mona’s Herald to have paid a high fee for an ascent in the passenger seat. No one else could be tempted to mount the plane, including members of the Aviation Committee who had organised the event, or the Governor of the time, Lord Raglan.

See the image on iMuseum.

 The first air balloon crossing from the Isle of Man to Britain.

Mr Percival Spencer and Reverend J.M. Bacon visited the Island on 2 November 1902, arriving on the British gunboat HMS Renard. Hailed in the Manx Sun [15 Nov 1902] as “two aeronauts whose experiments in aerial navigation have received much notice in England”, they had chosen the Isle of Man as their starting point to attempt a crossing of the Irish Sea, describing the Island as a “central spot considered capital for experiments”. The aim of the flight was to see how far the balloon could be usefully used in time of war.

Spencer and Bacon stayed on the Island for several days, waiting for favourable weather. They stayed at the Peveril Hotel, Douglas (now Peveril Buildings, opposite the Sea Terminal). A report in the Isle of Man Times Nov 8th 1902 stated “Children rush down to the pier the moment they get out of school, to see if anything is going on, and everywhere through the town the unusual event has been the subject of conversation.” Reverend Bacon gave a public lecture at the Grand Theatre on the topic of ballooning.

On 11 November 1902, Spencer and Bacon made an ascent from ground in front of the Peveril Hotel. The balloon was inflated from one of Douglas Gas Company’s mains; the inflation taking about 4 hours. Bacon later reported that “As we left Douglas at half past one on Monday afternoon, the Peveril Hotel was packed like a grand stand from basement to parapet. The thoroughfares around were completely blocked and thousands were collected in a dense mass at the Pierhead, so that when we looked down after climbing the first thousand feet into the sky, and took our first photographs, the entire population of the Isle of Man seemed to be clustered like a swarm of bees around Douglas Bay.” [IOM Times, 15 Nov 1902].

The balloon was followed across the sea by the gunboat HMS Renard. Spencer and Bacon had intended to land in Ireland, but wind direction carried them to a glen in Dumfriesshire, Scotland.

See the image on iMuseum

First Motorcars on the Isle of Man

The first private motor car on the Isle of Man was a French Decauville model obtained by Mr George Gilmore in 1899, pioneer of the first telephones in the Isle of Man and one of the three founders of the Manx Automobile Club, of which he was the second Secretary. He opened the Isle of Man’s first telephone exchange in Athol Street, Douglas.  Here Mr Gilmore is pictured driving one of first motor cars on the Island.

Car registration on the Isle of Man began in 1906 and Mr Gilmore was later recorded as owning the third car to be registered on the Isle of Man, MN-3. It was a 7 h.p. Panhard in red weighing 10cwt.

See the image on iMuseum

Engine Smashes into Douglas Station

On 22 August 1925 the train hauled by engine No.3 Pender was involved in an accident at Douglas Station which resulted in the death of the Fireman. The train ran into Douglas station with insufficient braking power as the brakesman had been left behind at Union Mills. The train failed to stop as it arrived at Douglas Station, crashing through the buffers, and coming to rest embedded in the platform. The Fireman was thrown from the footplate and suffered fatal injuries. Vacuum brakes were introduced on the Isle of Man Railway as a result of the accident.

See the image on iMuseum.

Each of these fascinating images and more is now available to browse at the click of a button on


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