Since 1874, an authentic, steam-powered locomotive has traversed the countryside of the Isle of Man, between the coastal village of Port Erin and the capital of Douglas, huffing and puffing through idyllic green pastures, rolling hills, grazing sheep, and coastal cliffs overlooking the Irish Sea.
Several times per day, these old engines chug along, blowing hoarse, reedy whistles at every crossing. With brief stops in several towns and hamlets, including Castletown, the Isle of Man’s former capital and home to its parliament building, The Old House of Keys, a one-way trek of 16 miles takes around two hours.
All of the locomotives in operation are authentic steam engines from the 19th century, and have been running continuously since. Each engine is lovingly and meticulously maintained by government trust, tourism revenue, and the hard work and efforts of (occasionally fanatical) railway technicians and enthusiasts. A railway museum at the Port Erin terminus chronicles its history and preservation efforts, and is a worthy stop for any railroad junkie.
Riding the rails is a feast for the soul and the senses: the rhythmic respiration of mechanical lungs, the warm breaths of the steam engine, the pastoral landscape unfurling. It is a perfect way to escape the modern world and take in the serenity of the Isle of Man.
Know Before You Go
The IOM Steam Railway operates between early March and early November. A day pass (Go Explore card) costs £16 for adults and £8 for children, with family and multiday rates available. The Go Explore card is also usable on the Isle of Man’s other heritage railway routes, the Manx Electric and Snaefell Mountain Railways.