No Immediate Concern Over Steam Trains

Despite the earlier than planned closure of a Welsh coal mine, the DoI is confident it will be able to continue fuelling the island’s steam railway.

Minister Tim Crookall was asked by Speaker Juan Watterson what plans are in plans to secure supplies beyond the end of this year.

Before its closure, the gov has sourced its ‘low-emission Welsh steam coal’ from Ffos-y-fran, Merthyr Tydfil. That mine had been due to close later this year anyway, but a plant failure so that brought forward.

Mr Crookall said: ‘Initially the UK Government advised that steam coal would not be mined in the UK but following the situation in Ukraine have now given planning permission for one new site; it may well be that other mines are also approved. The department has been aware of this issue for some time and had run a mini-tender to obtain alternative supplies in 2021, which identified a number of suitable suppliers.

‘The Department has obtained coal from local and UK-based wholesale suppliers which meets the needs of the steam railway but continues to have a low impact on the environment. Whilst prices have increased in line with other fuel types, the department does not have any immediate concerns with the security of supply of suitable fuel to operate the steam railway’

Heritage railways are facing an uphill battle to continue running on coal, despite promises from the UK gov, the cost of sourcing the fossil fuel is likely to make this even harder in future years. However, the Heritage Rail Association, of which the DoI is part, is working on securing supplies for future years.

On island, the gov is understood to be in talks with Dr John Taylor over plans to covert the coal powered engines into hydrogen power.

In a recent planning application, Dr Taylor said: ‘I am in the process of assembling a team to redesign the Isle of Man locomotive boilers to run on Green Hydrogen without changing their appearance so they will still cross the Manx landscape delighting tourists and local children, still going chuff, chuff, chuff emitting solely Green Steam.’