The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has helped boost the ever-growing collection at Jurby Transport Museum by shipping its latest attraction to the Island.
The 1978 Ulsterbus Leyland Leopard, which was converted for use as a towing bus in 1999, was shipped from Belfast to Birkenhead with DFDS Seaways and then from Birkenhead to Douglas on the Ben-my-Chree.
Richard Davis, Chairman of Manx Transport Trust which operates the Museum, said: ‘We saw that the Leopard had been converted for towing duties and when it was withdrawn from service we thought it would make a very useful engineering support vehicle at Jurby. It has no Manx connections, as such, but interestingly was known in Northern Ireland as a “Manx Cat” since part of the conversion process had involved shortening it by just over a metre – meaning that it has no tail!’
Jurby Transport Museum opened during Easter this year, following the efforts of a handful of local vintage transport enthusiasts who’d been collecting buses and other vehicles for many years. Most of these vehicles rarely ventured out of their sheds or barns and were therefore not normally on public display.
Richard explained: ‘Despite the island’s rich transport history, road transport had been virtually ignored, with no concerted effort made to save and display vintage vehicles. Our aim was to bring together many of the privately-owned vehicles on the Island and combine them in a display with Government-owned vehicles which were gathering dust in the former Homefield bus garage in Douglas.’
The collection now numbers more than 40 vehicles comprising buses, wagons, trams, cars and a bicycle. They date from 1896 to 1995 and among their number is the little locomotive and passenger carriage which used to run on Ramsey Pier. The museum is staffed by volunteers and admission is free.
‘The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has been an enthusiastic supporter of the museum from its inception and have given generous assistance in bringing five historic buses to the Island from the UK,’ explained Richard. ‘By the start of December, we’d clocked up more than 11,500 visitors to the museum, many having travelled to the Island with the Steam Packet Company for the specific purpose of visiting the museum.
‘We are now looking at the possibility of taking some of our exhibits off-Island to take part in vintage vehicle events in the UK and we look forward to continuing our close links with the Steam Packet Company to enable us to do this. Our aim is to promote Jurby Transport Museum, the Steam Packet Company and Manx Tourism at these events.’
Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: ‘The Island has a long-held fascination with all forms of transport, and the hard work put in by the team at Jurby has created a fitting tribute to public transport. There is a fascinating range of vehicles on display and we’re pleased to support such a worthwhile community effort.
‘What’s more, as Richard says, the Museum is helping boost visitor numbers to the Island and that’s something in which we’re always keen to play our part.’