During the Cold War with all the Isle of Man’s WW2 radar stations unusable, a new Chain Home Extra Low (CHEL) station was proposed as part of the ROTOR project. The site chosen was Snaefell, which had originally been discarded in 1940 by Air Commodore Park as being too remote. Park was delegated the job of siting the RAF’s radar stations on the Isle of Man. Snaefell was to become part of the ROTOR 3 programme with an R11 technical block south of Snaefell Summit close to Bungalow Station on the Snaefell Mountain Railway. The target date for completion was April 1956.
The ROTOR 3 programme was to provide radar cover for the north and west of the British Isles which were still exposed to attack and to give low and surface level cover over the sea approached to Glasgow, Liverpool and Bristol (Snaefell would have covered the approach to Liverpool), the absence of which prevented effective action against low flying enemy aircraft. Two new CEW stations were to be built at Uig and Saxa Vord equipped with Type 80 Mk 2 radars and five new CHEL stations equipped with Stage 1 radar to enable detection, tracking and interception of low flying aircraft were proposed at Kilchiaran, Murlough Bay, Prestatyn, West Myne and Snaefell. The new CHEL operations buildings were to be above ground, heavily built and designated R11, similar in internal layout to the underground R2 bunkers.
It was hoped that The ROTOR 3 programme would be complete by 1957 and all technical aspects were classified as ‘Super Priority’.
By the target completion date of April 1956 some ROTOR stations had already closed down and the introduction of the ‘Comprehensive Radar Station’ as part of the ‘1958’ plan had no place for Snaefell and there is no record of whether the station was ever brought fully on-line.
The R11 Operations Block and the adjacent Stand-by Set House are still in good external condition and now house Murray’s Motorcycle Museum. To the rear of their compound there is a small brick building housing water tanks and pumps and on the hillside above a buried fuel store. There is no radar plinth on the site but this might have been remotely sited on Snaefell summit. The front and sides of the buildings are painted white while the rear is unpainted.
Those taking part in the visit were Nick Catford and John Fogg.
Murray’s Motorcycle Museum have announced that they are going to close. The future of the building is uncertain. In the past the local authority have wanted to demolish the building.