With the 150th Anniversary of the railway opening to Downpatrick fast approaching next March, the Downpatrick &Co. Down Railway wants anyone with any photos of the old Belfast &County Down Railway to get in touch. It is important that photographs are recorded and preserved to show what life on the railway was like before the line was closed in 1950, and used to run from Belfast to between towns like Comber, Newtownards, Downpatrick, Newcastle and Ardglass.
Photos were meant to last, but all too often we find that they don’t – the people who took them pass away and families throw them out because they’re thought to have no historical value or importance. Indeed, everyone in the DCDR and in the wider railway fraternity knows of at least one story where something has been lost, forgotten or binned.
Although we would very much welcome original prints and negatives, we do know that photos often show loved ones and that people often don’t want to part with them, which we perfectly understand, which is why we can offer anyone who has railway photographs the chance to have them digitally reproduced by us.
Can you help fill a few areas not covered by existing archives? The BCDR carried thousands of British and American personnel during the Second World War, but yet we don’t have a single photograph of any UK or US forces on the BCDR, and nor do any of our sister museums. Local people or servicemen themselves must’ve taken photos – it’s hard to believe that in six years of conflict not one photograph of troops on the BCDR was ever taken.
Another area we’re keen to see if anyone has recorded is the Harland & Wolff diesel engine that used to run between Downpatrick and Ardglass during the Forties. There’s plenty of it in its later life at Great Victoria Street after the lines closed, but few of it on its native turf.
Distance isn’t an issue, we can come round to where you are, whether you’re in Bangor, Ardglass, Newcastle or further afield! We’re also keen to hear from anyone who has a connection to the BCDR – maybe even a member of staff that we haven’t met before, we’d like to record their stories and experiences to provide an oral history of the BCDR.
The Downpatrick &Co. Down Railway is currently planning to create a permanent exhibition about the BCDR in its station building in time for the 150th Anniversary, and is currently working on digitising its entire photograph collection with a view to making it more accessible to the public for research purposes and nostalgia.
Anyone with any photographs, or any other BCDR items or artefacts, or knows someone who might be able to help is urged to get in touch and we’ll be happy to talk to you.