The Downpatrick & County Down Railway and Viking living history group the “Gall Gael Vikings” are calling on all would-be Hägar the Horribles to prepare their boarding parties and climb aboard the “Train Through Time” this Bank Holiday weekend, Sunday 30th May.
The train will leave Downpatrick Station and ‘disappear’ through a timewarp to the year 1002AD, where a fierce Viking warrior and trading expedition has landed in the Quoile basin, having arrived from Norway to plunder and pillage!
Colin Murray of the Gall Gael Vikings says they want to pay homage to the Viking King of Norway who was slain in Downpatrick a thousand years ago, “Our camp is at the legendary Viking burial site of the Norwegian King, Magnus Barfoots and we want to bring the rich Viking heritage of County Down to life for warriors of all ages through displays of re-enactment, making the day a Bank Holiday Viking adventure!”
The month of May marks the beginning of the ‘Living History’ Summer season with a number of festivals taking place throughout the country over the coming months. Mark Samuelsson of The Gall Gael Vikings says they are therefore delighted to be hosting the first Viking festival of Summer 2010 at Downpatrick & County Down Railway.
“It may not be a longboat, but using the train you’ll be able to get to Magnus’s Grave quickly and speedily for the fun!” he says. But as well as the rough and tumble fights expected of Viking warriors, the camp will also show other aspects of Viking life – domestic, martial, religious and trade.
Colin adds, “We strive to make this as historically accurate to the time period as possible to give both a thrilling enjoyable day, but educational as well.”
The first heritage diesel train leaves Downpatrick Station for King Magnus’s Grave at 10.30am and the last returns at 5pm. Fares include train fare and admission to the camp. Trains run on the DCDR’s “south line” so boarding will be at Downpatrick Station only, and not Inch Abbey.
And for those wanting the taste of steam, don’t forget the steam train will be out this Bank Holiday Monday, 31st May, as well.
A little bit of history was made at the DCDR last Saturday when the first signal in nearly twenty years was erected on site.
The ex-Great Northern Railway lattice signal was reclaimed in 2006 from the depot of Marsden Recovery Specialists Ltd at Graham Gardens in Lisburn, due to redevelopment works. It had originally been bought by the late John Marsden and installed in the corner of the yard, hence the unusual location, before it was moved to Downpatrick.
It was lifted into position in early Saturday afternoon by the Permanent Way team, under supervision from the Signals & Telegraph team. Already it makes an impressive addition to the landscape. The base was given a concrete cap the following Monday
This signal will protect the approach to the main platform, and part of a number that will appear around the Downpatrick railway environs over the coming months and years.
Volunteers from the Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway have expressed anger and frustration after being targeted by criminals yet again. In the latest incident, all the lead flashing from the station canopy was stripped off.
The damage was discovered on Thursday 9th May when various nails and plastic fixings were found on the platform. Station manager, Neil Hamilton, described what he found, “After some head scratching, we looked up and saw that all the lead flashing on the platform canopy had been stripped off the three sides of the canopy.”
“Our CCTV footage shows three persons coming over fence from field opposite the platform just before nine o’clock on Wednesday night. However this was obviously a well thought out plan as they tried to take steps to avoid further recording of their faces.”
He continues, “But despite this they are spotted again leaving the site at nearly ten o’clock with the lead from the roof”. Police have found a ladder outside the railway site, which has been removed for forensic examination.
Railway chairman, Michael Collins, expressed his disgust, “Not only is this work and expense we could do without, but can you imagine what could happen if someone decided to strip vital parts off one of our trains to take to a scrapman? That doesn’t bear thinking about.”
Mr. Collins says, “We are sick and sore of this constant drip-drip wave of crime being directed against us, and want to spell out that we are not a soft touch and will back full prosecution of these criminals”.
He adds, “These criminals were on site for nearly an hour, working in full daylight on Wednesday night, someone in the car park or surrounding area must have seen something – if you did, it’s vital that you take that information to the police.”
“The police have their suspicions and we have given them our CCTV footage, but we would appeal to these culprits to turn themselves in, or for members of the public to do so. We would also ask all scrap merchants in the area to immediately report any persons attempting to sell a quantity of lead to you.”
Mr. Collins concludes, “Think about your consciences – is it worth a couple of pounds to risk imprisonment?”