DCDR volunteer Philip McKinstry and the Royal Mail’s Barbara Roulston launch the Great British Railways series of stamps in Downpatrick, in front of GSWR No. 90 Photo: Chris Halpin, Mourne Observer
Downpatrick helped celebrate the launch of a new Royal Mail set of stamps that feature a Northern Irish locomotive for the first time.Great British Railways, issued on 19 August, features some of the classic locomotives which powered their way around the UK.
The set also marks the 50th anniversary of the building of the last UK steam locomotive, British Rail’s Evening Star.The Northern Ireland locomotive featured on the 97p stamp is a London Midland and Scottish Northern Counties Committee Class WT – Engine No 2 pictured at Larne Station, circa 1947.
Based on a standard LMS design but built for the wider Irish track, the WTs were the last new steam locomotives delivered to the NCC. Widely known as the ‘Jeeps’, they were a highly successful engine used on both passenger and goods trains.
To launch the stamps Royal Mail teamed up with Downpatrick & County Down Railway. Chairman Michael Collins said: “This is the first time a Northern Ireland train has featured on a set of Royal Mail stamps and we are delighted to help with the launch.”While the majority of Northern Ireland’s railways were not incorporated into the “Big Four” railway companies, the NCC was and became very much an integral part of the LMS railway, and actively contributed to the development and modernisation of the railway network right across Britain and Ireland. It is very fitting, therefore, that the quintessential locomotive of the NCC – the ‘Jeep’ – which served Northern Ireland for so long, takes its rightful place alongside its more widely known cousins from Great Britain”.
By the end of the 19th century, numerous private railway companies competed fiercely across the British Isles, but by 1923, with profits waning due to the increasing competition from cars, buses and lorries, over 120 private railway companies were merged into the Big Four.
The 97p stamp which features an LMS (Northern Counties Committee) Class WT – Engine No 2 shown here at Larne Town, circa 1947
These comprised of the London, Midland & Scottish (including the Northern Counties Committee (NCC) in Northern Ireland), the London & North Eastern, the Great Western – which celebrates its 175th anniversary this year – and the Southern Railways.
After the Second World War the Big Four became British Railways (BR) in 1948, and in March 1960, Evening Star brought to an end over 130 years of steam-locomotive building for Britain’s mainline railways, leaving Swindon Works in a blaze of publicity in 1960.
Barbara Roulston, Head of External Relations for Royal Mail Group, said: “The association of steam and stamps goes right back to the 1840s when the introduction of the Penny Post coincided with the arrival of The Steam Age. The steam locomotive came to symbolize an age of unprecedented mobility and industrial prowess across the UK. For this issue we have selected six of the classic locomotives used by the Big Four railway companies as a fitting tribute to the steam era and also to mark the 50th anniversary of the building of the Evening Star, the last of the British-built locomotives.”
A similar event was also held at Whitehead, with WT class No. 4 appropriately in attendence, and at Headhunters Railway Museum in Enniskillen.
Artist’s impression of the interior of the planned carriage gallery
Downpatrick & County Down Railway are celebrating the news that the local heritage railway has secured a grant of £450,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The funding was awarded to the volunteer-run heritage railway museum and will be used to construct a Carriage Viewing Gallery that will allow visitors to learn more about Ireland’s important railway heritage during their visit.
Railway Chairman Michael Collins said, “We are absolutely delighted by this award. Our collection contains items of national importance, for example, we have one of only two Irish Royal Saloon carriages still in existence, one item in our unique collection of railway carriages from all parts of Ireland.”
He continues, “Most of these carriages are either safely locked away in sheds or under tarpaulins to protect them from the weather – meaning we cannot show them to the public, and many people who ask if it possible to see them have to be disappointed. “This grant will change all that, and provide all-year round access to our vintage carriage collection”. Mr. Collins added, “The award will also bring in much needed construction sector jobs to the local economy.” As well as giving visitors access to the carriages, the ‘Downpatrick Carriage Viewing Gallery’ project will highlight the important contribution made by the railways to the social and economic development of Ireland in general and Northern Ireland in particular.
Commenting on the announcement, Head of HLF Northern Ireland, Paul Mullan, said: “This exciting project will highlight the important link between our transport heritage and the development and advancement of our society.” He continues, “Each carriage is important to this history and the project will illustrate the connection between the railway and developments in County Down and other parts of the railway system in Ireland. “The gallery will provide safe access to these historic vehicles for the public to learn from and enjoy, and will enable them to benefit from a greater involvement in Ireland’s transport heritage. We are delighted to be involved in this project”.
A range of interpretation features, including displays, signage and audio/visual aids, will be designed to explain the heritage and history of the various carriages to increase learning opportunities and provide an enhanced visitor experience. In addition to the improvements on site, a programme of outreach and educational activities will be developed to further open up this collection to a wide range of groups. This work will include the development of an education pack for use in local schools. Funding for the project was awarded through HLF’s main funding programme, ‘Heritage Grants’. The programme provides grants of over £50,000 for projects that allow people to explore, preserve and celebrate the wide range of heritage, from their cultural and industrial past to green spaces and natural environment.
BBC Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra programme covered this story. You can listen to the excerpt here:
Arthur Muskett (left) and Adam Hamilton (right) who recently passed away
It is with deep sorry and regret that we have to announce the passing of two members. Arthur Muskett, who could always have been found in the carriage shed working on some new project, and Adam Hamilton, a former BCDR fireman who lately came to prominence in the BBC1 documentary ‘Raising Steam’. Both had been unwell for some time. Our deepest sympathies from all at the DCDR to their families.
MUSKETT, ARTHUR HENRY – Died July 25, 2010, peacefully, at Barrhall Residential Home, Portaferry, late of 2 Rochester Drive, Belfast. Deeply regretted by his beloved wife Muriel and the family circle. House and Funeral private.
HAMILTON, ADAM – Died July 28, 2010, peacefully, in home in Orby Park, Castlereagh, Belfast, beloved husband, father, step-father and grandfather. Will be sadly missed by wife Maureen, daughter Christine and husband Alex, Adam, Amanda and step-daughter Karen and husband Samuel, Rebekah and Andrew. Donations in lieu, if desired, to Haematology Clinical Fund, c/o Ravenhill Funeral Services, 334 Ravenhill Road, Belfast, BT6 8GL. Peace after suffering.