It’s all change at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway, as work begins to prepare the way for the new £500,000 Heritage Lottery and Northern Ireland Tourist Board funded ‘Carriage Display Gallery’. This work involves the clearing of the site, and most noticeably the demolition of the old steam engine shed.
Railway volunteers have described its demolition as “bittersweet”. This shed was the very first building the fledgling heritage railway built back in the mid-1980s, but was only meant to last a couple of years until something more “railway-esque” was built. The old ‘tin shed’ as it was commonly called was really no more than a hay shed that got used as our very first locomotive shed, and was put up ‘temporarily’ over 25 years ago as something we could use cheaply to store and work on our engines.
However while it’s always been incongruous, seeing it come down you cannot help feel slightly nostalgic for those pioneering days – when no-one thought the scheme would last one year yet alone nearly thirty. We’re very excited by the prospect of work soon to start on the new gallery and the demolition of glorified locomotive barn really marks the sea-change in how we are able to present our work, from a Heath Robinson affair that wasn’t really fit for purpose, to something much more professional.
But it’s not the end of the road for the shed, for it has been carefully dismantled by a local contractor, and will be re-erected elsewhere in the district, but without steam engines poking their noses out the doors.
Work on the carriage gallery construction is expected to begin within the next month.