The Minister for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy, visited restoration work being carried out by the Downpatrick & County Down Railway recently.
In the first visit by a government minister to the County Down heritage railway, the Minister met with volunteers and took a trip out on one of their vintage diesel trains out to their present terminus at Inch Abbey, about two miles north of Downpatrick.
Danny Kennedy said, “I am very impressed with the excellent facilities the Downpatrick & County Down Railway has developed. I congratulate and commend the work of the volunteers for their dedication in helping to preserve our railway heritage for future generations to enjoy.”
The Minister was also given a sneak preview of the Downpatrick & County Down Railway’s new £700,000 Carriage Display Gallery, which will open to the public in August.
The Minister continued: “This is a wholly fascinating project and the Carriage Display Gallery is a fitting home for the many unique exhibits that will soon be on show to the public.”
Mr. Collins, chairman of the Downpatrick & County Down Railway, said, “We’re delighted the minister could visit the DCDR, we have been working on restoring this railway for over twenty years, and it is terrific that he was impressed with our work.”
He continues, “We have a close working relationship the Department of Regional Development, as they have responsibility for regulating not only the Northern Ireland Railways network, but also the relatively small heritage railway sector here.”
“We were recently awarded our Safety Case Exemption certificate from the DRD, and on the back of that we offered an invitation to the Minister to come down to see what it is we actually do,” said the chairman.
“He was taken aback by the size of the railway and museum complex, and particularly impressed with the new Gallery. He especially liked that it allows you to see the different stages of carriage restoration”.
Before leaving, the Minister was presented with a memento of his visit, a signed copy of Gerry Cochrane’s book, “Back in Steam”, which chronicle’s Gerry’s personal story in setting up the DCDR, from its humble beginnings to what it is today.
Mr Collins added, “We look forward to welcoming the Minister back again at some point in the future for our next milestone.”