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Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway on your screens throughout Ireland, Britain, and further afield!

Let's Celebrate - CBeebies
22nd March 2010
Thomas Ticker meets children who are celebrating festivals in the UK. Eadaoin and Orla from Downpatrick are preparing for St Patrick's Day.
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BBC Newsline - BBC1 NI
25th August, 2009
Randal Cave returns to Marino Station
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BBC Newsline - BBC1 NI
28th June, 2009
Report on vandal attack on station and carriages
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BBC Newsline - BBC1 NI
2nd October, 2007
Julian Fowler joins a group of ex-Great Northern Railway men as they take up the challenge of driving a train 50 years on from the closure of the Enniskillen line.
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BBC Newsline - BBC1 NI
16th November, 2006
Emer Flanagan tells Santa what she wants for Christmas
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Nationwide - RTE1
24th November, 2004
Rowan Hand takes a look at the Footplate Experience Courses.
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Northern Visions
1st November, 2004
Northern Visions, a Belfast based community TV station, did a full documentary on the DCDR Halloween trains
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BBC Newsline - BBC1 NI
29th October, 2004
Pete Melly investigates some ghostly goings on!
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BBC Newsline - BBC1 NI
13th September, 2003
Jennifer Duddy takes a look at the rebuilt station
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BBC Newsline - BBC1 NI
26th December, 2002
Barbara McCann looks at the fire damage to the station
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Sky News
26th December, 2002
Short mention of the Boxing Day fire
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UTV Live at Six - ITV1
20th January, 1999
Brian Black watches the new Quoile Bridge being installed
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BBC Newsline - BBC1 NI
September, 1997
Anita McVeigh reveals the history of the BCDR Royal Saloon
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UTV Live at Six - ITV1
September, 1997
Niall Donnelly also looks inside the BCDR Royal Saloon
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BBC Newsline - BBC1 NI
20th March, 1996
Short report on the awarding of a Heritage Lottery grant for the steam engines.
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BBC Newsline - BBC1 NI
14th February, 1996
Darryl McIntyre reports on the Heritage Lottery Grant for the reconstruction of the Maghera Shed.
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UTV Six Tonight - ITV1
19th March, 1992
Paul Clark examines the railway scheme as part of a special on the regeneration of Downpatrick.
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BBC1 NI - Scan
December 1991
TV magazine programme Scan takes a quick 'scan' over the trains at Downpatrick in December 1991.
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ITV Highway - 1991
17th March, 1991
Sir Harry Secombe visits the railway for the national ITV series Highway.
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UTV Six Tonight - ITV1
30th October, 1989
Ronan Kelly braves the very first Halloween Ghost Trains for UTV on the
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UTV Six Tonight - ITV1
13th September 1988
UTV's Ronan Kelly takes a trip out to the newly reopened Loop Platfom.
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UTV Good Evening Ulster - ITV1
22nd January 1987
Pamela Gardner reports on the new railway scheme for UTV's Good Evening Ulster Programme.
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All excerps are copyright ©by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Radio Telefis Eireann (RTE), Sky News and Ulster Television (UTV). No infringment intended


Speaker LISTEN AGAIN

A chance to hear the Downpatrick & County Down Railway making the airwaves

Your Place & Mine - BBC Radio Ulster
23rd April 2011
Anne Marie McAleese talks to Michael Collins about the Easter Eggspress

Evening Extra - BBC Radio Ulster
17th January 2011
Robert Gardiner speaks to Desmond Coakham about his new book on the Belfast & County Down Railway

Evening Extra - BBC Radio Ulster
2nd August 2010
Helen Jones reports on the Heritage Lottery funding for the carriage gallery
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Your Place & Mine - BBC Radio Ulster
23rd January 2010
Anne Marie McAleese talks to Michael Collins about the 60th Anniversary of the railway's closure
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Good Morning Ulster - Radio Ulster
11th August 2009
BCDR veteran Randal Cave returns to his old station
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News Bulletin - Radio Ulster
28th June 2009
Report on vandal attack on station and carriages
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Good Morning Ulster - Radio Ulster
23rd March 2009
Will Leitch joins in the celebrations of the 150th Annivesary of the first train into Downpatrick
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Your Place & Mine - BBC Radio Ulster
21st March 2009
Anne Marie McAleese talks to Michael Collins about the 150th Anniversary of the railway's opening
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Your Place & Mine - BBC Radio Ulster
8th December 2008
Anne Marie McAleese takes the controls of the steam train
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Rick Nugent - U105
1st November 2008
Rick talks to George Legge about the Halloween Ghost Trains
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Nolan Show - BBC Radio Ulster
14th April 2008
Linda McAuley, standing in for Stephen Nolan talks to Michael Collins about the DCDR's old photo appeal.
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George Jones - U105
8th April 2008
George talks to Michael Collins about the DCDR's old photo appeal.
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Joe Lindsay - BBC Radio Ulster
24th March 2008
Joe talks to Michael Collins about how the Easter Eggspress has been.
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Rick Nugent - U105
15th March 2008
Rick talks to Michael Collins about the Shamrock Express.
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Alan Simpson - BBC Radio Ulster
14th January 2008
Alan Simpson talks to Michael Collins about the BBC1 documentary 'Raising Steam', broadcast that night.
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Rick Nugent - U105
22nd December 2007
Rick talks to Michael Collins today about the last weekend of Santa's Lapland Express.
Windows Media - Real Player

Your Place & Mine - BBC Radio Ulster
8th December 2007
Anne Marie McAleese takes the controls of the steam train
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Alan Simpson - BBC Radio Ulster
30th November 2007
Alan Simpson talks to Michael Collins about the Lapland Express
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Your Place & Mine - BBC Radio Ulster
17th November 2007
Anne Marie McAleese talks to Michael Collins about the 20th Anniversary of the first trains
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Your Place & Mine - BBC Radio Ulster
10th August 2007
Caroline Nolan takes the train to see the Inch Abbey Monk
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.John Daly Show - 15th July, 2006,
BBC Radio Ulster

John Daly talks to Philip Campbell of the Magnus Vikings about the Viking Living History Village at the DCDR.

Your Place & Mine - 15th July, 2006,
BBC Radio Ulster

Anne-Marie McAleese talks to Philip Campbell about the Viking Village.

Talkback - 19th May, 2005,
BBC Radio Ulster

Ruth McDonald talks to DCDR Chairman Michael Collins about vandalism.

Your Place & Mine - 30th April, 2005, BBC Radio Ulster
Michael McNamee talks to Robert Gardiner about the new name and the railway's 20th Anniversary

Love 40 - 3rd April, 2005,
BBC Radio Ulster

Walter Love takes a trip to Inch

Evening Extra - 11th April, 2004,
BBC Radio Ulster

Paddy O'Flaherty takes a trip on the Easter Eggspress

Love 40 - 21st September, 2003, BBC Radio Ulster
Walter Love officially opens the rebuilt station

Good Morning Ulster - 12th September, 2003, BBC Radio Ulster
Tom Coulter takes a look at the rebuilt station after the Boxing Day Blaze

Your Place & Mine - BBC Radio Ulster
8th March 2003
Michael McNamee takes a trip on the train and chats to volunteers.
Windows Media - Real Player

Good Morning Ulster - 6th January, 2003, BBC Radio Ulster
Homara Choudhary checks up on progress with the restoration of the fire-hit station

Good Morning Ulster - 27th December, 2002, BBC Radio Ulster
Wendy Austin speaks to Edwin Gray and Anne Trainor about the Boxing Day Fire.

News Bulletin - 26th December, 2002, BBC Radio Ulster
Keith Burnside presents a news item reporting the boxing day fire.

Good Morning Ulster - 29th March, 2001, BBC Radio Ulster
Paddy O'Flaherty joins the celebrations of the railway achievement of full museum status.

Good Morning Ulster - 11th September, 2000, BBC Radio Ulster
Noreen Erskine hops on O&K No.3 for a Footplate Experience Course

Evening Extra - 30th October, 2000, BBC Radio Ulster
Eddie O'Gorman steps onboard the Halloween Ghost Trains.

Your Place & Mine - 20th March, 1999, BBC Radio Ulster
John Toal talks about the launch of the book "The Belfast &County Down Railway"

Your Place & Mine - 16th January, 1999, BBC Radio Ulster
John Toal talks about the new Quoile Bridge

Steam in the Heart of Down - 10th November, 1991, BBC Radio Ulster
Ian Sinclair presents a special half-hour documentary on the history of the railway

Places Apart - 19th March, 1990, BBC Radio Ulster
Helen Mark looks at the history of Downpatrick, including its railway past and the then new society

Pause with Dawes - 12th May, 1990, Belfast Community Radio
Leslie Daws talks to Michael Collins about the railway project

Good Morning Ulster - 30th October, 1989, BBC Radio Ulster
Paddy O'Flaherty reveals the very first Halloween Ghost Trains

The Fathom Line - 15th November, 1987, BBC Radio Ulster
Rowan Hand visits the railway one-month prior to the railway's first public train in 1987

Real logoWe use the RealMedia format for webcasting audio. In order to listen, you must have "Real Player"installed on your computer, which can be downloaded free at: www.real.com

All excerps are copyright ©by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). No infringement intended


PRESS RELEASES

Raising Steam Documentary
07th January, 2008

Ghostly Monk?
16th August, 2006
Steam Engine Visits Railway
08th June, 2006
Museums Leaflet Launched
29th May, 2006
New May Trains 06
13th April, 2006
2005 Best Season Ever
5th May, 2006
May Day
28th April, 2006
Easter Egg Trains 06
13th April, 2006
CCTV Now Installed
24th March, 2006
Shamrock Specials
17th March, 2006
Triangle Complete
15th January, 2006
Phone Problems
7th January, 2006
Steam into the New Year
1st December, 2005
Lapland Express now Leaving
1st December, 2005
New Stock at Downpatrick
15th November, 2005
Haunted Trains!
23rd October, 2005
Last Summer Train
9th September, 2005

1980s Weekend
27th August, 2005
New Name &20th Anniversary
28th April, 2005
May Day Trains 2005
24th April, 2005
Easter Eggspress 2005
18th March, 2005
Railway Will be Open
13th March, 2005
Shamrock Specials
17th March, 2005
Have Turkey Free Xmas
29th December, 2004
Railway Says Thanks
13th December, 2004
Santa Arriving Platform 1
2nd December, 2004
Halloween Ghost Trains
28th October, 2004
Swing N'Steam - Glenn Miller Day
14th August, 2004
Summer Steam
3rd July, 2004
Murder on the Down Express
7th May 2004
May Day
3rd May, 2004
Easter Eggspress Train
11th April, 2004
St. Patrick's Day Trains
17th March, 2004
Station Reopening
13th September, 2003

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ARCHIVE NEWS


 


Diesel for the Twelfth Weekend
Friday, 11 July, 2014

For operational reasons trains at DCDR on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th July will be diesel hauled. Steam will return next weekend for the remainder of the summer.

 


Hop Aboard the Easter Eggspress Train!
Sunday, 24th March, 2014

George Legge gets his Easter Egg from the Easter Bunny

George Legge gets his Easter Egg from the Easter Bunny

There'll be 'eggs-travagant' fun at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway with eggs galore on this year's "Easter Eggspress", running over the Easter weekend.

The bunnies are already hopping the rails at the local heritage railway, and the "Easter-Eggspress" is a unique and special treat for kids and a great way to say "Happy Easter!" for all the family.

The train will be used for excursions from the town centre from 2pm till 5pm on Saturday 19th April, Easter Sunday (20th April) & Easter Monday (21st April).

Railway Chairman John Wilson, says that children passengers receive a special treat from a special guest who's bounced into the station for this weekend, "You'll be greeted by the Easter Bunny who'll be hopping with joy to give them their Easter Eggs."

He continues, "If you bring your camera you might get your child to catch a photograph of this elusive bunny!"

"And as well as fun for the children, mums and dads also get the chance to experience rail travel at its most traditional, as passengers will be able to taste the elegance of by-gone railway travel on fifty to one hundred year old carriages through the picturesque County Down countryside along nearly two miles of restored track.

"Warm teas and coffees, as well as lots of buns, at highly competitive rates, will be served all day onboard a buffet carriage parked at Inch Abbey station; if travelling in to the town from Inch Abbey the return journey can be made on any of the services."

Mr. Wilson says "A trip to the station museum and the new "Carriage Gallery" visitor centre brings the golden age of the railway vividly to life and looks at the impact that the railways had on people's lives, through artefacts from the smallest such as a ticket in the upstairs exhibition, or the largest such as lovingly restored railway carriages in the Carriage Gallery and the stark contrast of the wrecks these vehicles once were when rescued.

For the younger train fans, children can enjoy their own "Kids' Station" in the Gallery, and dress up as a train driver or guard, or can get to drive Thomas the Tank Engine on a model railway - or will they let the "big kids" get a go too?"

For those a little more adventurous, and perhaps live out a childhood dream, you can buy a "Footplate Pass" for just £20 and get to travel up in the locomotive cab with the driver, or why not pre-book these in advance for someone special's birthday treat?
Tickets cost £5.50 adults, £5.50 children (including egg), £4 children aged below three years old (including egg), and £4.50 senior citizens.

There's no need to book and for further information on events - or if you are thinking about joining as a volunteer contact the Downpatrick Tourist Information Centre on 028 4461 2233 or find them on facebook at www.facebook.com/downrail or follow on twitter @downrail

 


Classic Carriage is Welcomed Back on Track at Heritage Railway
Tuesday, 18th March 2014

Carriage No. 728 sits at the platform

Carriage No. 728 sits at the platform

St. Patrick's Day not only saw the return of Ireland's patron saint to the town, but also saw a welcome return of a classic carriage back into service at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway.

A team of 10 volunteers of all ages have taken nearly two years and 10,000 hours of work to restore a carriage originally built in 1951 by the Ulster Transport Authority as part of a new train commissioned by the Northern Ireland government as part of their contribution to the Festival of Britain celebrations.

The Festival was a national exhibition held throughout the United Kingdom in the summer of that year, organised to give the post-war country a feeling of recovery in the aftermath of the Second World War and to promote the UK's contribution to science, technology, industrial design, architecture and the arts.

The interior of Carriage No. 728

The interior of Carriage No. 728

This new rake of carriages was built at the UTA's Duncrue Street workshops in Belfast, based on older pre-war standard LMS (London Midland & Scottish Railway) designs and were used as one of Ireland's few named trains - the "Festival Express", which ran between Londonderry and Belfast, and the new stock helped make the 8.25am from Belfast look a little more modern - for the time.

By 1958 the "Festival" coaches had all been converted to be used as diesel railcars, and it is believed No. 728 is the sole survivor of this special train.

It was preserved by the Downpatrick & County Down Railway in September 1991 after withdrawal from Northern Ireland Railways, and had been used solely as a waiting carriage for the local heritage railway's popular Halloween Ghost Trains and Lapland Express, as well as luckily just surviving an arson attack on the station in December 2002.

728 as originally preserved

728 as originally preserved

However that all changed when the vehicle began full restoration in July 2012 back to passenger service, which included refitting the interior with as-original comfortable moquette seating, wooden panelling, coupled with major mechanical work which saw the reinstatement of brakes which had been removed prior to preservation. The vehicle has also been fitted out with four wheelchair bays for disability access.

Painted in the Ulster Transport Authority's green livery and sporting their distinctive logo bearing the Red Hand of Ulster, No. 728 formed part of the park and ride service during the St. Patrick's weekend with the public able to enjoy its charming 1950s atmosphere.

DCDR chairman John Wilson said the restoration work was a ‘marvellous job’, adding, "this 'Festival' carriage is an important part of our railway heritage, and I am delighted that passengers can once again travel in it for the first time in over 30 years, and fifty-six years since it was last hauled by a steam locomotive."

If you would like to help with any project at the DCDR, and you are thinking about joining as a volunteer contact the Downpatrick Tourist Information Centre on 028 4461 2233, or find them at www.facebook.com/downrail or follow on twitter @downrail



Shamrock Specials Leaving Platform on Sunday & Monday
Sunday, 10th March 2014

St. Patrick's Day Parade arrives at the station

St. Patrick's Day Parade arrives at the station

With carparking at a premium in the St. Patrick's Carnival, the Downpatrick & County Down Railway will be offering a "rail" alternative to carnival goers with its St. Patrick’s Day ‘Shamrock Specials.’

In conjunction with Down District Council, the railway will be offering a Park'n'Ride service from their station on the Belfast Road directly into the heart of the carnival between noon and 5pm on St. Patrick's Day, Monday 17th March.

Railway Chairman, John Wilson, says that this St. Patrick's Day boarding at the Inch Abbey terminus is a sure way of beating the traffic and letting you steam into the town for the festival celebrations.

"We know that many people end up parking far from the town and end up having to walk a fair distance into the town centre," he says, "So why not park at our Inch Abbey Station, where you can walk onto a vintage train that will take you into the heart of the carnival?”

But as well as providing a means of getting from A to B on St. Patrick's Day, Mr. Wilson suggests a visit to Inch Abbey itself, a ruined 12th Century Cistercian Abbey.

He says, "While also getting people into the carnival, if you're already in the town, why not get onboard at Downpatrick and travel out and visit this glorious Christian heritage site while celebrating Ireland’s Patron Saint? He adds, “You also get the best view of Down Cathedral, the site of St. Patrick’s Grave, from on board the train.”

Tickets will be available on the day at Inch Abbey and Downpatrick stations, Park and Ride return tickets cost £5.50 adult, £4.50 children or senior citizens, while children aged three years old or below go free.

As well as this public service offered by the local heritage railway, on Sunday 16 March, the railway will also be expanding its St. Patrick's Day events by taking you even further back in time to discover what life was like a millenia ago, close to the time of St. Patrick.

The tour starts in Down County Museum for this medieval mystery tour of Downpatrick. This unique family event will take you to a variety of sites and centres in the historic town of Downpatrick to uncover our area’s rich medieval history. A guide will led visitors on an epic afternoon adventure which will include tracking down medieval treasures in Down County Museum, unearthing artefacts at the Saint Patrick Centre and travelling back in time to Inch Abbey on a genuine steam train express with the Downpatrick and Co Down Railway.

The price of the event is £7 for adults, £4.50 for children and a family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) is £20.

Refreshments will be served on both days onboard a buffet carriage while you wait for the train. The railway museum exhibition and new Carriage Gallery visitor centre will also be open, as well as a new interpretative display actually inside the carriage workshop allowing you to see the work that goes on behind the scenes.

For further information on events - or if you are thinking about joining as a volunteer contact the Downpatrick Tourist Information Centre on 028 4461 2233 log on to the railway's website at www.downrail.co.uk or find them on facebook at www.facebook.com/downrail or follow on twitter @downrail


Bright Future for Signal Box Found in Orchard
Wednesday, 22nd January 2013

Bundoran Junction North is gingerly lifted from it hiding place in a garden underneath an apple tree to head for its new home

Bundoran Junction North is gingerly lifted from it hiding place in a garden underneath an apple tree to head for its new home

An historic railway signal cabin that lay in an orchard for nearly 60 years is to be restored to its former glory by the Downpatrick and County Down Railway (DCDR) after securing a grant of nearly £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The grant has been awarded as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s new small grants programme “Sharing Heritage”. The project will restore the former Bundoran Junction North signal cabin and create a mechanical signalling demonstration to add to the existing attractions at the Downpatrick heritage railway. Visitors will be able to see the signals in operation when the trains are running and during museum open days.

In its working life, the cabin used to control the north end of Bundoran Junction in Kilskeery, County Tyrone, formerly a major junction for the Great Northern Railway (Ireland), where trains diverged to travel to places like Omagh, Enniskillen, Fintona Junction (where the famous horse tram operated), and Bundoran itself, before the entire line was closed on 1st October 1957.

The view from the signal cabin out into the orchard

The view from the signal cabin out into the orchard

Railway Chief Civil Engineer, David Crone, said, "Very little of the railway infrastructure from the west of the province survives so we are delighted to have secured this significant piece of railway heritage.”

Paul Mullan, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund NI added their support “We were pleased to support this modest but important heritage project. Over our 20 years we have supported a range of projects with the DCDR to enable them to protect our railway heritage and share it with everyone. This project will help them demonstrate and explain another aspect of our railways' heritage.”

David Crone continued the story of the cabin, “While Bundoran Junction Station survives as a private dwelling, we didn't think any of the small signal cabins still survived until a chance discussion with one of our members and a Fermanagh local on boat in the middle of Lough Erne!

The former Bundoran Junction (North) signal cabin is offloaded late night at Downpatrick Station

The former Bundoran Junction (North) signal cabin is offloaded late night at Downpatrick Station

"He told us that the former Bundoran Junction North cabin had been saved to be used as a garden shed in a Ballinamallard home."

Mr Crone explains the scene that they found, “The top half of the signal cabin had lain for over 50 years in an orchard in Ballinamallard Co Fermanagh where it had been put to use as a very superior summerhouse but had suffered somewhat in later years due to age and the orchard becoming a bit overgrown.

“The location was known to a few ex-Great Northern Railway veterans in the area who kept the cabin’s survival and details of the exact location a well-guarded secret. When the site came due for re-development the owners were very keen to see the cabin saved, and our friends from the Headhunters Railway Museum in Enniskillen helped us recover it in 2011.

Whilst initial inspection revealed that although the base was rotten, the vast majority of the structure was sound and would be suitable for restoration and a new use.

Bundoran Junction (North) signal cabin in its original position

Bundoran Junction (North) signal cabin in its original position
(c) Bluebell Railway Museum

To add to the restoration project and working signal exhibition, the project team are keen to obtain any information relating to its former use. They are seeking photographs of signalmen who would have operated it in GNRI days or anyone who worked at Bundoran Junction so they can include this in an interpretative display in the restored cabin.

Mr Crone adds, “We are also interested in contacting anyone who has recollections of life at the Junction as these memories are as much part of the cabin as the wood that makes up its fabric. If anyone has anything they could share we would be grateful if they contact either ourselves or Headhunters Museum in Enniskillen.”

If you would like to help with any project at the DCDR, and you are thinking about joining as a volunteer contact the Downpatrick Tourist Information Centre on 028 4461 2233, contact us via the Contacts section, or find us on facebook at www.facebook.com/downrail follow on twitter @downrail



DCDR Founder Named in New Years Honours
Monday, 30th December 2013

Gerry Cochrane (left) with Bill Gillespie at the launch of Gerry's book "Back in Steam" in June 2009

Gerry Cochrane (left) with Bill Gillespie at the launch of Gerry's book "Back in Steam" in June 2009

The founder of Northern Ireland's only full-size heritage railway, the Downpatrick & County Down Railway, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen's New Year Honours for service to railway preservation and tourism in County Down.

Gerry Cochrane was born in 1935 within sight and sound of the old Belfast & County Down Railway. Since early childhood, he has had a strong interest in railways. His final thesis in architecture was based on the study of Working Railway Museums, researched in both Great Britain and Europe as there were none in Northern Ireland.

He joined the South Eastern Education and Library Board and became their Senior Architect and in 1982 he began a process which has resulted in the return of steam to Downpatrick.

Gerry helping to cut a rail on site

Gerry getting his hands dirty helping to cut a rail on site

During this time, health reasons brought his professional career to a premature end in 1991, but Gerry battled on and continued with the development of the heritage railway and museum from a derelict brown field site to the vibrant living museum it is today.

Whilst he retired from management in 2004, he continues to have an active role in vintage carriage restoration.

Railway Honorary Vice President WF Gillespie said, "When a few of us met in Denvir's Hotel on a bleak winter night 30 years ago to discuss the possibility of a preserved railway scheme at Downpatrick, it was somewhat unreal, and perhaps none of us - except Gerry Cochrane - really expected that our dreams would ever be realised.”

Gerry Cochrane (left) with Santa Claus and Cyril Leathers on a Lapland Express train

Gerry Cochrane (left) with Santa Claus and Cyril Leathers on a Lapland Express train

He continues, "Many obstacles were encountered and there were times when most of us - except Gerry Cochrane - were prepared to give up. However, he is made of sterner stuff, and always sought and found a way through the difficulties.

It was my pleasure and privilege to help clear some of the obstacles, particularly in the early days, and in the process, I came to admire the tenacity and determination of Gerry and other colleagues who joined in the enterprise over the years.

"I am delighted to know of Gerry's recognition in the New Year's Honours List. It is richly deserved. I congratulate him and wish him many years of continuing interest in the Railway which he founded."

Gerry Cochrane (right) with Michael Portillo and Michael Collins during the filming of Great British Railway Journeys

Gerry Cochrane (right) with Michael Portillo and Michael Collins during the filming of Great British Railway Journeys

DCDR chairman John Wilson said: "We are absolutely delighted that Gerry has received this well-deserved acknowledgment of all his efforts over so many years. He was the founder member of the Society and it is thanks in large measure to his determination that the Railway continues to bring pleasure to the thousands of people who travel on and watch our trains every year.

"Gerry, in his own unique way, has inspired many people to give freely of their time to the community, creating an attraction unique in Northern Ireland and richly deserves this award."

He continues, "I extend to him and his wife Róisín our heartiest congratulations from all the members of the railway".



Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway Pays Tribute to McGrady
Tuesday, 12th November, 2013

Eddie McGrady is pictured here in July 2000 at an event at the Loop Platform to launch the twinning of Downpatrick and Listowel towns

Eddie McGrady is pictured here in July 2000 at an event at the Loop Platform to launch the twinning of Downpatrick and Listowel towns

The Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway has expressed its "deep sadness" on learning of the passing of Eddie McGrady on Monday evening. As a prominent figure in the area, it was Eddie McGrady that the railway's founder, Gerry Cochrane turned to for advice and support in regards the idea of establishing a heritage railway in the town.

Mr Cochrane said, "I first met Eddie in 1982 when he agreed to meet me to discuss my proposals for the restoration of the railway. At that time he was Chairman of Down District Council and his reaction to the proposal would, therefore, be essential.

"In the event, his enthusiasm surprised me and from that day his encouragement was instrumental in getting the project off the ground."

He continues, "Indeed, throughout the development he was always ready to help on the numerous occasions when difficulties arose and in the early days; as a chartered accountant he acted as our auditor in a voluntary capacity when we were struggling to establish a sound financial footing in those fledgling days.

Mr. Cochrane added, "His contribution to the success of our railway cannot be overstated and he will be sadly missed by all of us who have had the honour of his acquaintance."

His views were echoed by fellow founder, and DCDR vice-president, Mr. WF Gillespie, "Eddie was at the very first meeting with Gerry and I to discuss getting the Railway off the ground. He was a great help to us in the early stages, especially in establishing our relationship with the Council."

He added, "In some of my other activities I also had reason to contact Eddie and I always found him to be a real gentlemen giving freely of his time to address the issues brought to him. A man who will be sadly missed by all who were privileged to know him."

DCDR chairman, John Wilson, added his tribute, "Whilst the Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway has always been apolitical in its ethos and outlook, it is fair to say that without Eddie McGrady's vital support at the inception of the project, there would be no railway in the town today. Eddie remained a friend of the DCDR throughout the years, and we deeply regret that he will not see our 30th Anniversary in 2015."


Medieval Mystery Tour of Down Launched at Railway
Friday, 21st June, 2013

Solve the Medieval Mystery with the Monks of Inch Abbey

Solve the Medieval Mystery with the Monks of Inch Abbey

The Downpatrick and Co Down Railway was the venue for the launch last week of a new joint initiative from four of the key heritage sites around the Hill of Down – a Medieval Mystery Tour to take place each Sunday afternoon in July-August between 2pm and 5pm.

The Tour has been designed to take explorers of all ages on an exciting trip that begins at Down County Museum, continues at the St Patrick Centre, and involves a steam train ride, from the Downpatrick and Co Down Railway station, back in time to the late 12th century Inch Abbey. Guided by archaeologists, visitors will be set some intriguing challenges including taking part in a dig, the discovery of medieval artefacts, and unravelling the mystery surrounding them at Inch Abbey, before being brought back on the train to explore the new railway Viewing Gallery.

On launching the new tour, new Down District Council Chairperson, Maria McCarthy, said: ‘The Medieval mystery tour is an exciting and engaging way for local people and tourists to discover the ancient heritage of Down. This is a fun and engaging event, showcasing the best the four outstanding heritage venues of the Museum, St Patrick’s Centre, Inch Abbey and the Railway, have to offer.

As Chairman of Council, I am delighted to see these wonderful tourism sites that surround Down Cathedral and St Patrick’s Grave working in partnership to provide a first class visitor experience which is great value and great entertainment. Most excitingly the tour will also include a scenic trip on a genuine steam train from the 1930s.’

She continued: ‘As a joint venture between Down District Council, the St Patrick Centre, the Downpatrick and Co Down Railway and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, this new Tour is effectively four great days out rolled into one, and provides a great way to showcase the rich heritage of Downpatrick and the wider St Patrick’s Country. I would encourage everyone to come along over the summer months to take part in this tour, and experience the rich heritage, history and scenery on our own doorstep in Down District.”

Tickets for the Medieval Mystery Tour of Down can be purchased at Down County Museum or Downpatrick Tourist Information Centre, based in the St Patrick Centre. Alternatively, tickets can be bought over the phone by contacting Down Arts Centre on 028 44610747.

Tickets are priced at £7.00 for adults, £4.50 for children aged 3-16, £5 concessions, £20.00 for a family/friends ticket (2 adults/2 children) and Under 3s free.

 


Rare Belfast & County Down Railway Wagon "Comes Home"
Monday, 10th June, 2013

The wagon is loaded from its resting place in Dromore

The wagon is loaded from its resting place in Dromore

A rare link back to the days when farmers loaded their produce at the local railway station to be sent to Belfast and beyond has been saved by the Downpatrick & County Down Railway.

A century-old wooden railway wagon built in 1911 for the old Belfast & County Down Railway, which is thought to be the sole surviving example of nearly two-hundred built for the local railway line, was recovered from a field near Dromara where it has lain for nearly 60 years.

DCDR museum curator, Neil Hamilton said, "The wagon is a BCDR closed van and has been used as a store, and the roof is covered in tin which has protected the body quite effectively over the years. This wagon is, as far as I know, the only BCDR wagon that is around and in a condition that would be restorable.

He continues, "The condition of the wagon is quite remarkable for its age. The main body roof and panelling are very sound, and the main under frame is very sound apart from some rot on the lower edge areas of the side longitudinal members but in general the frame is very strong which allowed us to lift it."

TThe wagon is lifted on to the temporary underframe

The wagon is lifted on to the temporary underframe

"The owner was going to break the wagon up but is a friend of one of our volunteers, so he asked us if we had any interest before he did so - and we are delighted that he did!"

The wagon was lifted from its resting place last Saturday and towed by tractor and trailer from Dromara to Downpatrick, in a move that surely turned some heads on the main road.

Neil added, "Historically it's a very significant find and fits in with our museums acquisition policy, we set it on a spare metal under frame so we could move it into the Carriage Gallery for storage and display, where it would dry out and a more detailed examination and assessment would be undertaken prior to restoration."

The wagon can be seen in the Carriage Gallery from this weekend onwards, which marks the start of the Downpatrick & County Down Railway's "Summer Steam" season, and the DCDR is always looking for people to join its ranks to help restore vehicles such as this wagon, find out more about volunteering at the railway via their website at www.downrail.co.uk or facebook.com/downrail or on twitter @downrail


Choo-Choose the Train This Summer
Sunday, 2nd June, 2013

Having fun inside the Carriage Gallery

Having fun inside the Carriage Gallery

If you've ever taken a walk or a cycle along the Comber Greenway, you might know it was a former railway line - but have you ever wondered where it went to? It was, in fact the main line from Belfast to Newcastle via Downpatrick.

And over the last twenty years a small group of volunteers in Downpatrick have painstakingly rebuilt two miles of the line as Northern Ireland's only full-size working heritage railway, running from the town centre out through St. Patrick's Country to the ruins of the 12th Century Cistercian Inch Abbey.

From 15th June till 15th September, visitors will be able to travel back in time to the golden age of trains every weekend.

Railway Chairman John Wilson said that Inch Abbey is a popular destination with train passengers.

“People who have lived in Downpatrick all their lives have travelled on our trains and told us that they were sorry that they’d never been to the Abbey and didn’t realise how beautiful it and this area of the Quoile River was,” he says, “So if the sun's out, why not hop on board and bring a picnic with you and catch one of the later trains back?”

Mr. Wilson added, “Or if the rainclouds continue to linger as they've done over most of May, you're always undercover inside a railway carriage - and hop about our buffet carriage to stop the sarnies getting soggy!”

Also making her debut since hauling her first ever passenger trains in her existence at Christmas, having only hauled wagons of sugarbeet during her working life, passengers can now see the "Sugarpuff" or Orenstein & Koppel built steam locomotive No. 1 can now in her full glory this year for the first time since the 1950s.

Doors open to the public on both Saturdays and Sundays, with the first train leaving at 2 o'clock with the last train returning from Inch Abbey at 5 o'clock.

Passengers will be able to taste the elegance of by-gone railway travel on fifty to one hundred year old carriages through the picturesque County Down countryside along nearly two miles of restored track.

And as an extra treat, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency will be providing something special for train visitors - a living-history "Monk" who will greet passengers arriving from Downpatrick, and provided them with a talk about the ruins of the Abbey and life for the people who lived and worked there.

Warm teas and coffees, as well as lots of buns, at highly competitive rates, will be served all day onboard a buffet carriage parked at Inch Abbey station; if travelling in to the town from Inch Abbey the return journey can be made on any of the services.

Mr. Wilson says "A trip to the station museum and the new "Carriage Gallery" visitor centre brings the golden age of the railway vividly to life and looks at the impact that the railways had on people's lives, through artefacts from the smallest such as a ticket in the upstairs exhibition, or the largest such as lovingly restored railway carriages in the Carriage Gallery and the stark contrast of the wrecks these vehicles once were when rescued.

For the younger train fans, children can enjoy their own "Kids' Station" in the Gallery, and dress up as a train driver or guard, or can get to drive Thomas the Tank Engine on a model railway - or will they let the "big kids" get a go too?"

For those a little more adventurous, and perhaps live out a childhood dream, you can buy a "Footplate Pass" for just £20 and get to travel up in the locomotive cab with the driver, or why not pre-book these in advance for someone special's birthday treat?

Trains run 2pm till 5pm, with ticket costing: adults £5.50 return, £4.50 children and senior citizens, and don't forget that children aged three years old or below go free. A family ticket costs £18, and Or why not join the DCDR Society and get free travel for the entire summer months, as well as get regular updates on what's happening at Northern Ireland's steam centre?

The DCDR expressed its thanks to everyone who donated money for the restoration of this locomotive for our "Steamed Up" appeal, and remember donations are still needed to get sister engine No. 3 back up and running - you can donate online at: http://downrail.co.uk/donate.htm

For further information on events - or if you are thinking about joining as a volunteer contact the Downpatrick Tourist Information Centre on 028 4461 2233.


The End of the Line for Killyleagh Castle
Wednesday, 29th May, 2013

459 is dismantled in Adelaide depot

459 is dismantled in Adelaide depot

Killyleagh Castle is gone - no more - as it was dismantled last Wednesday in a surprisingly fast operation, leaving no trace of this once-proud remnant of history.

But before questioning if this is April Fool’s day, fear not, for the turrets and ramparts of the actual Killyleagh Castle still stand.

The “Killyleagh Castle” which met its maker was one of Translink’s old trains, No. 459, which was withdrawn from service last year following the introduction of the last of the new “C4K Trains”, and has finally been cut up for scrap.

The train was one of three units scrapped in recent weeks by Ahoghill firm Thomas Hamill and Sons at Ballymena and Adelaide, using a mammoth demolition crane to lift the engine out and then cut the body in half, before loading it on to the back of a lorry for its final journey to the scrapyard.

Volunteers from the Downpatrick & County Down Railway were also on hand to recover a number of compatible spare parts for other engines.

No. 459 was the last of the 450s, or “Castle Class”, trains delivered to Northern Ireland Railways between 1985 and 1987.

At a time when investment in the railway system was virtually nil, the 450s epitomed the “make-do-and-mend” attitude needed to keep NIR running. Cannabilising 20-year old engines and wheels, the only new part of the trains was their new bodies and interiors.

A 450 driving trailer is dismantled in Adelaide depot

A 450 driving trailer is dismantled in Adelaide depot

Denis Grimshaw, a former Managing Director of NIR, explains how one of these nine “new” trains came to be associated with the local landmark.

“The 450-class sets were originally intended for sole use on the Belfast to Larne railway line, where historically some former Northern Counties Railway steam locomotives were called after County Antrim castles - hence the historical connection.”

He continues, “We eventually got nine sets rather than the six anticipated, so we allocated three sets for use on the old Belfast & County Down Railway line to Bangor, and so we decided to choose two castles in County Down, Bangor Castle and Killyleagh Castle, to celebrate that connection.”

The vehicles carried these names in cast nameplates either side of the driver’s cab right up to their withdrawal, when they were removed prior to scrapping.

Suggestions over what should happen to Killyleagh Castle’s nameplates and those of the other 450 Class trains has ranged to displaying them in NIR stations, gifting one to each of the Castles the trains were named after where possible, or display them in a railway museum such as the local Downpatrick & County Down Railway or Ulster Folk & Transport Museum.

A Translink spokesperson said: “Name plates have been recovered and discussions are on-going regarding their future utilisation.”

Currently two Class 450s, No. 458 and 455 “Galgorm Castle” and “Antrim Castle”, are being retained by Translink in reserve, although there are currently no plans to preserve a unit of this class by any of Northern Ireland’s preservation groups.

 


Hop Aboard the Easter Eggspress Train!
Sunday, 24th March, 2013

George Legge gets his Easter Egg from the Easter Bunny

George Legge gets his Easter Egg from the Easter Bunny

There'll be 'eggs-travagant' fun at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway with eggs galore on this year's "Easter Eggspress", running over the Easter weekend.

The bunnies are already hopping the rails at the local heritage railway, and the "Easter-Eggspress" is a unique surprise and special treat for kids and a great way to say "Happy Easter!" for all the family.

The train will be used for excursions from the town centre from 2pm till 5pm on Saturday 30th March, Easter Sunday (31st March) & Easter Monday (1st April).

Railway Chairman John Wilson, says that children passengers receive a special treat from a special guest who's bounced into the station for this weekend, "You'll be greeted by the Easter Bunny who'll be hopping with joy to give them their Easter Eggs."

He continues, "If you bring your camera you might get your child to catch a photograph of this elusive bunny!"

"And as well as fun for the children, mums and dads also get the chance to experience rail travel at its most traditional." Refreshments will be served all day onboard a buffet carriage at Inch Abbey station, car parking is free at both Downpatrick and Inch Abbey and you can board at either station.

Tickets cost £5.50 adults, £5.50 children (including egg), £4 children aged below three years old (including egg), and £4.50 senior citizens.

There's no need to book and for further information on events - or if you are thinking about joining as a volunteer contact the Downpatrick Tourist Information Centre on 028 4461 2233.


PG Wodehouse Visits Downpatrick Railway
Tuesday, 19th March, 2013

Publicity photo from "Wodehouse In Exile" showing Paul Ritter as "Mackintosh" and Tim Pigott-Smith as PG Wodehouse filming a scene at Downpatrick

Publicity photo from "Wodehouse In Exile" showing Paul Ritter as "Mackintosh" and Tim Pigott-Smith as PG Wodehouse filming a scene at Downpatrick

Watch out for the DCDR on our screens again with "Wodehouse in Exile" on BBC4 next Monday, 25th March at 9pm

This drama tells the story of how P. G. Wodehouse came to be accused of treason during the Second World War

"Wodehouse In Exile" - a drama by Nigel Williams, stars Tim Pigott-Smith and Zoë Wanamaker, and produced by Great Meadow Productions Ltd.

With Paul Ritter, Flora Montgomery, Richard Dormer, Conor Mullen, Simon Coury, Niall Cusack - and Ian McElhinney and Julian Rhind-Tutt.

Watch a clip from the drama here


New Landmark for Downpatrick Town Centre
Friday, 8th March, 2013

John Wilson (Chairman & Project Manager DCDR) helps John Devlin (bricklayer, Glasgiven) construct the new brickwork for the new Downpatrick arch

John Wilson (Chairman & Project Manager DCDR) helps John
Devlin (bricklayer, Glasgiven) construct the new brickwork for the new Downpatrick Arch

A new landmark feature for Downpatrick town centre is rising above lower Market Street at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway. An impressive lattice arch, bearing the railway's name is soaring above the car park, and accompanying brickwork promising to dramatically improve the appearance of this part of the town centre.

Railway chairman and Project Manager John Wilson explains, "We came under-budget for our prestigious Gallery Gallery and visitor centre, and thanks to the generosity of our funders Heritage Lottery Fund and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, rather than see that money unspent suggested funding a number of extra improvements."

"We have been very keen to regenerate that area of the car park and try to improve the visual attractiveness of the station for some considerable years, something also outlined in the Downpatrick Masterplan, but our resources have always had to go on keeping our vintage fleet of steam and diesel locomotives and carriages running."

He continues, "Our funders agreed this area needed regeneration and we all wanted something dramatic that had the wow factor, and it was our late chairman Michael Collins who came up with the idea of the arch - inspired by an original feature of the Great Northern Railway station still standing at Cookstown.

"Like all great ideas at the DCDR we thought it was almost too ambitious but we did some mock drawings, asked our consulting engineers Armstrong and Taylor to cost it and we were delighted that they felt it was very doable"

The arch prior to the stanchions being incased in red and blue brick

The arch prior to the stanchions being incased in red and blue brick

When it came to the brickwork no detail was left undone.

"Historical accuracy has always been the ethos with everything we do at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway," Mr. Wilson says, "And the dwarf wall replicates the style of brickwork of a similar wall that used to stand at the old Belfast & County Down Railway's station at Bangor, while the piers copy the brickwork styles of the BCDR's stations at Cultra and Tullymurry".

Also, as part of final touches to the Gallery project, a new interpretative display has been installed in the railway's workshops.

"For some time now visitors have been prevented access to our carriage workshop because of safety issues, but we have now created a dedicated area safely away from machinery or tools where they can go in and watch restoration work go on, along with interpretative displays illustrating carriage construction which complements the new Carriage Gallery perfectly."

The Downpatrick & County Down Railway will be running it's "Shamrock Specials" on St. Patrick's Day - which you can board at the main station, as well as at Inch Abbey which will be acting as one of the day's Park and Ride services from the north of the town centre.


Shamrock Specials Leaving Platform on Sunday
Friday, 8th March, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Carnival in previous years

St. Patrick's Day Carnival in previous years

With carparking at a premium in the St. Patrick's Carnival, the Downpatrick & County Down Railway will be offering a "rail" alternative to carnival goers with its St. Patrick’s Day ‘Shamrock Specials.’

In conjunction with Down District Council, the railway will be offering a Park'n'Ride service from the Down Business Park on the Belfast Road directly into the heart of the carnival between noon and 5pm.

Railway Chairman, John Wilson, says that this St. Patrick's Day boarding at the Inch Abbey terminus is a sure way of beating the traffic and letting you steam into the town for the festival celebrations.

"We know that many people end up parking as far out as the former Abbey Lodge Hotel site and the Down Business Park on the Belfast Road and end up having to walk a fair distance into the town centre," he says.

"So many people use our trains to get into the carnival and save the hassle of parking," he says, before adding, "There will be a shuttle bus between the Business Park and our Inch Abbey Station, where you can walk onto a vintage train that will take you into the heart of the carnival!”

But as well as providing a means of getting from A to B on St. Patrick's Day, Mr. Wilson suggests a visit to Inch Abbey itself, a ruined 12th Century Cistercian Abbey.

He says, "While also getting people into the carnival, if you're already in the town, why not get onboard at Downpatrick and travel out and visit this glorious Christian heritage site while celebrating Ireland’s Patron Saint? He adds, “You also get the best view of Down Cathedral, the site of St. Patrick’s Grave, from on board the train.”

Tickets will be available at Inch Abbey and Downpatrick stations, and refreshments will be served all day onboard a buffet carriage while you wait for the train. The railway museum exhibition and new Carriage Gallery visitor centre will also be open, as well as a new interpretative display actually inside the carriage workshop allowing you to see the work that goes on behind the scenes.

Return tickets cost £5.50 adult, £4.50 children or senior citizens, while children aged three years old or below go free, and for motorists using the Business Park this includes the cost of the Shuttle Bus and all day parking for themselves and their passengers.

There's no need to book and for further information on events - or if you are thinking about joining as a volunteer contact the Downpatrick Tourist Information Centre on 028 4461 2233 log on to the railway's website at www.downrail.co.uk or find them on facebook at www.facebook.com/downrail or follow on twitter @downrail


Railway On the Right Track for St. Patrick’s Day
Sunday, 24th February, 2013

Project Manager David Crone inspects his track diagrams beside the recently installed BCDR crossing piece

Project Manager David Crone inspects his track diagrams beside the recently installed BCDR crossing piece

The Downpatrick & County Down Railway is on the right lines to complete its massive track renewal project in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

The local volunteer-run heritage railway has been undertaking a major project that has seen several hundred yards of railway line lifted between Downpatrick station and the "Home Junction", where the two lines to Inch Abbey and the Loop Platform and longer term Ballydugan split, leaving a large gap in the railway.

As part of this project, it has seen historic original railway track materials from the Belfast & County Down Railway reinstated on their old home, almost exactly 60 years since the rail link to Belfast was swept away.

Project Manager David Crone said, "The original railway line was closed in January 1950, and it was in 1953 - sixty years ago - that they started to remove the sleepers and rails and dismantle the old railway."

He continues, "One of the new bits of track we're installing is a 1936 built crossing piece from the original line, remarkably it's still in excellent condition for reuse and so on this anniversary it's quite befitting to put something back that could’ve been right here over sixty years ago."

The project, described as "ambitious" is close to reconnecting the two parts and has seen volunteers working every weekend and a small team midweek assisting to get the hole in the track filled.

Mr Crone explained the reasons behind the project, "Long term it will give operational flexibility, allowing two trains to enter and out of the station from either the Inch Abbey line or the Ballydugan line, but more immediately it will fix the height of the trackbed which has subsided over the last twenty years since it was first relaid by our volunteers, which will help combat flooding as the railway was nearly closed twice over winter due to high water levels."

He continues, "It will also allow us to connect up our signal cabin and erect proper heritage signals, vastly enhancing the authenticity of the railway, as well as making operating it simpler and safer.

"The reason we’re doing it now is because this is the largest window between our Christmas trains and St. Patrick’s Day 'Shamrock Specials'", says Mr. Crone, "It's heavy hard work, and you always risk not getting it done in time for your next public running day but we're making excellent progress. It's also very satisfying when you see track going down and materials you’ve sourced from Northern Ireland Railways and Irish Rail - all over Ireland - being put to good use."

The work involved so far has included lifting 300 yards of railway line, replacing life-expired timber sleepers with new or concrete ones, and renewing the ballast formation with new stone, battling the weather and snowfalls and dealing with the occasional digger breakdown!

A number of new people have joined in to the volunteer track team, and all are welcome, Mr Crone says, “We are still looking for volunteers who would like to help out, especially anyone with any experience in construction. Why not come down one Saturday and try it out? You could find yourself with a very different hobby!”

A large amount of work still needs to be done to replace the missing sections, but railway officials are confident they are on the "right track" to completing it in time for the Shamrock Specials on St. Patrick's Day.


Railway Launches Ambitious Track Renewal Project
Wednesday, 7th January, 2013

Replacing the old Bay Platform turnout with concrete sleepers

Replacing the old Bay Platform turnout with concrete sleepers

For many people the New Year heralds a chance to be ‘out with the old but for the volunteers at Downpatrick and County Down Railway time their spring clean is a different proposition. They have decided to replace a large section of the track.

After nearly 3,000 people travelled on Santa’s Lapland Express, the heritage railway is taking advantage of the post-New Year gap in the DCDR’s timetable until St. Patrick’s Day to undertake some vital track renewals.

They intend to lay track which will allow two trains trains to enter and out of the station from either the Inch Abbey line or the Ballydugan line giving greater operational flexibility.

The railway nearly closed twice over Christmas due to high water levels, and a diesel gala event in October had to be rescheduled due to floods, so it is planning to raise the height of the trackbed to combat this.

Part of the track being lifted is among some of the first laid at Downpatrick by the fledgling heritage line in the 1980s. Old worn-out timber sleepers will also be replaced with new or concrete ones.

Slewing over the runround turnout to allow the new south line to come in parallel

Slewing over the runround turnout to allow the new south line to come in parallel

Project manager David Crone is overseeing the maintenance work, which commenced at the weekend, and he said there was still much work to be done. He has reiterated the DCDR's appeal for volunteers especially anyone with any experience in construction.

The work undertaken last Saturday, according to project manager David Crone, included:

  1. Redundant former shed access turnout fully removed.
  2. South line broken and first panel of temporary track removed.
  3. Switch section of former shed access turnout relaid on South line as start of West Crossover South turnout
  4. Most of former Bay turnout removed and stored on now redundant bay line. Switch section and crossing removed but the closure timbers have still to be lifted.
  5. Loop turnout facing point lock cranks disconnected and removed.
  6. Both Daewoo and Atlas diggers where working.
  7. New fence for the back of the station platform following removal of old bay line.

The next jobs are in order of priority:

  1. Remove remainder of Bay turnout
  2. Disconnect remainder of fishplates on North line so it can be lifted.
  3. Excavate and grade trackbed with new stone ballast
  4. Continue lifting the North line.

“Why not come down one Saturday and try it out?” said David. “You could find yourself with a very different hobby.”

Slewing over the runround turnout to allow the new south line to come in parallel

To see the extent of the new trackplan, click on the above picture

 


Hope for the Ballydugan Extension?
Wednesday, 2nd January, 2013

Ballydugan Mill, just one of the attractions at the end of the proposed extension

Ballydugan Mill, just one of the attractions at the end of the proposed extension

The DCDR's long held ambition to complete its extension to Ballydugan could finally have received some welcome news.

Down District Council is considering vesting land so that the heritage railway line can be extended, linking the town with the hamlet of Ballydugan.

The extension of the Downpatrick and Co Down Railway (DCDR) has been in the pipeline for 20 years, first announced in 1992, following a recommendation from consultants working for Down District Council on proposals for regeneration projects for the town, but attempts by the DCDR to broker a deal with those who own part of the former trackbed have failed to reach any agreement.

In 2010 the council agreed to open discussions with two landowners in a bid to reach a deal to secure the land, but also decided that if it was unable to do a deal, it would exercise its vesting powers to acquire the land, subject to a suitable valuation and all necessary legal formalities being completed. One of the landowners has refused to sell, while the other has not responded to any council correspondence on the issue.

Ballydugan Lake at the end of the proposed extension

Ballydugan Lake at the end of the proposed extension

At the meeting, councillor Colin McGrath said Down Council supports the railway and has previously approved the plan to extend the railway lines.

“This particular request is about vesting the land they require and passing this issue to the Rates Working Party given the spend that’s involved," he explained.“Down Council can vest land, but the railway cannot.“

Councillor Robert Burgess praised the work of railway officials and said he was in no doubt that the facility would continue to grow in popularity and produce an economic benefit for Downpatrick and the surrounding area.

Councillors John Doris, Garth Craig and Mickey Coogan also agreed to refer the request to vest the land to the Rates Working Party, with committee members informed the issue will be dealt with a Lands Tribunal hearing.

DCDR spokesman Robert Gardiner said: "Twenty years is a long time to try and bring a project to fruition, but the reason we haven't given up on it is because our passengers keep telling us they want it and asking when it's going to happen," he said.

Some young Ballydugan residents enjoying the delights of the area

Some young Ballydugan residents enjoying the delights of the area

"We really hoped an amicable solution could've and indeed still hope it can be found to bring the railway back to Ballydugan", he says.

The land was sold off in the 1950s by the Ulster Transport Authority after much of the railway system was dismantled. In recent years DCDR's volunteers have started rebuilding the line on the land that the group access to.

"Railway trackbeds can't be used for anything else other than cycleways and walkways," Mr Gardiner said.In the meantime, DCDR has extended a spur to Inch Abbey but say it has reached the "end of the line" there, as it has veered off the original line to Crossgar.

"But at Ballydugan," he says, "there's a fantastic lake down there, coupled with Holymount Forest, plus the Lakeside Inn and Ballydugan Mill, and we are very keen to work with these local businesses and the local residents"

Ballydugan Mill owner Noel Killen said the extension would be to everybody's benefit.

He said: "The land is totally derelict and is overgrown and steep and it's absolutely of no value to anybody."



Last Call for Santa's Train
Wednesday, 19th December, 2012

Catch Santa before he says farewell!

Catch Santa before he says farewell!

There's one more weekend to catch Santa on the Lapland Express at the Downpatrick and County Down Railway before he has to return to the North Pole to get ready for Christmas Eve.

Railway Chairman John Wilson said: "If you haven't been down yet, you're really missing a Christmas treat as Santa really gets everyone into the festive mood on board his Workshop Train teaching the children how to go 'Ho Ho Ho'.

"Unfortunately, while we've asked Santa to climb down a chimney so the children can see how he does it, he thinks using the steam engine's chimney just isn't on!"

The steam train will be leaving the railway station on Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 December at 2pm and then approximately every 40-45 minutes till 5pm, but if you want to beat the queues Mr Wilson advises people to come at 3 o'clock or 4 o'clock.

Santa will also be providing his guests refreshments on the buffet coach at the Loop Platform. Fares are £6 for adults, £9 for children over three, and a reduced fare of £5.50 for children under three and senior citizens. Tickets cannot be booked in advance.

Admission to see Santa in his workshop is also dependent on children having been good throughout the whole year.

Mr Wilson also advises that it will not be possible to board the train at Inch Abbey Station, due to the route the train will be taking.

He added: "Don't forget, this is an outdoor event so please wear appropriate clothing."

And after Christmas Day is over, you can steam into the New Year with the railway's popular Mince Pie Specials on New Year's Day.

"The Downpatrick and County Down Railway is your guaranteed sanctuary from turkey sandwiches," joked Mr. Wilson.

"Mince or apple pies are available from our buffet car on New Year's Day, after relaxing on board a heritage train coasting through the County Down countryside," he says, "as well as a wee glass of something to refresh you."

For further information on events - or if you are thinking about joining as a volunteer contact the Downpatrick Tourist Information Centre on 028 4461 2233 or find them on facebook at www.facebook.com/downrail or follow on twitter @downrail

 


Steaming Again After 50 Years!
Thursday, 29th November, 2012

O&K No. 1 in running in trials, passing over the Quoile River

O&K No. 1 in running in trials, passing over the Quoile River

It's not everyday that Traffic reports tell drivers to watch out for the railway engine travelling down the M1 and M2 motorways, but that's the sight that motorists saw last Sunday as a steam locomotive "travelled home" to the Downpatrick & County Down Railway, Northern Ireland's volunteer run full-size heritage railway.

Steam locomotive No. 1, built by the German firm Orenstein & Koppel, was being taken from the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland's workshops at Whitehead, after going up there in 2004.

It's taken two decades of work and funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (for a new boiler, as the old one had corroded so badly it had to be scrapped) Interreg, as well a substantial amount from the DCDR's own funds. Work on its restoration was undertaken in a joint effort by the DCDR and the RPSI over that twenty years, such a long period as the locomotive was in an incredibly poor condition after it was saved from lying in a County Down field in the 1980s.

O&K No.1 on the back of a Mar-Train low-loader on the M1

O&K No.1 on the back of a Mar-Train low-loader on the M1

No. 1 is one two sister engines at the DCDR, and was built in the mid 1930s by Berlin-based Orenstein and Koppel for the Irish Sugar Company (Comlucht Suicre Eireann) for use in their factories at Mallow, Thurles and Tuam. There were a total of nine of these engines built (three for each factory) and they were used to transfer sugar beet wagons from the main line sidings in the factory complexes for processing.

Even though German built, they are also a legacy of early post-partition Ireland, as normally Irish firms would have ordered new locomotives from Great Britain, but de Valera's Irish Free State was engaged in an "economic war" with the UK and so the order went to Germany instead, leading to these very continental looking locomotives appearing on the Emerald Isle.

It is believed that the last time No. 1 was steamed was in 1958.

After withdrawal from service, in 1960 the engines were sent to Dalkey Station, south of Dublin, for storage with a view to being moved to England for preservation. This project did not work out (due to the key players finding out that the width between the rails in Ireland is different to that in England!) and the locomotives were moved to Ballynahinch Junction for storage in 1978, as part of an attempt to resurrect this branch line as a heritage line. When this scheme failed to get off the ground the locomotives were purchased from their owner and moved to Downpatrick a decade later in the late 1980s.

The move also saw us say farewell to "RH Smyth", aka Harvey, who was returned to the RPSI depot at Whitehead

The move also saw us say farewell to "RH Smyth", aka Harvey, who was returned to the RPSI depot at Whitehead

After a period of storage in Downpatrick, work began on rebuilding No. 1 while No. 3 was restored at the RPSI's workshop in Whitehead. No. 3 was returned to service on Saturday 2nd October 2000, and is currently dismantled for a full ten-year boiler inspection, and it is hoped to return No. 3 to traffic as well ASAP.

A new boiler was fabricated by Woolf Engineering, and No. 1 was moved to Whitehead in 2004 for completion of its restoration. While No. 1 will be "chuffed" to see Santa this December, running all four weekends of the DCDR's Lapland Express services (subject to running in trails), it is hoped when the loco is fully painted that it will be given a "proper" homecoming celebration some time early next year.

It will also be the first time in No.1's life that it will have hauled passengers, instead of wagons full of sugar beet.

Our thanks to everyone who donated money for the restoration of this locomotive for our "Steamed Up" appeal, and remember donations are still needed to get No. 3 back up and running - you can donate online at our donation page.

A PAGE THREE GIRL?
No. 1 made her Page 3 debut in today's News Letter.

 


Santa Now Arriving at Platform 1
Wednesday, 21st November, 2012

Santa will be catching the train this Christmas instead of his traditional reindeer!

Santa will be catching the train this Christmas instead of his traditional reindeer!

The Lapland Express is arriving this Christmas at the Downpatrick and County Down Railway for four weekends only with a very special passenger - Santa Claus!

Railway vice-chairman, Robert Gardiner revealed Santa's itinerary, "He'll have travelled in style onboard his own steam train - the Lapland Express - to greet scores of children."

Mr Gardiner also says that, although the details of his trip are tightly guarded secrets looked after by the Elfin Safety Executive, it is his understanding that kids eager to meet the jolly big man in the red outfit will be invited everyone to join Santa Claus for some festive fun on the Christmas train.

He adds, "Once the Steamer has gotten to the Loop Platform, Santa will invite everyone to join him over in his travelling workshop – the carriage where he makes all the toys for all the little boys and girls. Here, they will get to speak one-to-one with Santa and tell him what they wanted for Christmas."

The steam train will be leaving the railway station for the following weekends, 8th & 9th, 15th & 16th, 22nd & 23rd December. Santa will also be providing his guests refreshments on the buffet coach, and doors open from 2pm till 5pm.

Fares are £6 for adults, £9 (including present) children over three years old, and £5.50 under-threes plus senior concession. This includes a present from Santa, as well as the train fare.

Admission to see Santa in his workshop is also dependant on children having been good throughout the year.

Mr Gardiner also advises that it will not be possible to board the train at Inch Abbey Station, due to the route the train will be taking. He also says, "Don't forget, this is an outdoor event so please wear appropriate clothing."

And after Christmas Day is over, you can steam into the New Year with the railway's popular Mince Pie Specials on New Year's Day.

"The Downpatrick & County Down Railway is your guaranteed sanctuary from turkey sandwiches," jokes Mr. Gardiner.

"Mince or apple pies are available from our buffet car on New Year's Day, after relaxing on board a heritage train coasting through the County Down countryside," he says, "as a well as a wee glass of something to refresh you."

For further information on events - or if you are thinking about joining as a volunteer - log on to the railway’s website at www.downrail.co.uk or find them on facebook at www.facebook.com/downrail follow on twitter @downrail



Downpatrick Railway Lifts Honours at Pride of Place Awards
Monday, 5th November, 2012

Presentation of the award. From L to R Tom Dowling, Chairman Pride of Place Committee, Robert Gardiner, vice-chair DCDR, Ronan Foley, Chief Executive IPB Insurance, Neil Hamilton, Curator DCDR, Christopher Moran, Chairman Co-operation Ireland, Cllr Jerome Scanlon, Cathaoirleach Limerick County Council, Gerry McLoughlin, Mayor of Limerick

Presentation of the award. From L to R Tom Dowling, Chairman Pride of Place Committee, Robert Gardiner, vice-chair DCDR, Ronan Foley, Chief Executive IPB Insurance, Neil Hamilton, Curator DCDR, Christopher Moran, Chairman Co-operation Ireland, Cllr Jerome Scanlon, Cathaoirleach Limerick County Council, Gerry McLoughlin, Mayor of Limerick

THE Downpatrick and County Down Railway (DCDR) is celebrating after collecting a very prestigous trophy last weekend. It was praised for its community involvement and work in towards creating a tourism attraction unique in Ireland.

On Saturday 3 November, representatives from the DCDR and Down District Council traveled to Limerick to attend the 2012 AllIsland IPB Pride of Place Awards at a gala awards ceremony at Thomond Park. where the new sponsor IPB, joined Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government to congratulate all the successful groups from across the island.

From the many entries, the DCDR won through to being runners-up in the Cultural Tourism section. Railway vice-chairman Robert Gardiner said: "This was the first time we have been entered in a competition like this and the competition was very tough. The winners in our category, Cavan Fleadh Cheoile, are along the lines of the West Belfast festival and deserved winners. It was a fantastic experience for our organisation.

"We are the only fully working heritage railway in Ireland and are quite unique in that respect. It was a real pleasure to be up there competing with the best across Ireland. With our new railway museum centre, our visitor numbers have increased well and there is a constant footfall from mid-week visits to families coming at the weekend.

"I would like to thank Damien Brannigan, Community Relations Officer with Down District Council, for all his help for his nomination and in making this happen for us.

"Our thoughts today are for our late Chairman, Michael Collins, who gave so much to the DCDR. It was much his efforts that brought the railway society forward to what it is today and all of our members wish to dedicate this award to his memory. Mike would have been so proud to have been able to collect this award. It is a tremendous accolade and the first of only a few that were won by Northern Ireland groups that night."

The Category 6 Cultural Tourism winner was the Fleadh Cheoil, Cavan Town Comhaltas, with runners up Mulranney Tourism Group, Co Mayo and the Downpatrick and County Down Railway.

Down District Council Chairperson Councillor Mickey Coogan has expressed his delight at the recognition bestowed upon the Downpatrick and County Down Railway at the Pride of Place Awards 2012.

Councillor Coogan extended his congratulations to all the volunteers of the DCDR adding: "It is a fantastic achievement for the members and volunteers who have given up so much of their time for almost 30 years, not only to preserve our railway heritage, but also to promote one of Ireland's only remaining operational railway attractions.

"The Pride of Place awards are a unique opportunity to recognise and reward the efforts of hardworking members of the community, and it is particularly important that the achievements of those who make a difference to Down district is celebrated."

Down District Council Vice Chairperson who attended the ceremony, said: "This annual competition recognises and celebrates invaluable contributions that community partnerships make. Unlike other competitions, the Pride of Place Awards specifically acknowledge community involvement, the promotion of heritage and local people who shape their area.

A39 will make an appearance

John Wilson, Chairman DCDR, Cllr Maria McCarthy vice-chair Down District Council, Robert Gardiner, vice-chair DCDR, and Neil Hamilton, DCDR curator, show off the award

"The Downpatrick and Co Down Railway perfectly fulfill the criteria for this. They are a group of dedicated volunteers who have worked painstakingly to rebuild the railway and continue to work tirelessly to promote this wonderful tourist facility. I am so pleased the Railway has been acknowledged with this prestigious honour, particularly given some very stiff competition on the night.

"This recognition will allow for the further promotion of the tourist potential of the Railway and the resulting employment and business opportunities that this brings.

"It is also very fitting that the Railway should be acknowledged in such a way given the untimely and sudden death of their former Chairman Michael Collins. There is no doubt that this huge loss is felt by each of the volunteers. I am certain however, that Michael's legacy will live on and his uncompleted works and goals will provide a pathway for the future of the railway in Down District," added Councillor McCarthy.

More that 400 representatives from practically every county in Ireland were treated to music from Crystal Swing before the winners of the tenth consecutive annual competition were revealed. They were announced by Will Leahy, 2FM Presenter who acted as compere for the evening.
Minister O'Sullivan along with Co-operation Ireland Chairman Christopher Moran, Pride of Place Committee Chairman Tom Dowling and IPB Chief Executive Ronan Foley, presented the groups with their awards.

The All-Island Pride of Place Competition recognises and celebrates the vital contributions that community partnerships make to society. The focus is on people coming together to shape, change and enjoy all that is good about their local area. It differs from other similar projects in that they specifically recognise the involvement of the local community in all aspects of rural and urban regeneration including, promoting social cohesion, involvement in planning, the promotion of heritage and environmental awareness.

Christopher Moran, Chairman of Co-operation Ireland said, "I congratulate all the winners of this year's Pride of Place Awards. The fact that we have reached this 10-year milestone is testament to the esteem in which the competition is held, celebrating as it does the achievements and contribution that community groups make to local society. It is important to highlight the wonderful, selfless work that is going on in your communities."

Tom Dowling, Chairman of Pride of Place congratulated all the participants and he acknowledged that this year's competition attracted the highest number of nominations since the competition commenced. He said: "The reason the communities are here tonight is because their local authority believes in them and recognises that they have huge pride in their place".

Courtesy of Jim Masson, Down News
Original article can be found here

 


Rain Won't Stop Play - Diesel Gala Rescheduled!
Friday, 2nd November, 2012

A39 will make an appearance

A39 will make an appearance

From ITG's website: The Irish Traction Group (ITG), with the kind co-operation of the Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway, has organised a diesel gala on Sunday 18th November 2012 at the Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway, Downpatrick, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. This replaces the original diesel gala that was scheduled to take place on Saturday 20th October 2012 which had to be cancelled due to flooding on the line.

This is to mark the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Group’s preserved 141 (B) class locomotive No. 146, and its recent return to service after extensive cab restoration. No. 146 is now the only 141 class locomotive which can be enjoyed working passenger trains. It is also 50 years since the Deutz G611 class locomotives entered service, and the ITG's own Deutz locomotives Nos. G611 and G617 are intended to feature. 001 (A) class locomotive No. A39 will also hopefully be making an appearance, at a mere 56 years young! All locomotives are subject to availability on the day. Services will commence at around 12:00, and will operate until around 16:00. Services will operate from Downpatrick to Inch Abbey and also to Magnus’ Grave.

Rover tickets will be available on the day at Downpatrick for £7 or €10. Passengers will be expected to make their own way to Downpatrick if taking this option.

In addition, the ITG is running a special connecting coach service from Dublin Red Cow Luas Stop (dep. 08:45), Dublin Connolly Luas Stop (dep. 09:15) and Dublin Airport Coach Park (dep. 09:45) to Downpatrick to connect with the event. The connecting coach service will depart Downpatrick at approximately 16:30, setting down at Dublin Airport Coach Park (arr. 18:45 approx.), Dublin Connolly Luas Stop (arr. 19:15 approx.) and Dublin Red Cow Luas Stop (arr. 19:45 approx.).

The cost of the return coach connection from Dublin (i.e. the Downpatrick day rover ticket is additional) will be £11 or €15, payable on the day. If you are interested in using the connecting coach, you must advise the ITG in advance by telephone or by e-mail, as places are clearly limited. If you don't book, you could find yourself turning up for a bus which has no place for you!



Underwater tracks

Underwater tracks

Diesel Gala Cancelled
Saturday, 20th October, 2012

The ITG & DCDR regret to announce that today's diesel gala has been cancelled. This is due to unprecedented flooding of our line.

An early morning track inspection has revealed water levels to have risen overnight and both the north and south lines are now impassable.

Please accept our most sincere apologies.

 


DRD Minister Hosts EU Transport Chair at DCDR
Friday, 19th October, 2012

Herbie Bodel, Brian Simpson MEP and DRD Minister Danny Kennedy MLA, pictured in the new Carriage Gallery

Herbie Bodel, Brian Simpson MEP and DRD Minister Danny Kennedy MLA, pictured in the new Carriage Gallery

Transport Minister Danny Kennedy has hosted Brian Simpson, Chair of the European Parliament’s Transport Committee, on a visit to Northern Ireland - and took him on a trip on Northern Ireland's only full-size heritage line!

Brian Simpson is also the Vice President of the Heritage Railway Association.

Danny Kennedy said: "European Transport policy needs to take account of regional variances in terms of transport needs and existing infrastructure. For example, unlike most parts of Europe, freight is transported entirely by road in Northern Ireland and it would not be economically viable to upgrade our rail network to transport freight."

The European Parliament's Transport Committee is currently considering a new Trans-European Transport Network Regulation (TEN-T) , and its funding instrument, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Regulation.

Danny Kennedy MLA (Minister for Regional Development), Brian Simpson MEP, Herbie Bodel (DCDR) and Robert Gardiner (DCDR)

Danny Kennedy MLA (Minister for Regional Development), Brian Simpson MEP, Herbie Bodel (DCDR) and Robert Gardiner (DCDR).

The Minister added: "The TEN-T and CEF regulations will determine how people and goods move throughout the EU for many years to come. It is important that we continue to work to ensure our transport infrastructure meets our future needs and supports economic growth by facilitating investment from other member states and beyond."

The visit was organised after the Minister made a recent visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where Danny Kennedy invited the EU Transport Chair to learn more about transport need and networks in Northern Ireland.

However heavy flooding nearly scuppered the day, as heavy rains had flooded our north line! Undaunted the Downpatrick Duck (nearly literally) paddled away and took the Minister and Mr Simpson out to Inch Abbey via the south line in the Railbus, hauled by the tamper. Not exactly as planned, but it did the trick!

 


Spooky Events At the Railway!
Thursday, 18th October, 2012

Dare you venture past the ghosts this Halloween?

Dare you venture past the ghosts this Halloween?

There’s something strange happening at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway this Halloween. There’s ghosts on the platforms and ghouls on the train, it can only be the return of the Halloween Ghost Trains!

"Anyone who visits on Halloween weekend is in for a double treat," says Railway Vice-Chairman, Robert Gardiner.

He explains, "As well as travelling on a vintage train, children who dare to alight at the Forbidden Platform, as well as any brave grown- ups, will be granted an audience with the Great Wizard in his own haunted Grotto train.

"If those who dare to enter Merlin’s domain pass his tests, then the children will receive a mystical gift."

Mr. Gardiner.adds, "And of course, why not try to turn the tables and scare Merlin by coming in ghostly fancy dress yourself?"

And are you brave enough to visit a Viking Graveyard over Halloween? Well, the train will be stopping at the grave of King Magnus Barefoot on its travels and be warned as ghoulish things rise out of the ground before your eyes!

Doors open on the weekend before Halloween, Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th October, from 2pm till 5pm, and then there's a spooky night time train on Halloween night - Wednesday 31st October from 5pm to 8pm for anyone brave enough to come in the dark!

Refreshments will be served onboard a buffet carriage at the Loop Platform, and car parking is free. Fares are £6 adults, £8 children and £4.50 children under three and senior citizens.

Mr. Gardiner.also reminds people about autumn weather, "Don't forget that this is an outdoor event, so please remember to wrap up well."

And also keep an eye out for Santa's visit to the railway this December - details are already online at the railway's website.

 


Obituaries - Michael Collins
Thursday, 4th October, 2012

Michael Collins, who passed away yesterday

Michael Collins, who passed away yesterday

It is with deep regret that we have to announce the death of Michael Collins, who served as our Chairman for the best part of the last decade. He was a true gentleman, whose friendship and contribution to the railway will never be forgotten.

Mike was taken ill on Monday and despite emergency heart surgery, he passed away in hospital on Wednesday, 3rd October.

Michael Collins was born in 1949 and came from a transport background. His grandfather joined Belfast Corporation as a tram conductor before World War I and retired as an inspector in 1947. In the same year his father joined the Northern Ireland Road Transport Board as a driver, became a conductor and later an inspector under the Ulster Transport Authority and Ulsterbus.

In 1967, whilst a student, Michael's father arranged for him to join the newly formed Ulsterbus as a conductor attached to Smithfield depot in Belfast. Michael returned to this holiday job each summer until 1972.

He graduated from Queen's University Belfast in that year with a BA in Geography and Political Science and a post-graduate Diploma in Business Administration, later upgraded to an MBA. On graduation he was offered the post of Personal Assistant to Werner Heubeck, Ulsterbus's charismatic Managing Director.

After two years in this job, he moved to a management post in the Health Service before eventually taking up a lecturing position in business and management at the College of Business Studies in Belfast, finally retiring as a Principal Lecturer at the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education.

Since his Ulsterbus days, he retained his interest in transport and was involved with the fledgling railway in Downpatrick from the late 1980s, serving on its board for many years before taking up the position of chairman in 2003, which he held until his death bar one year in 2007/2008. He was hoping to continue in the role for one more year to help see that the two extensions planned for the DCDR came about.

He was also the Company Secretary of Irish Transport Heritage, which is dedicated to bus preservation, and had recently become involved in the Charles Shiels Charity Houses in Killough.

On hearing of this sad news, the newly elected board (following last Saturday's AGM) held a minute's silence at the Wednesday night meeting, which Mike was hoping to chair, and then adjourned the meeting as a mark of respect.

To all who wish to pay their respects, his funeral will be held at 9.30am on Saturday 6th October in St. Gerard's Church on the Antrim Road, this will be followed by the cremation at Roselawn Crematorium at 11.30am on the same day.

Our deepest sympathies to his daughter Aoife, sons Michael and Aodhan and all the family circle, Mike was a valued friend and his vast experience and wise council will be sadly missed by us all.

 


Obituaries - Desmond Coakham
Thursday, 4th October, 2012

Desmond Coakham, who passed away earlier today

Desmond Coakham, who passed away earlier today

We regret to have to announce as well the death of Desmond Coakham, aged 91, who passed away today, Thursday 4th October.

Desmond was a well-known authority on the old Belfast & County Down Railway, completing his life's ambition of a comprehensive history of the BCDR last year, amongst his other photographic books, but always incredibly modest about the fantastic wealth of photographic archive he took of the old railway.

Desmond was an honorary life member of the DCDR and was as regular a visitor as he could be given his age, and was always on hand to assist advise on historical details to help with the restoration of the two BCDR carriages, even up to very recently, with livery details for the BCDR Railmotor.

He was a retired architect who was also a life-long railway enthusiast. His professional career led him to becoming a regular commuter on the Belfast & County Down Railway in the 1940s, and developed an intimate knowledge of the BCDR as a living entity.

He was a respected and long-standing member of the Irish Railway Record Society, to whose Journal he contributed many articles.

For those who wish to pay their respects to Desmond Coakham, his funeral will take place at 2pm this Monday, 8th October, at St. Patrick's Church in Ballymoney.

Our deepest sympathy to his circle of friends.



Fashion to Arrive at the Railway
Saturday, 25th August, 2012

Railway volunteer Herbie Bodel with Anne Rowney and Marisa Murphy of Fashion Forum arrive at Downpatrick Railway Station in their Singer Vogue 1964 and Singer Super 1947. Photo (c) Down News

Railway volunteer Herbie Bodel with Anne Rowney and Marisa Murphy of Fashion Forum arrive at Downpatrick Railway Station in their Singer Vogue 1964 and Singer Super 1947. Photo (c) Down News

LOCAL people have been invited to step back in time during a unique event to celebrate Downpatrick and County Down Railway in early September.

The event, which promises to be full of glamour and intrigue,will give visitors the opportunity to enjoy an opening champagne reception at the Ballydugan Mill before travelling to the railway on vintage transport.

They will then have an opportunity to take a ride on board a fully restored 1920s carriage before a series of music and murder mystery events, artistic shows and a surprise grand finale on the arrival of the 10.30pm train.

The community event will be hosted by the locally based Fashion Forum and forum director Marissa Murphy said she is looking forward to providing a unique evening of entertainment with a hog roast supper.

Marissa believes it is important to boost local tourism and has been keen to creat a late summer community event for some time. After visiting the local railway, which is run by volunteers, she decided it would provide the perfect venue for such an event.

"This event will be packed with entertainment from beginning to end and will introduce guest to another era, with the railway as the perfect backdrop," she said.

"We have arranged transport for guest in vintage vehicles with a champagne reception at the Ballydugan Mill to get the evening off to a suitably classy start. After arriving at the railway in vintage style, visitors will enjoy the hog roast while the entertainment unfolds around them.

"They will then be treated to the superb train journey on board the fabulous restored train. They will be taken back through the ages with a fantastic murder mystery event with music and drama from local organisations."

Marissa said the evening will lead up to the surprise grand finale, which will be performed inside the newly built Carriage Gallery and showcase fashion throughout the ages in a dramatic and eye-catching way. The evening will draw to an end with a swinging 60s and 70s after-party which partgoers can reminisce about times gone by.

The Fashion Forum event will take place on Friday 7th September at 7pm. Tickets for this not-to-be-missed event are limited and are available now from Down Arts Centre on 028 4461 0747 and are £45.

 


New Visitor Centre Unveiled at Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway
Saturday, 18th August, 2012

George Legge a volunteer with Downpatrick & County Down Railway at the launch of their new £700,000 '"Carriage Gallery" Ireland’s only dedicated carriage museum now open to the public. Picture by Bernie Brown

George Legge, Margaret Ritchie MP, Bob Brown, Michael Collins, Stephen Bil, John Wilson and Mickey Coogan at the launch of their new £700,000 '"Carriage Gallery" Picture by Bernie Brown

It's Ireland's only full-size heritage railway, and now the Downpatrick & County Down Railway has one thing it's always been missing: a modern visitors' centre.

Housed in a spectacular building, which harks back to the great Victorian termini, the "Carriage Gallery" is Ireland’s only dedicated carriage museum which tells the story of the development of railways in Northern Ireland from the 19th century to today, and was unveiled at a special "completion" ceremony on Friday 17th August.

The 'Gallery', costing £700,000, displays not artworks but vintage vehicles from all over Ireland, as well as carriages unique to the old railway which used to run between Belfast and Downpatrick, Newcastle, Ardglass and Bangor, as well as artefacts and an audio-visual exhibition.

The crowd at the completion launch. Picture by Bernie Brown

The crowd at the completion launch. Picture by Bernie Brown

Railway Chairman, Michael Collins, said, "This is the only centre in Ireland that gives the limelight to carriages, not the engines, as it was the carriages which carried the people that used the railways and it is through them that we can tell the social history of the areas and the people the railways served."

The 'completion ceremony' saw over a hundred people, including local MP Margaret Ritchie and representatives from Heritage Lottery Fund and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, as well as Down District Council, marking the end of a project that, Mr. Collins says, started "on the back of an envelope" in 2005 before the process of applying for £450,000 and £200,000 from the HLF and NITB respectively began.

George Legge a volunteer with Downpatrick & County Down Railway at the launch of their new £700,000 '"Carriage Gallery" Ireland’s only dedicated carriage museum now open to the public. Picture by Bernie Brown

George Legge a volunteer with Downpatrick & County Down Railway at the launch of their new £700,000 '"Carriage Gallery" Ireland’s only dedicated carriage museum now open to the public.

The gallery boasts six vintage passenger carriages, the second oldest surviving steam locomotive in Ireland, one 1980s prototype Railbus and four goods wagons, including the former Belfast & County Down Railway's "Royal Saloon", which carried the future Kings George V and VI, as well as King Edward VII and their consorts.

Already causing a stir are two ancient six-wheeled carriages from the Midland Great Western Railway, from the 1890s which operated from Dublin to Galway, and the same type that starred in the 1952 John Wayne classic 'The Quiet Man'. Hidden from view under tarpaulins since they were donated by Irish Rail in 2007, their dilapidated condition creates a direct contrast to the three fully restored vintage carriages on display.

The Gallery is an expansion of the already popular Downpatrick and County Down Railway attraction which has been opened since 1987 - painstakingly rebuilt by volunteers from the remains of a line abandoned in the 1950s - and runs vintage trains through the Downpatrick marshes to Inch Abbey on its own railway tracks every weekend of the summer and during special annual events throughout the year such as Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Coralie, Florence and Ruby Noble talking to George Legge at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway launch of their new £700,000 '"Carriage Gallery" Ireland's only dedicated carriage museum now open to the public. Picture by Bernie Brown

Coralie, Florence and Ruby Noble talking to George Legge at the launch of the new £700,000 '"Carriage Gallery"

Mr. Collins says, "In this year we have seen the opening of the Giant's Causeway visitor centre, and the Titanic Belfast centre, and the new Gallery represents a significant enhancement of the tourist offering in Co. Down".

He adds, "And like the Causeway Centre is not aimed at 'Geology Enthusiasts' nor is Titanic Belfast aimed at 'Boat Enthusiasts', our Gallery, museum, and trains are not aimed at just 'Railway Enthusiasts' or 'train buffs', but the entire family from mums, dads, kiddies, to granny and granddad, and we know that the Gallery will prove incredibly popular with our visitors".

Trains are running every weekend at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway and tickets cost £5.50 adults and £4.50 children/senior citizens, including entry to the new Gallery, and the DCDR is always looking for new volunteers to join.

 


Pride of Place Judges Visit Downpatrick Railway
Wednesday, 15th August, 2012

Railway volunteer Herbie Bodel with Anne Rowney and Marisa Murphy of Fashion Forum arrive at Downpatrick Railway Station in their Singer Vogue 1964 and Singer Super 1947. Photo (c) Down News

The Pride of Place judges pictured with railway volunteers, local support groups and Councillors outside Downpatrick Railway Station. Photo (c) Down News

It was all full steam ahead as judges from the prestigious all-Ireland Pride of Place competition recently visited Downpatrick and County Down Railway (DCDR) to hear first hand about the inspiring voluntary work it does to preserve our railway heritage and promote cultural tourism in Down district.

On Thursday 9 August the local voluntary railway charity group was given the opportunity to show judges why they should win a Pride of Place Award in this year’s all-Ireland competition. Down District Council nominated the group for the annual competition.

Pride of Place is an all-Ireland competition aimed at recognising and celebrating the vital contributions that voluntary organisations make to the life of their area. The competition focus is on people coming together to shape, enhance and enjoy all that is good about where they live. Pride of Place also enables entrants to look at other voluntary organisations’ undertakings and to learn from their experiences.

Michael Collins, DCDR Chairman said: “We have around 200 members and 50 of those are very active members from all walks of life pooling their expertise and enthusiasm to help develop Ireland’s biggest voluntary railway project.

“The volunteers come from a range of backgrounds in management, engineering, public services and general trades have literally driven the railway body to be a major player in local tourism and heritage in Down District.”

The Pride of Place judges, Mr Declan Nelson and Mr John Quinlivan, were welcomed to Downpatrick by the Chairman of Down District Council, Councillor Michael Coogan, and Mr Michael Collins, Chairman of Downpatrick and County Down Railway, and received a presentation in the St Patrick Centre prior to a tour of the railway centre.

Railway volunteer Herbie Bodel with Anne Rowney and Marisa Murphy of Fashion Forum arrive at Downpatrick Railway Station in their Singer Vogue 1964 and Singer Super 1947. Photo (c) Down News

Alison McGrenaghan, Magnus Vikings Association, Una Savage, Down Tourist Officer, and Lesley Simpson, Keeper of Collections at Down County Museum get set to board a train for Inch. Photo (c) Down News

The judges were fully briefed on the extent of the voluntary effort by the BCDR and their tremendous contribution to cultural tourism and environmental improvement was not hidden under a bushel.

As part of the tour, the judges were introduced to the Railway’s management committee, its volunteers and representatives of organisations the Railway works with, and with whom the judges were keen to discuss the valuable contribution the Railway makes.

In assessing entrants, the judges award marks for: Impact on Community; Innovation; Sustainability; Local Leadership; Management; and Overall Impression.

Looking over the new £700,000 visitors’ centre at the Downpatrick and County Down Railway are Patricia McGrath, secretary of the Downpatrick and County Down railway, Philip Campbell, Magnus Vikings Association, Sally Shields and Down District Councillor Patsy Toman.

Now in its tenth year, the Pride of Place competition is growing in terms of its prestige and popularity. The competition is run by Co-operation Ireland in partnership with the All-Island Local Authority Steering Forum, a forum which encourages strategic and sustainable approaches to cross-border co-operation by local authorities.

Mr Colins added: “The DCDR is Northern Ireland’s only standard gauge heritage railway and a popular visitor attraction based in Downpatrick. It was founded in 1985 to preserve our railway heritage for future generations to enjoy. The Railway is a not-for-profit society, a registered charity and museum which has rebuilt part of the former BCDR Belfast to Newcastle main line.

Railway volunteer Herbie Bodel with Anne Rowney and Marisa Murphy of Fashion Forum arrive at Downpatrick Railway Station in their Singer Vogue 1964 and Singer Super 1947. Photo (c) Down News

Looking over the new £700,000 visitors' centre at the Downpatrick and County Down Railway are Patricia McGrath, secretary of the Downpatrick and County Down railway, Philip Campbell, Magnus Vikings Association, Sally Shields and Down District Councillor Patsy Toman. Photo (c) Down News

“The society has a membership of around 300 people some from across the world and earns its revenue from the fares it charges visitors, donations and membership subscriptions.

“It has been successful in obtaining substantial funding for its major restoration projects – mostly recently towards its new £700,000 Carriage Display Gallery which the judges visited today. We also run special culturally themed days are a regular feature of the visitor experience at the Railway such as the Magnus Barelegs Viking weekend, Halloween, Christmas and St Patrick’s Day trips and they are very popular.

“The DCDR Iis staffed entirely by volunteers, with the railway being painstakingly rebuilt from nothing by people giving their time, knowledge, skills and enthusiasm for railway heritage and culture. Volunteers are at the heart of our organisation.,” said Mr Collins.

The winning entrants will be announced at a gala awards ceremony which will be hosted later in the year by Co-operation Ireland. (Irish Public Bodies Mutual Insurances Ltd is the major sponsor of the 2012 Pride of Place Competition in association with Co-operation Ireland.

This article originally appeared on Down News

 


Summer Living History Starts at the Centre
Thursday, 26th July, 2012

Summer Living History Events at the Saint Patrick Centre start this Saturday and continue for five weeks. Meet at 12 noon at the Centre for a Viking re-enactment and travel with the Vikings to King Magnus Barefoots' Grave on the Downpatrick Train!

Leaving Downpatrick Station at 1300 approx. Get a trip on the south line and Inch Abbey on the one day!

 


Work on £700,000 visitor centre at Railway now largely Complete
Sunday, 22nd July, 2012

No. 90 greets visitors on entrance to the new Carraige Gallery

No. 90 greets visitors on entrance to the new Carraige Gallery

Over the Twelfth holidays the new three-quarter of a million pounds "Carriage Gallery" at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway, co-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Northern Ireland Tourist Board took a massive step forward with the completion of the railways lines into it.

This allowed a mammoth shunting operation to take place, which saw carriages which had been stored across all part of the lower Market Street complex to be moved into the new building.

Railway Chairman Michael Collins explains, "While the superstructure of the building has been complete for a number of months, it was only through the hard work of the track team - all volunteers - creating an intricate track layout into the building that allowed us to put the building to it intended use."

He says, "This was no easy feat, it's a layout Translink would be proud to have!"

Mr Collins continues, "Over the 12th and 13th we carried out a carefully planned shunting exercise, with three diesel locomotives moving carriages all around the site to where we could get them into the Gallery to put on public display".

Volunteer Richard Convery shows vistors around the exhibits

Volunteer Richard Convery shows vistors around the exhibits

He adds, "Logistically this was very intricate, as due to the relatively small size of the yard in Downpatrick Station; carriages had to be stored on every piece of track we had while the Gallery was being built, some not easily got at, but our Operations people did a sterling job and the two days went very smoothly and efficiently."

In total, six passenger carriages, one steam locomotive, one diesel prototype Railbus and four goods wagons were moved into the Gallery. This includes the former Belfast & County Down Railway's "Royal Saloon", which carried the future Kings George V and VI, as well as King Edward VII and their consorts.

It is planned to mark the "completion of the gallery" in mid-August, but with the shunt complete doors are now open and the new visitor attraction is already having passengers talking.

Already causing a stir are two ancient six-wheeled carriages from the Midland Great Western Railway which operated from Dublin to Galway.

Beauty and the beast - restored and unrestored vehicles provide a unique "before and after" shot

Beauty and the beast - restored and unrestored vehicles provide a unique "before and after" shot

Hidden from view to the public under tarpaulins since they were donated by Irish Rail in 2007, their dilapidated condition creates a direct contrast to the three fully restored vintage carriages also on display.

Mr Collins says, "People have been saying to me 'You'll never restore them', and I say 'look behind you, those three were worse' and you can see the jaws drop!"

He continues, "It was always our intention to juxtapose the unrestored with the restored, to show the scale of the restoration work carried out here by our volunteers, and we're delighted it's already having the desired effect, there really is a "wow" factor to the place".

Outstanding work on the Gallery project includes developing a small interpretative space in the railway's workshop to allow visitors to safely see restoration work being carried out, and new front gates to improve the station frontage, which are due to be completed by March 2013.

Trains are running every weekend at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway and tickets cost £5.50 adults and £4.50 children/senior citizens, including entry to the new Gallery.

 


Choo-Choose the Train this Summer
Sunday, 10th June, 2012

A39 on summer train duties this year

A39 on summer train duties this year

If you've ever taken a walk or a cycle along the Comber Greenway, you might know it was a former railway line - but have you ever wondered where it went to? It was, in fact the main line from Belfast to Newcastle via Downpatrick.

And over the last twenty years a small group of volunteers in Downpatrick have painstakingly rebuilt two miles of the line as Northern Ireland's only full-size working heritage railway, running from the town centre out through St. Patrick's Country to the ruins of the 12th Century Cistercian Inch Abbey.

From now till September 9th, visitors will be able to travel back in time to the golden age of trains every weekend.

Railway Chairman Michael Collins said that Inch Abbey is a popular destination with train passengers.

“People who have lived in Downpatrick all their lives have travelled on our trains and told us that they were sorry that they’d never been to the Abbey and didn’t realise how beautiful it and this area of the Quoile River was,” he says, “So if the sun's out, why not hop on board and bring a picnic with you and catch one of the later trains back?”

Mr. Collins added, “Or if the rainclouds continue to linger as they've done over June, you're always undercover inside a railway carriage - and hop about our buffet carriage to stop the sarnies getting soggy!”

Doors open to the public on both Saturdays and Sundays, with the first train leaving at 2 o'clock with the last train returning from Inch Abbey at 5 o'clock.

Passengers will be able to taste the elegance of by-gone railway travel on fifty to one hundred year old carriages through the picturesque County Down countryside along nearly two miles of restored track.

And as an extra treat, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency will be providing something special for train visitors - a living-history "Monk" who will greet passengers arriving from Downpatrick, and provided them with a talk about the ruins of the Abbey and life for the people who lived and worked there.

Fares are £5.50 adults and £4.50 children, while those under three go free!

Refreshments are served on board a vintage 1950s Buffet Carriage at Inch Abbey station at the end of the line, with car parking and tickets available at both stations.

In Downpatrick Station there is an exhibition in the first floor of the station building telling the history of the construction and demise of the old railways through displays and artefacts. Or for the younger train fans they can get to drive Thomas the Tank Engine on a model railway on the ground floor - or will they let the "big kids" get a go too?

For those a little more adventurous, and perhaps live out a childhood dream, you can buy a "Footplate Pass" for just £20 and get to travel up in the locomotive cab with the driver, or why not pre-book these in advance for someone special's birthday treat?

 


"Railways at War" is BACK!
Sunday, 20th May, 2012

Members of the WHLA in 2007 buy their "tickets"

Members of the WHLA in 2007 buy their "tickets"

Down County Museum and the Downpatrick & County Down Railway are teaming up on the Bank Holiday weekend - 2nd and 3rd June - to bring us back to 1942 to mark the 70th anniversary of the arrival of US forces in Northern Ireland, prior to their landings in North Africa and later on the Normandy beaches in the Second World War.

Mike King, Curator of Down County Museum, explained the wartime links, "Part of the First Armored Division was stationed in Downpatrick, and the 125th Ordnance Company was based at the old gaol, now Down County Museum."

He continues, "Now the Wartime Living History Association are returning to show us what life was like for the Americans and locals at that time."

On the first day, Saturday 2nd June, the Museum will host the GIs in their barracks, recreating the Gaol's wartime role. This is followed on Sunday 3rd June when the GIs pack their bags and "leave for the front" on the trains of the Downpatrick & County Down Railway.

Are your documents in order for inspection before boarding the Troop Train?

Are your documents in order for inspection before boarding the Troop Train?

Railway Chairman Michael Collins said "The Railways played a very important part in World War II and this event celebrates the courage, hardships and endurance of our parents, grandparents and even great grandparents on the Home Front."

"The old Belfast & County Down Railway carried thousands of troops between Belfast and Tullymurry Station bound for Ballykinlar army camp," he says, "There was also a US army depot between Crossgar and Saintfield, which was served by a siding from the old main line. The railway also carried hundreds of evacuees from Belfast to the surrounding countryside."

On Saturday, the activities between 11am and 6pm at the Museum will include a parade and inspection, with a chance for enthusiastic youngsters to take part, demonstrations of period equipment and weapons, and how first aid was administered.

Mike King elaborated, "There will be the chance to see the tents and bunks that the GIs would have used, and the types of vehicles that they brought with them. There will be a display of photographs of GIs based in local camps from 1942. The Second World War theme will also include activities relating to rationing, 'Make-do and Mend', filling out an identification card for the period, evacuation, children's games of the time, and how the ARP and Home Guard helped on the home front."

Because you never know who might be onboard the Troop Train!

Because you never know who might be onboard the Troop Train!

On Sunday attention switches to the Downpatrick & County Down Railway between 2pm and 5pm, as the American GIs take the train bound for the front line. But it will not be an easy journey for the US troops!

Michael Collins says, "Downpatrick Station will be transformed back to the 1940s, and as well as living history orientated activities, where the GIs will meet the public, chat to girls, perhaps getting a few of them to dance on the platform, a German POW is being taken back to his "internment camp".

He continues, "While under guard there is the risk that he might escape, grab a weapon and fire shots. If that happens then the guards are under orders to fire weapons back and a small firefight could happen on the platform, quite close to the public so they can see it up close and personal."

Rumours are also going around that the Luftwaffe might drop a bomb on the troop-train, in which case the American's bomb disposal experts will have to try and disarm it.

The two museums hope that local people with cars of the period will also be on hand to show off their vintage vehicles, of the types that would have been seen in Downpatrick in the early 1940s.

Saturday's event at Down County Museum is £4 for adults and £2 for under 16s. Anyone coming in World War Two period costume - on this day only - gets in half-price!

Admission to the Downpatrick & County Down Railway on Sunday 3rd is good ol' 7/- & 6d, or those not familiar with old money, £7 adults and £6 children/senior citizens, and £3 children three or below.



Metal Theft at Heritage Railway
Saturday, 12th May, 2012

Volunteer Johnny Bridle and Down Councillor Cadogan Enright inspect one of the sawn off buffers

Volunteer Johnny Bridle and Down Councillor Cadogan Enright inspect one of the sawn off buffers

In the week where four people in the Downpatrick area were arrested for metal thefts, the Downpatrick & County Down Railway discovered it too had been targetted again by metal thieves.

A volunteer spotted people in orange high-visibility clothing out by some of the engineering vehicles stored off-site and raised the alarm, knowing that none of his colleagues were working on that section of line.

Railway Chairman Michael Collins said, "Our volunteers then went out and discovered that the buffers - basically the shock-absorbers - had been cut off an engineering flat wagon we use to transport sleepers around our line to where they are needed".

He continues, "Not only does this render the vehicle useless, as it prevents us coupling it up into a train, but it's also incredibly risky as these buffers are sprung and can be under tension, and to released that tension not knowing what you're doing could've caused serious injury.

"It is also very difficult, if not impossible, to source replacements".

Mr. Collins adds, "We suspect that the culprits thought that if they disguised themselves in high-visibility clothing, any members of the public would have assumed them to be railway volunteers".

The criminals also attempted to take a length of steel cabling from a steam crane currently stored out the line while a new track layout is being laid in Downpatrick Station yard, but were unsuccessful.

Mr. Collins goes on, "We immediately contacted the police, who have been down to take forensics, and they have also notified local scrap dealers to be aware of persons trying to sell items that are quite clearly of railway origin - there would be no doubt what these came off."

Local Downpatrick Cllr Cadogan Enright was also disgusted by this theft, and met PSNI officers on-site and later took a team of CSI officers to the scene for a thorough investigation of the site where tyre tracks and other evidence was gathered.

Cllr Enright said "The side entrance to this site has now been secured, the local landowners have promised to keep a look-out and the details of vehicles using the lane are being reported to the police. The PSNI are now including the security of this entrance in their routine patrols."

"PSNI officers have told me that they have notified all local and regional waste metal processing plants including those at Mallusk in Belfast to watch out for railway-related metal being handed in, and have confirmed to me that all waste sites now have mandatory CCTV in place for eventualities like this."

"The people of Downpatrick have a real affection for the teams volunteers who are restoring our railway legacy, and are hugely supportive of the amazing work the railway society have done over the years. The recent expansion on the railway project and the re-laying of tracks to reopened stations is widely supported across the community, and I would ask anyone with information to pass it on to the PSNI." concluded Cllr Cadogan Enright.

The Downpatrick & County Down Railway is calling on people who may have seen suspicious activity near the Downpatrick Racecourse area of the Ballydugan Road, or the actual incident itself, to contact Downpatrick Police or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.




Minister Inspects Work at Heritage Railway
Friday, 11th May, 2012

First Class: DRD Minister Danny Kennedy, MLA, inspects carriage No. 148 in the new Carriage Gallery, with Herbie Bodel and Michael Collins

First Class: DRD Minister Danny Kennedy, MLA, inspects carriage No. 148 in the new Carriage Gallery, with Herbie Bodel and Michael Collins

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.”

In the driving seat: DRD Minister Danny Kennedy, MLA, takes the controls of diesel locomotive A39, with Johnny Bridle and Norman Bodel

In the driving seat: DRD Minister Danny Kennedy, MLA, takes the controls of diesel locomotive A39, with Johnny Bridle and Norman Bodel

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."

In the driving seat: DRD Minister Danny Kennedy, MLA, takes the controls of diesel locomotive A39, with Johnny Bridle and Norman Bodel

The minister is presented with a copy of "Back in Steam" back at the platform in Downpatrick Station

"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."




The Vikings in Ireland Conference
Thursday, 10th May, 2012

The old route of the railway into Dundrum is now used as a coastal walkway

The Vikings Attack!

From our friends in Down County Museum. Booking forms available here

Down County Museum is (in association with Downpatrick and County Down Railway), invites you to a special day exploring: New light on the Vikings in Ireland, Friday 18th May 2012

Programme

9.30 am Registration

10.00 ‘A new perspective on Viking raiding and settlements in Ireland during the 9th and 10th centuries: the emerging evidence’, an illustrated talk by John Maas, archaeologist.

11.00 Questions

11.10 Tea/coffee break.

11.30 ‘The Viking Fortress at Linn Duachaill, Annagassan, Co Louth’ an illustrated talk by Eamonn Kelly, Keeper of Irish Antiquities, National Museum of Ireland

12.30pm Questions and Discussion

1.00 Lunch in the Museum Café

2.00-2.30 Walk to Downpatrick & County Down Railway to take a train to Magnus’ Grave.

2.45 Dr Finbar McCormick, Queen’s University, will tell us about ‘King Magnus Barelegs and his Grave’.

4.00 Arrival back at Down County Museum

Pre-booking is essential to secure a place (and lunch!). Please return the tear-off slip on booking form below to Down County Museum.

Down County Museum
The Mall
English Street
Downpatrick
County Down
BT30 6AH


Downpatrick Railway Backs Tourism Plan
Wednesday, 11th April, 2012

The old route of the railway into Dundrum is now used as a coastal walkway

The old route of the railway into Dundrum is now used as a coastal walkway

The Downpatrick & County Down Railway has offered its backing to Down District Council's ambitious plans for tourism in the district.

A feasibility study has been approved into four key projects, the most high profile being a cable car or funicular railway from the town centre into the Mourne Mountains. It also includes a feasibility study into utilising the old railway line between Downpatrick and Newcastle.

Railway chairman Michael Collins voiced his support for this study.

"The Downpatrick & County Down Railway remains committed to its own extension plans to Ballydugan and the Racecourse, but we would be very interested in hearing what the council has in mind in relation to the old trackbed to Newcastle, most of which remains derelict".

He continues, "We are also pleased to see that Newcastle's Chamber of Commerce has expressed support for the plans."

Mr. Collins explains, "The DCDR would relish being part of such a vision. In principle the provision of a potential rail link between the two towns would transform both the transport infrastructure into Newcastle and the tourist offering of both the immediate district and Northern Ireland".

"Such a line, with its breath-taking scenery, a route following the shore of Dundrum Bay and under the shadow of the Mournes, would be unparalleled by any heritage railway in the UK or Ireland," he claims.

"It would tie both towns together, develop a heritage and tourism trail unique to Ireland, and the district would enjoy significant associated economic and social benefits," he continues, "One just has to look at the push for the extensions of lines in England such as the Bluebell Railway - a project of a similar scale to this proposal - pushed strongly by its local community and local authorities because of the benefits it will bring to the town and area."

Mr. Collins admits that such a project would face challenges.

The 'Golfers Express' on the curve between Dundrum and Newcastle pre-1950. headed by 4-4-2T loco No. 18

The 'Golfers Express' on the curve between Dundrum and Newcastle pre-1950. headed by 4-4-2T loco No. 18

"The big question is could it actually happen? The scale of the project would mean that a group of volunteers - any group - would struggle to deliver this project on their own. However, we carried out a feasibility study in the early 1990s which showed that from a civil engineering point of view, reaching Dundrum would be relatively straightforward, and a potential site for a new station in Dundrum is already in Council ownership."

He elaborates, "The final section between Dundrum and Newcastle does, however, pose some problems such as realigned roads and new housing developments. For instance it may not be possible to reinstate the original station in Newcastle, or alternative routes might be needed in places, and these are all questions that this study will need to address, and come up with solutions."

He adds, "So while the idea has merit, and many people have said to us in the past it would be a brilliant, for those reasons alone we welcome a professional study into the feasibility of using the trackbed for transport purposes, whether they are rail or other options, and to cost the delivery of such a project. This exercise should not be just looking at a map and lamenting what has gone, or promising something undeliverable, but able to answer once and for all if this could actually be done."

Mr. Collins, "We have seen what can be achieved in Titanic Quarter if the political will is there, but for such a project to be achievable it will need the support of the local community, local landowners and businesses, as well as local and regional authorities. But we stand ready to assist and advise the Council and their consultants in any way we can and look forward to working with them on exploring the practicalities of these exciting projects"

 


Titanic Train To Run in Downpatrick
Friday, 30th March, 2012

BCDR 148 & 72 would have carried shipyard workers building Titanic

BCDR 148 & 72 would have carried shipyard workers building Titanic

The Downpatrick & County Down Railway is hosting a special weekend event to mark the links between Harland and Wolff and the old Belfast & County Down Railway on the Titanic centenary on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th April.

Railway Chairman Michael Collins will give a guided tour of railway carriages connected to the famous shipbuilder and the ill-fated liner.

He explains, “The Belfast & County Down Railway were neighbours and had a very close working relationship.

“Not only was Thomas Andrews’ father chairman of the Belfast & County Down Railway, but the busy commuter trains of the BCDR brought in thousands of shipyard workers everyday to work on Olympic and Titanic, as well as all the other ships,” he says.

He continues, “We have preserved some of those carriages and people will be able to get up close to see how shipyard workers would have travelled to Harland & Wolff in 1912, and sit in their seats.”

Mr. Collins goes on to say, “The Titanic connection doesn’t end there, visitors will be able to board a 1902-vintage third-class carriage from the Great Southern & Western Railway, and see one of their engines, which served the port of Queenstown.

The Titanic's builders built the BCDR's first diesel locomotive

The Titanic's builders built the BCDR's first diesel locomotive

“So not only do you get the experience of the shipyard worker, you will also be able to experience how an emigrant travelled to meet the doomed liner”.

Mr. Collins says that the connection between Harland & Wolff and the BCDR didn’t end with the Titanic.

“Later, in the 1930s the Titanic’s builders produced two revolutionary diesel locomotives for the BCDR to use on the Ballynahinch and Downpatrick to Ardglass branch lines,” he says.

“Unfortunately neither of the Harlandic diesels survived into preservation, but to mark this extraordinary link we will be running two special diesel trains at 2pm and 3pm on both days.”

Fares for the day are £5.50 adults, £4.50 children and senior citizens, while children under three go free. The talk will be held in the new “Carriage Gallery” immediately after each train returns on each day.


Hop Aboard the Easter Eggspress Train!
Wednesday, 28th March, 2012

George Legge gets his Easter Egg from the Easter Bunny

George Legge gets his Easter Egg from the Easter Bunny

This April, there'll be 'eggs-travagant' fun at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway with eggs galore on this year's "Easter Eggspress", running over the Easter weekend.

The bunnies are already hopping the rails at the local heritage railway, and the "Easter-Eggspress" is a unique surprise and special treat for kids and a great way to say "Happy Easter!" for all the family.

The train will be used for excursions from the town centre from 2pm till 5pm on Saturday 7th April, Easter Sunday (8th April) & Easter Monday (9th April).

Railway Chairman, Michael Collins, says that children passengers receive a special treat from a special guest who's bounced into the station for this weekend, "Once the train has arrived at Inch Abbey, you'll be greeted by the Easter Bunny who'll be hopping with joy to give them their Easter Eggs."

He continues, "If you bring your camera you might get your child to catch a photograph of this elusive bunny!"

"And as well as fun for the children, mums and dads also get the chance to experience rail travel at its most traditional." Refreshments will be served all day onboard a buffet carriage at Inch Abbey station, car parking is free at both Downpatrick and Inch Abbey and you can board at either station.

Tickets cost £5.50 adults, £5.50 children (including egg), £4 children aged below three years old (including egg), and £4.50 senior citizens. There's no need to book and a ticket lasts all day.



Park'n'Ride by Train this St. Patrick's Day
Tuesday, 13th March, 2012

The St. Patrick's Day Parade finishing at Downpatrick Station

The St. Patrick's Day Parade finishing at Downpatrick Station

With carparking at a premium in the St. Patrick's Carnival, the Downpatrick & County Down Railway is saying to people to choo-choose an alternative way into the carnival its St. Patrick’s Day vintage trains.

In conjunction with Down Community Transport, the railway will be offering a Park'n'Ride service into the town from the Down Business Park on the Belfast Road directly into the heart of the carnival between 12 noon and 5pm.

Railway Chairman, Michael Collins, says that this is a sure way of beating the traffic and letting you roll into the town for the festival celebrations.

"We know that many people end up parking as far out as the former Abbey Lodge Hotel site and the Down Business Park on the Belfast Road and end up having to walk a fair distance into the town centre," he says.

"So many people use our trains to get into the carnival and save the hassle of parking," he says, before adding, "But our Inch Abbey car park is limited, so we've teamed up with Down Community Transport and Down Business Park in order to increase car parking spaces.

"Follow the AA signs into the Business Park, where there will be a shuttle bus between the Business Park and our Inch Abbey Station, where you can walk onto a vintage train that will take you into the heart of the carnival!”

But as well as providing a means of getting from A to B on St. Patrick's Day, Mr. Collins suggests a visit to Inch Abbey itself.

“First of all, why not visit a Christian heritage site while celebrating Ireland’s Patron Saint? He adds, “You also get the best view of Down Cathedral, the site of St. Patrick’s Grave, from on board the train.”

From 12 noon a heritage diesel train will be running the park and ride service between Inch Abbey and the town centre all day.

Tickets will be available at Inch Abbey, and refreshments will be served all day onboard a buffet carriage while you wait for the train.

Return tickets cost £5.50 adult, £4.50 children or senior citizens, while children aged three years old or below go free, and for motorists using the Business Park this includes the cost of the Shuttle Bus and all day parking for themselves and their passengers. Train tickets can be bought at both Inch Abbey and Downpatrick Stations.

Timetable for St. Patrick's Day

Depart Downpatrick
Arrive Inch Abbey
Depart Inch Abbey
Arrive Downpatrick
1200
1210
1220
1230
1240
1250
1300
1310
1320
1330
1340
1350
1400
1400
1420
1430
1445
1455
1505
1515
1530
1540
1550
1600
1615
1625
1635
1645
1700
1710
1720
1730

 


DCDR Back on the Telly - Twice!
Monday, 20th February, 2012

TG4's new two-part series Bóithre Iarainn (see earlier bulletin) has dramatic reconstruction scenes shot at the DCDR. The first episode, which aired on 9th February, features the famous 'locked train' which traveled cross -border from Dundalk to Bundoran carrying a mixed bunch of honeymooners, smugglers and Lough Derg pilgrims.

The second episode, which aired on the 16th February, features the West Cork Railway, which was once a vast network of lines stretching nearly 100 miles from Cork to Baltimore, serving every town, village and harbour from Kinsale to Bantry. Look out for our No. 90 in her original home in Courtmacsherry!

 

 


Michael Portillo Drops into Downpatrick
Sunday, 29th January, 2012

Michael Portillo on board No. 3 at Downpatrick

Michael Portillo on board No. 3 at Downpatrick

In this week's series of episodes of the latest series of Great British Railway Journeys, Michael Portillo takes to the tracks with a copy of George Bradshaw's Victorian Railway Guidebook, crossing the Irish sea to discover the rich railway history of both the Republic of Ireland and
Northern Ireland, following the unfurling 19th century expansion of the tracks
from Dublin to Londonderry.

Watch out for Wednesday's episode where Michael explores the Victorians' fascination with antiquity, by visiting the amazing Cromlech stones of Dundalk. He reaches for the stars at the Portadown Observatory and travels in style along the steam railway of Downpatrick.

Catch this episode on BBC2 or BBC-HD, this Wednesday 1st February 2012 at 18.30


Irish Language Programme Examines the Old County Down
Sunday, 29th January, 2012

A four part nostalgic documentary series for Irish language channel TG4, "IARNRÓD ULADH", has been airing chronicling the history of Ulster's railways and featuring some fascinating personal stories about events that took place before these lines disappeared forever.

The series tells the story of four railway lines which were once part of Ulster's network including: The Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway, The Clogher Valley Railway The Belfast and County Down Railway and The Ballycastle Railway. Using a mixture of expert interviews, personal stories, narration and beautiful archive we learn about the history of each of these railway lines and how they changed the lives of the communities they served.

The series starts in Counties Derry and Donegal where the story of the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway is illustrated through poignant personal stories and archive. We learn about the impact the railway had on everyday life, the effect the introduction of customs had on a line that crossed the newly formed border, the tragedy of the railway disaster at the Owencarrow Viaduct in 1925. Other stories featured throughout the series include the tale of a clever goat that strayed on to the ClogherValley railway line, The 1945 Ballymacarrett railway accident in Belfast and the impact of the severe snow on the Ballycastle railway in 1947.

The series featuring the BCDR, with large parts filmed at the DCDR and footage from our archive, can be seen tonight on TG4 at 1930 or on the TG4 Player here.



A Scissors At A Snip
Thursday 26th January, 2012

A piece of track goes up into the air for its journey to Downpatrick from Limerick Junction

A piece of track goes up into the air for its journey to Downpatrick from Limerick Junction

Last Tuesday and Wednesday DCDR members went "a long way" to Limerick Junction to collect the former Scissors Crossing which was removed from this location in 2010 by Irish Rail as part of a new track and resignalling works in this Tipperary location.

All the important ironwork was secured and we now have enough components on site (if we so wished and geometry allows) to build a complete scissors crossing on our track, as per the original BCDR track layout, although it is currently not in the double-track plan as to try and incorporate it at this stage would complicate an already ambitious project. The components are in excellent condition with little wear.

While we were able to remove a proportion of the sleepers, they were stacked very tightly together, meaning it was slow and difficult in the rain to unpack them for easy loading, so around three-quarter of the load had to be left behind. However it had already been anticipated that this
collection would require a second load.

The timbers are also in excellent condition, and are in such a high number as to address our requirements for some time, and most will see immediate re-use as part of the Double-Track Project.


Saving Your Snaps And Mementos Of The Railway
Tuesday 12th January, 2012

Robert Dowling (right), assistant cashier with the BCDR, with Mr. Evans, Head Cashier, and the office secretary (name unknown) in the offices in Queen's Quay Station.

Robert Dowling (right), assistant cashier with the BCDR, with Mr. Evans, Head Cashier, and the office secretary (name unknown) in the offices in Queen's Quay Station.

On the eve of the 62th Anniversary of the closure of the old Belfast & County Down Railway lines on the 15th January, the Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway is relaunching it's annual appeal for artefacts.

Railway volunteer and photo archivist Robert Gardiner explained that it is important that things like 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.

"We're really the first generation that takes photos on a daily basis," he said. "We take photos on our mobiles, we can email them and share them with hundreds of people on the internet".

"But back then taking photographs was not cheap, they were planned and meant to be important records of the people, buildings and trains of the day."

Royal Irish Constabulary officer Stuart Boyd beside a goods train in Belfast's Queen's Quay

Royal Irish Constabulary officer Stuart Boyd beside a goods train in Belfast's Queen's Quay

"We are also on the lookout for things like uniforms, tickets, posters, anything connected to the local railway. So as people will be in their lofts putting away their Christmas decorations - have a look in that old trunk in the back, or that old album."

He continues, "These things 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".

Mr Gardiner recalls one particular story, "There's a story told to us of a man who took cine film of the last train pulling out of Newcastle on January 15th 1950, but never let anyone copy it. He passed away in the 1980s and when people enquired about obtaining the film they found that his wife had skipped it, thinking 'sure nobody would be interested in that'."

"I think everyone gasps in horror when they hear that particular tale," he says.

"However," he adds, "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."

Mr Gardiner explains, "Although we would very much welcome original prints and negatives, we have in a number of instances actually gone round to someone's house and professionally scanned the images at extremely high resolution.

"This means the photos never even have to leave your house - we can provide larger reprints of the resulting scan if anyone wants, and the owners can be safe in the knowledge that their precious images have been preserved by a fully accredited museum for future generations to enjoy - so do have a rummage!"

Mr Gardiner went on to explain that it's absolutely anything with a railway theme, "We also find that people can be very modest about their pictures - they go 'Oh, they're not very good, or they're poor quality' - don't worry about that at all, it's just amazing that the photos exist in the
first place."

Robert Dowling (left) and Fred McClenaghan (right), members of BCDR staff, about to board a "family saloon" train at Newcastle following a staff day-out in the 1920s

Robert Dowling (left) and Fred McClenaghan (right), members of BCDR staff, about to board a "family saloon" train at Newcastle following a staff day-out in the 1920s

"We also find that people think that because there's not a train in shot, that they're of no interest - believe me, photos that show bridges, carriages, railway staff, passengers can be far more important historically as they show people, the human element of the railways that all too often wasn't recorded in official photographs, or long lost structures".

"For instance, we've recently come across a fantastic photo collection taken by one of the BCDR's last cashiers, Robert Dowling, who had a keen interest in photography since the First World War and has recorded some fantastic images of everyday life on the railway. His daughter Rosemary was completely surprised, but delighted that these would have been of interest, and was taken aback that some of the images will form the backbone of our new display in our Carriage Gallery, due to open later this year."

Mr Gardiner also elaborated on a few areas not covered by existing archives that the Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway is keen to fill.

"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,"

Mr. Gardiner adds, "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're keen to also record their stories and experiences to provide an oral history of the BCDR," says Mr. Gardiner.

Anyone with any photographs, or any other BCDR items or artefacts, or knows someone who might be able to help is urged to contact Robert Gardiner at downtrains@yahoo.co.uk,
or write c/o Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway, Market Street, Downpatrick, Co. Down, BT30 6LZ.



 

 


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