Now on sale! Santa Steam Train tickets for the Lapland Express

Now on sale! Santa Steam Train tickets for the Lapland Express

Tickets for our annual Santa trains, The Lapland Express, are on sale – and are selling fast, so hurry if you want to make sure you don’t miss out. This year’s Lapland Express Santa trains are running on the following dates:

  • Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd December
  • Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th December
  • Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th December
  • Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd December

For full details, see our special Lapland Express webpage here. or go straight to our online ticket office and buy your tickets right now.

DCDR Recognised At Museum Accreditation Awards

DCDR Recognised At Museum Accreditation Awards

The Downpatrick and County Down Railway was one of 17 local museums including that have been recognised at an awards ceremony for museums who have successfully maintained their Full Accreditation status.

The Accreditation Scheme is the UK standard for museums and sets nationally agreed standards for good practice and a baseline quality standard that helps guide museums to be the best they can be.

Group photo of local museum representatives and NIMC members, including staff and volunteers from museums awarded Full Accreditation in 2018.

Group photo of local museum representatives and NIMC members, including staff and volunteers from museums awarded Full Accreditation in 2018.

Neil Hamilton, Curator at the Downpatrick and County Down Railway said “Accreditation is extremely important as it assures potential donors of artefacts that they will be conserved to universal bench marked standards and made available for future generations to appreciate.”

He added,  “It is also a conspicuous high quality standard that all the volunteers have worked so hard to achieve and they should be extremely proud of their achievement.”

Tríona White Hamilton, Accreditation Adviser and Assessor at Northern Ireland Museums Council said “We are delighted that our local museums’ commitment to governance, collections care and visitor experience has ensured their maintenance of the Accreditation Standard.  We hope that this will enable the continued development of these museums as valued resources for both visitors and the local community. Accreditation is a national standard which gives confidence to all stakeholders.”

Museums are required to submit their Accreditation return applications every 3 years to ensure they are continuing to maintain the standard.

The Awards ceremony was held on Tuesday 18th September at the Naughton Gallery at Queen’s University. It was attended by the local museum sector and NIMC members. Allison Cosgrove, Head of Museums and Libraries at Department of Communities and Sinéad McCartan, Director of Northern Ireland Museums Council presented the museums with their Accreditation certificates on the day.

Although Accreditation is a national standard, it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ model. The expectations vary for museums of different types, sizes and scopes. There are currently just under 1,800 museums participating in the scheme across the UK. In Northern Ireland there are 43 Accredited Museums; 20 Local Authority Museums; 13 Independent Museums; 7 National Trust museums; 3 National Museums.

European Heritage Open Days 2018 – Step Back to the Rail Victorian Time!

European Heritage Open Days 2018 – Step Back to the Rail Victorian Time!

There’s still time to catch the train this weekend at the Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway before the last summer train pulls out of the station.

The Railway is running its last trips to Inch Abbey this weekend, Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th September, as part of the European Heritage Open Days, and in the spirit of Province-wide scheme there will be guided tours on request of the lesser seen parts of the railway site not normally accessible to the public, as well as the chance to sample the atmosphere of rail travel at its most traditional.

After this weekend the next time the train will be out will be for the Halloween Ghost Trains at the end of the October, so this will be the last opportunity people will have to let the train take the strain before it is infested with ghosts and ghouls at that spooky time of the year.

Railway chairman Robert Gardiner says that this year passengers are in for a real Victorian treat.

“As part of the spirit of the European Heritage Open Days, where you get access to lesser known parts of our heritage, we are running three beautifully restored Victorian and Edwardian carriages normally kept on display in our Carriage Gallery.

The BCDR Railmotor carriage (No. 72) will be in public service for the first time, along with BCDR composite carriage No. 148

The three railway carriages operating all have a special history, as well as a connection to the ill-fated liner – Titanic. Two come from the Belfast & County Down Railway, which used to operate between Belfast and Newcastle via Downpatrick, and the Great Southern & Western Railway – and all three have been restored from wrecks – two of which were found in fields being used as hen houses.

Mr Gardiner 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, and sit in their seats.”

Mr Gardiner 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.

Ride in the cab of a G class diesel locomotive – free of charge!

“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

“And as part of the European Heritage Open Days experience, we’re offering you the chance to travel in the cab of a diesel locomotive with the driver, for a short trip down our South Line, for a unique view of our railway. Places on this will be limited, so be sure to ask our volunteers when you arrive.”

And if this wasn’t enough of a draw, the recently arrived 80 Class “Thumper” railcar will be going on public display inside the DCDR’s Carriage Gallery for the first time, where visitors can see the internal work that has been ongoing to restore the vehicle to operational condition.

80 class power car No. 69 in the Carriage Gallery at DCDR

80 class power car No. 69 in the Carriage Gallery at DCDR

Mr. Gardiner says “A trip to the station is also much more than boarding the train, with our museum and Carriage Gallery visitor centre we bring the golden age of the railway vividly to life and you can find out what impact 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 control a model railway layout.

From 1pm to 4pm, the steam train will run to Inch Abbey, and visitors can disembark and take a short walk up to Inch Abbey. These extensive remains are of a Cistercian Abbey founded in 1180 by John de Courcy, who led the 1177 Anglo-Norman invasion of East Ulster, and are the reputed site for where the story of St Patrick chasing the snakes out of Ireland was first recorded by the monks.  And on Saturday 8th there is a guided walk of the ruins with Cistercian Brother Robert as he marks the Hours in the tranquil beauty of this serene Medieval abbey.

Behind the scenes tours of our workshop

Mr Gardiner continues “You can also visit the museum in the station building which looks at the impact that the railways had on people’s lives, through artefacts from tickets to signals, and a gift shop you can visit before you leave.”

Also open to the public is the lovingly restored Bundoran Junction signal cabin, now taking pride of place at Downpatrick Station rechristened ‘Downpatrick East’, where you can imagine yourself as the signalman controlling the trains and learning about the vital role signalling had on our railways – and is the only genuine vintage signal cabin that is also wheelchair accessible.

Refreshments are also served in the newly entered-service 1980s “Cafe Carriage” parked at Inch Abbey Station where you can wait to make the return journey to Downpatrick, which is fully accessible for wheelchair users.

Train fares, which are separate to free access to the station and museum, cost £7.00 adults, children £5.00, and £6.00 senior citizens, whilst a family ticket costs £20 and children aged three years old or below go free. Tickets provide all-day access to the steam trains, the museum, signal cabin and model railway. You can buy tickets on the day, or purchase in advance at our online ticket office.

Steam & Diesel Delight at Downpatrick & County Down Railway

Steam & Diesel Delight at Downpatrick & County Down Railway

Heritage diesel traction has its turn in the limelight this August Bank Holiday weekend, as the Downpatrick & County Down Railway turns over its passenger trains to the Americans on Sunday 26th August, with the steam trains charging into the holiday spirit on Saturday 25th and Monday 27th August.

Railway Chairman, Robert Gardiner said, “This is a chance to experience classic Irish 1930s and 1960s steam and diesel locomotives in action on a passenger train this year!”

Mr Gardiner adds, “We are delighted to announce that our yankee engine, ‘Baby GM’ 141 class locomotive No. 146, built by General Motors in Illinois, will be providing a fantastic rumble on this Bank Holiday special service”

The distinctive black and orange locomotive entered traffic with Coras Iompair Éireann (CIÉ), the Irish state-owned transport company in on 14th December 1962 and withdrawn on 5th March 2010 and saw widespread service across Ireland, including on cross-border Enterprise services to Belfast and lines now closed to Omagh.

Mr Gardiner says “This American baby boomer is one of the last remaining examples of a class that saw service all over Ireland, including the Great Northern Railway’s famous ‘Derry Road’ from Portadown to Dungannon, Omagh and Strabane, giving that line a short-lived taste of the future before it controversially and prematurely closure in 1965.”

A limited number of cab ride passes are available for the day, priced £20 for one return journey. These are now available online as well as at the ticket office. Visitors must have a reasonable level of fitness to climb into the cab of a diesel locomotive.

Tickets are available to purchase online, or available from the ticket office on the day. You can travel up and down on as many passenger trains as you want with your tickets. Adults cost £7.00, with under 18s costing £5.00 and concessions at £6.00, with a family for two adults and up to three children at only £20. Children aged three and under travel free.

Mr. Gardiner says “A trip to the station is also much more than boarding the train, with our museum and Carriage Gallery visitor centre we bring the golden age of the railway vividly to life and you can find out what impact 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 the big kids want a go too?”

Also open to the public at the station is the lovingly restored Bundoran Junction signal cabin, taking pride of place at Downpatrick Station rechristened ‘Downpatrick East’, where you can imagine yourself as the signalman controlling the trains and learning about the vital role signalling had on the railways and is the only genuine vintage signal cabin that is also wheelchair accessible.

The Downpatrick & County Down Railway’s ‘Summer Steam’ season also continues every weekend throughout August and the first two September weekends.

Fire risk means diesel stands in for steam!

Fire risk means diesel stands in for steam!

Like many heritage railway operators across the UK & Ireland, due to the continued fire risk caused by the very hot and dry weather, we have to run diesel trains instead of steam to reduce the risk of us starting fires.

The weather has been so dry and hot, there’s a high risk of any spark from a steam locomotive setting the grass alight and causing a serious fire, so we have swapped the steam engine for a diesel one this weekend again, for Sunday 8th July.

Remember to check our opening dates before you travel to Downpatrick – we aren’t open this Saturday, but we are open every Saturday and Sunday from the 14th of July through to the end of our summer season. You can see the dates here.

As well as the fun of a 1960s diesel locomotive at the front of your train, all the usual attractions will be open – you can read more about this here.  And a cab ride in the diesel loco is a great treat for the Big Kid in all of us. You can now book cab experiences online right now via our ticket office.

Summer Steam pulls into Downpatrick

Summer Steam pulls into Downpatrick

See our opening dates here – please check before you travel to Downpatrick!

This summer, visitors to County Down can relive the elegance of by-gone railway travel as a season of ‘Summer Steam’ steam trains chuffing their way through the picturesque County Down countryside, along nearly two miles of restored track, begins this July.

And over the last thirty years a small group of volunteers in Downpatrick have painstakingly rebuilt two miles of the line as 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, and every weekend visitors will be able to travel back in time to the golden age of trains.

Railway Chairman Robert Gardiner 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 back out, hop on board and bring a picnic with you and catch one of the later trains back?”

Mr. Gardiner added, “Or if the rainclouds linger, you’re always undercover inside a railway carriage – and hop about our buffet carriage to stop the sarnies getting soggy!”

Hauling the trains will be the “Sugarpuff” engine, or Orenstein & Koppel built steam locomotive No. 1, which used to haul wagons of sugarbeet during her working life for Cómhlucht Siúicre Éireann, the Irish Sugar Company. Her sister locomotive No. 3 is coming back into service this year after a long restoration, so you might get lucky and see her too!

You could also see a classic 1960s diesel locomotive helping out, with ex-Irish Rail diesel locomotive No. 146 providing a fantastic rumble at the start and end of each day, as well as hauling all trains on Sunday, August 26th, our now traditional annual summer diesel day. Kids need to be sure to wave at the driver, and get him to blow the horn for you!

Teas, coffees, cool drinks, buns, biccies and chocolate bars are served all day onboard a 1950s buffet carriage parked at Inch Abbey station.

Mr. Gardiner says “A trip to the station is also much more than boarding the train, with our museum and ‘Carriage Gallery’ visitor centre we bring the golden age of the railway vividly to life and you can find out what impact 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. You can explore the inside of some of the lovingly restored carriages, or climb into the cab of a big diesel locomotive and imagine the life of a drive in the 1950s and 60s.

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 have a go driving Thomas the Tank Engine on our model railway – or will the ‘big kids’ want to have a go too?”

You can also visit the lovingly restored Bundoran Junction signal cabin, now taking pride of place at Downpatrick Station rechristened ‘Downpatrick East’, where you can imagine yourself as the signalman controlling the trains and learning about the vital role signalling had on our railways.

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 – you can now book these in advance for a special birthday treat.

Doors open to the public at 1pm each open day, with final trains departing at 4pm and doors closing at 5pm. Tickets cost adults £7.00 return, £5 for children, and £5.50 for senior citizens and other concessions. Children aged three years old or younger can travel free of charge. A family ticket costs £20 for two adults and up to three kids. You can book all tickets online for convenience, including the footplate passes.

You cold also take out membership and join the DCDR Society and get free travel for the entire year, as well as get regular updates on what’s happening at Northern Ireland’s steam centre – or maybe you’d like to volunteer, and one day you could be driving the trains, being a station master, or laying the tracks yourself!

Summer trains start running on Sunday 1st and Sunday 8th July, and then run every Saturday and Sunday from July 14th through to 9th September. The railway also opens on the Bank Holiday Monday, August 27th. Please check the dates carefully before you travel.

Race for the Train at the DownTime Festival

Race for the Train at the DownTime Festival

Steam trains are running at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway on the weekend of 16th and 17th June as part of the new DownTime festival of horse racing, music and culture being held across the Downpatrick area.

To enter into the spirit of fun, there’s a special offer for kids to get in free too. “We want kids to get in the saddle and gallop on down,” says DCDR Chairman Robert Gardiner, “so if they bring something ‘horsey’ with them – it doesn’t matter what, it can be clothing with pictures on it, some actual horse riding gear, a stuffed toy, or even a My Little Pony – they get free admission!”

The train is being hauled by the railway’s own stallion of the rails, a ‘Black Beauty’ of the steam variety. Orenstein & Koppel steam locomotive No. 1, is a German-built locomotive that hauled wagons filled with that staple favourite of horses, sugar beet, during her working life in factories across Ireland.

For a cultural connection, you can visit the historic 12th Century Cistercian monastery at Inch Abbey – perhaps taking a picnic out with you to enjoy some chilled time on the banks of the River Quoile.

Teas, coffees, cold drinks, biccies and buns at highly competitive rates will also be served all afternoon onboard the DCDR’s buffet carriage parked at Inch Abbey station; you can also drive to our Inch Abbey station and catch the train from there if you wish.

“A trip to the station museum and the Carriage Gallery visitor centre brings the golden age of the railway vividly to life,and celebrate the relationship between the railways and racing,” says Mr Gardiner.

He explains this relationship, “The Chief Executive of the Irish National Stud, John Osborne, noted in an episode of ‘Great British Railway Journeys Goes to Ireland’, that “the train would have been the artery of horse racing. A lot of the Irish racecourses not coincidentally evolved close to mainline railways. We take for granted today how easy it is to ship horses twice around the globe now, but back then the racehorses travelled by train as well.”

Whilst racing at Downpatrick predated the coming of the railways, the arrival of the railway in the town in 1858 meant a similar relationship soon developed. Originally horses would have been carried to Downpatrick station in special railway horseboxes, and horses and racegoers would then walk out along the Ballydugan Road to the racecourse.

The opening of the BCDR’s branch line to Ardglass in 1892 meant that a halt closer to the racecourse could be built. The BCDR printed special tickets for racedays, and special trains being laid on to connect with Dublin trains in Belfast. It was a massive logistical undertaking for the BCDR. This all ended, of course, when the line closed in 1950.

Mr Gardiner adds, “You can look 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 and climb on board the cab of a locomotive or carriage for their photograph to be taken, or can get to drive Thomas the Tank Engine on a model railway – ‘big kids’ might even 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 – this would be a great Father’s Day treat for the Sunday! A reasonable level of fitness is required for this experience, and you need to be aged 18 or older.

Trains run at the from 1pm to 4pm, with all-day access tickets costing: adults £7.00, £5.00 children and £6.00 senior citizens. Kids aged 3 or under travel free, as does any other child up to age 16 who can bring a horsey item with them! A family ticket costs £20, which covers 2 adults and up to three kids.

Mr Gardiner adds, “While you’re there, you can join the DCDR Society and get free travel all year, as well as get regular updates on what’s happening at Northern Ireland’s steam centre and have the opportunity to volunteer – who knows, you might end up driving the steam trains yourself in a few years’ time!”

You can purchase your tickets when you arrive, or beat the queues and buy them online at our online ticket office now.

A Steamy End to May

A Steamy End to May

Catch the steam train at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway on this year’s Spring Bank Holiday, Monday 28th May,

The Spring Bank Holiday Monday is the perfect chance to take another trip to Inch Abbey this time to sample the delights of a real steam train and rail travel at its most traditional.

The train is being hauled by a ‘Black Beauty’ of the steaming kind, Orenstein & Koppel steam locomotive No. 1, a German-built locomotive that hauled wagons filled with sugarbeet during her working life in factories in the Republic.

If you’re looking for something to do in the gloriously sunny exam weather, you can catch the steam train out to the 12th Century Cistercian monastery at Inch Abbey – perhaps taking a picnic out with you to enjoy some chilled time on the banks of the River Quoile?

Teas, coffees and cold drinks as well as lots of buns at highly competitive rates will also be served all day onboard the DCDR’s 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.

A trip to the station museum and the 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 and climb on board the cab of a locomotive or carriage for their photograph to be taken, or can get to drive Thomas the Tank Engine on a model railway – ‘big kids’ might even 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. A reasonable level of fitness is required for these.

Trains run at the new times of 1pm to 4pm, with all-day access tickets costing: adults £7.00, £5.00 children and £6.00 senior citizens, and don’t forget that children aged three years old or below go free.  A family ticket costs £20, and  Or you can 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.

You can buy your tickets when you arrive, or online now – visit our online ticket office!

Find out what to do on your visit here.

Iconic 80 Class ‘Thumper’ Arrives in Downpatrick

Iconic 80 Class ‘Thumper’ Arrives in Downpatrick

The Downpatrick & County Down Railway’s “Save an 80 Class” appeal to safeguard the future of one of Northern Ireland’s most distinctive trains came to a successful conclusion with the delivery of the iconic railcars over the weekend of 12th & 13th May.

The local heritage railway had launched the fundraising appeal at the start of April to help bring the retired units to their preserved line, saving them from the scrapyard.

Robert Gardiner of DCDR (left) with Simon Reid, of Reid Freight Services, before power car 69 is unloaded.

Robert Gardiner of DCDR (left) with Simon Reid, of Reid Freight Services, before power car 69 is unloaded.

Railway chairman, Robert Gardiner said, “In less than a month we raised a staggering £12,500 from donors from all across Ireland and Great Britain, from £5 to £1000, with an addition £7,000 pledged from the Modern Railway Society of Ireland.”

 

He continues, “This has been the most successful fundraising campaign we’ve ever undertaken, and we are deeply humbled by the response from the public towards this campaign – our thanks to everyone who donate.”

The four vehicles that make up the 80 Class unit, power cars No. 90 and 69 and driving trailers No. 752 and 749, were transported from Translink’s York Road engineering depot over the weekend of the 12th and 13th May, using a specialist low-loader lorry from Reid Freight Services in England – one long enough to accommodate the heavy vehicles – the power cars weigh over 63 tonnes!

Mr Gardiner adds, “We’ve been quietly working on this project since the vehicles were withdrawn from passenger service in 2011, but I don’t think anyone expected it would be this long before the project came to fruition.

Power car 69 is carefully winched off the truck.

Power car 69 is carefully winched off the truck.

“However, what an amazing time it has been – we have been incredibly lucky to have arranged with Translink to get two of the vehicles repainted into their original maroon and blue livery, but using modern long lasting and durable two-pack paint. The operational units will therefore feel entirely heritage and look very presentable to our visitors when they arrive, and not look like a modern Translink train.

“It has also been a joy calling into York Road every so often to check on progress – the enthusiasm and pride that the team behind the project in NIR have in the restoration of these two vehicles is simply fantastic.

DCDR's Robert Gardiner shakes hands with MRSI Secretary Andy Boal

DCDR’s Robert Gardiner shakes hands with MRSI Secretary Andy Boal

He also paid tribute to the pioneer of this project, “I’m also delighted to have got agreement from the family of our late chairman and friend Mike Collins to name power car No. 69 after him. Mike was a keen driving force behind this project back in 2006 when the initial vehicles were withdrawn and again in 2011, I think it’s a wonderful testimony to him. I’ve been in touch with a foundry that specialise in casting nameplates and hope to place the order for these soon.”

With the vehicles secure and delivered, attention turns to getting them into service.

Mr Gardiner continues, “All donations will all go towards the cost of this repainting, the transportation costs and also the ancillary work needed to return these vehicles to passenger service which can now begin.

“This will include deep cleaning the interiors and other works and getting them ready for passenger service  – and hopefully we’ll be able to launch the vehicles later this year subject to driver training – anyone interested in helping with this refurbishment work is more than welcome to register to become a volunteer, or indeed to learn to drive the train.”

Mr Gardiner adds, “There’s nothing to stop anyone becoming a guard or driver of these trains if they are willing to go through our in-depth training and pass all the necessary exams!”

Donations to the appeal are still welcome, and can be made by logging on to our 80 class appeal webpage.

Trains Back for May Day

Trains Back for May Day

From railway buffs to casual visitors all ages looking for a day out, there’s another chance to catch the steam train at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway on this year’s May Day public holidays, Monday 7th May and 28th May.

Railway chairman Robert Gardiner says the May bank holidays are the perfect chance to take another trip to Inch Abbey or to see the delights of a real steam train for anyone who did not get the chance at Easter, or those who just couldn’t wait to come back!

“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 50-100 year old carriages through the picturesque County Down countryside along nearly two miles of restored track.

“Refreshments at highly competitive rates will be served all afternoon on board our buffet carriage parked at Inch Abbey station; you can start your journey at either end of our line, and return on any train you like.”

Mr. Gardiner says “A trip to the station museum and the ‘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.

“You can also visit our beautifully restored signal cabin at the end of the platform in Downpatrick, formerly from Bundoran Junction in County Fermanagh, and learn about the life of a signalman. The signal cabin is even wheelchair accessible too, as are the trains and Carriage Gallery.”

Children can enjoy their own “Kids’ Station” in the Carriage Gallery, where they can climb into a vintage locomotive cab and dress up as a train driver or guard, or can get to drive Thomas the Tank Engine on out 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 (you need to be 18+ to do this).

Tickets cost £7.00 for adults, £5 for children 4 and over, concession fares are £6. Children aged below four years old go free! A family ticket is £20 for two adults and up to three kids.

You can book your tickets at our online ticket office now or buy them when you arrive at our station.

Dogs are very welcome on our trains, provided they are kept under control. Free Parking is available at both Inch Abbey and Downpatrick Stations.

Last admissions are at 3:45pm. Trains depart from 1pm-4pm, the station is open until 5pm.

See our Timetable & Fares webpage for further information.