BCDR Railmotor test runs

BCDR Railmotor test runs

We’re delighted that our Belfast & County Down Railway carriage No. 72 (a.k.a. the Holywood Railmotor) is among nearly 20 carriages nominated for the Heritage Railway Association Carriage and Wagon awards.

As a wee treat to celebrate and wish the carriage good luck, here’s a film of the vehicle taking to the rails for the first time since the 1950s following a ten year restoration. The run was a proving run as part of the certification process for approving restored vehicles entering service. We hope to launch the Railmotor into passenger service for special events later in the year.



Three of these were built, two in 1905 and one in 1906, to combat the potential expansion of the Belfast Corporation Tramways network to Holywood and were used for rapid and frequent services between Holywood and later Dundonald.

Essentially the grandfathers of modern trains, which can be controlled from either end unlike the trains of the day where engines had to uncouple from their rake of carriages and run-round them to the other end, they had a small steam locomotive actually built into the end of a carriage.

They were numbered separately from both the main locomotive and carriage stock as Nos. 1, 2 and 3. Ours was positively identified as No. 2 (later No. 72) by a former BCDR fireman through repair works unique to this vehicle (which can also be seen on vintage photographs).

The locomotives were constructed by Kitsons of Leeds and the bodies by the Metropolitian Carriage & Wagon company.

All three railmotors were used extensively and by the time World War One came about the locomotives were wearing out, and the locomotives were removed and the carriages rebuilt with another set of wheels, but the control gear was retained and they were operated as ‘autotrains’ with normal locomotives refitted to be remote controlled.

Railmotor No. 3 was involved in serious accident at Ballymacarrett on the Bangor branch, which led to the operation of autotrains being halted, and the carriages renumbered and used as conventional loco-hauled carriages.

Running days for 2017 now online

Running days for 2017 now online

We’ve now put all of our running dates for 2017 online – see Our Running Days for details.

Out next train running days are for St Patrick’s Day in March. We’re running trains from Downpatrick to Inch Abbey on Sunday 12th March to take people to the St Patrick’s Landing event at Inch Abbey.

We’re also running our usual shuttle service to get visitors from Inch Abbey into the St Patrick’s Day parades in Downpatrick town centre on Friday 17th March. Trains will also be available for people arriving at Downpatrick who just want to experience a heritage train journey as part of their day out in the town.

Online ticketing will be available later in the year.

If you don’t want to miss out on the latest info for all of our events, you can sign up to our mailing list and we’ll send you an email well before each event so you don’t miss out.

Rebecca becomes first woman guard

Rebecca becomes first woman guard

The Downpatrick & County Down Railway has achieved another first for railway preservation in Ireland, with the passing out of the railway’s first woman Train Guard.

Twenty year old Rebecca Dougan from Comber in County Down is not only the youngest guard on the local heritage railway, but also believed to the first female Guard on any heritage railway operation on the island of Ireland.

Railway Chairman Robert Gardiner, himself a guard on the DCDR, offered his congratulations, “We’re delighted to announce that volunteer Rebecca Dougan was finally passed out as a shunter and guard during Saturday’s diesel running day.”

Newly passed out guard Rebecca poses by her trainHe continues, “She’s put in a lot of hard work to get this far, with practical training, building logs of hours of training runs, rules & regulations and eventually the nerve-wracking exam day with practical, written and verbal exams. But she did it! We knew she would, of course.”

Rebecca described how the passion was in the genes, “I have been coming down to the DCDR since I was born as my parents, Margaret and Raymond Dougan and my Uncle Paul McMullan are also volunteers there. As I grew older I started lending a hand by doing small things such as brushing out the passenger carriages and assisting passengers on and off the trains.”

“My dad and Uncle were both DCDR Guards and when I came into my early teen years I started to take an interest in their work as shunter/guards and so when I became old enough I was allowed to start training as a shunter/guard last year.”

A guard is the crew member responsible for operational and safety duties of the train, however she says there’s more to it than just blowing a whistle and flying a green flag at the driver.

“You have to learn how to safely shunt a train first before learning the Guard duties, but I stuck at it but it seemed to take a long time but despite that I never gave up and eventually last Saturday the date of my passing out exam arrived. I was rather nervous but was also keen to get it done with!”

Rebecca continues, “The exam entailed a shunting/guard exam both written and practical, which included for my first time taking out a passenger service on my own without anyone assisting me.”

However the nerves need not have worried her, “It was with great relief when my chief assessor Ian Cross informed me at the very end of the day that I had  passed out as an official DCDR Guard/Shunter! My thanks to my two assessors Mike Beckett and Ian Cross and also all of my fellow DCDR volunteers who have been great in giving me the encouragement to do it.”

Rebecca’s father Raymond was of course there on the platform to watch his daughter pass out.

He said, “When Rebecca passed out as a DCDR Shunter/Guard on 7th January I was a very happy and proud father! I have been a DCDR volunteer and Shunter/Guard for about 25 years. Her mother and uncle

Rebecca Dougan being assessed during her guard's exam

are also pleased and proud of Rebecca’s achievement – that now makes three guards from our family at the DCDR.”

Raymond continues, “Being guards ourselves, Paul and I know only too well that it can be extremely hard physical work especially in bad weather and to her great credit Rebecca has stuck to it and that has made me so proud of what she has done”

He adds, “Rebecca can now walk tall and go on to achieve her next DCDR goal.”

So what is that goal? Rebecca has of course already has that in her sights, “As for the future? In time I hope to go on and try to become a Diesel Locomotive driver.”

There’s little doubt that passengers will see her behind the controls of a diesel train in the not-too-distant future.

New Year Diesel Trains – 7th January 2017

The traditional New Year Diesel Trains are running on Saturday, 7th January 2017. A heritage diesel locomotive from the Irish Traction Group will be hauling the trains, as our steam locomotive will be out of service for its annual inspection and servicing.

Trains will be running to and from Inch Abbey on our North Line. This is your last chance to visit us until St Patrick’s Day, because this is the time of year when we do maintenance on our trains and tracks.

Online ticket sales are now closed. Buy your tickets when you arrive at the station.

See our Timetable & Fares webpage for further information.

MP and MLA Visit Santa Claus at DCDR

MP and MLA Visit Santa Claus at DCDR

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie and MLA Colin McGrath called down to the Downpatrick & County Down Railway for the last day of the Lapland Express, meeting volunteers as well as the jolly big man himself – Santa Claus.

As well as welcoming this festive VIP to the town, Margaret Ritchie and Colin McGrath saw for themselves the work to rehabilitate the DCDR’s ‘South Line’, which runs out to the Loop Platform.

This line was originally laid in the 1980s using second-hand wooden sleepers and in the last year has been completely renewed with concrete ones, extending the life of this part of the line as well as making a smoother ride for passengers.

Railway chairman, Robert Gardiner, who showed the guests around, said “We were delighted to welcome Margaret and Colin down to the DCDR and seeing the crowds travelling on the Lapland Express to see Santa.”

He continues, “They also took a great interest in seeing the improvements and works that we’ve been undertaking, and hearing about our plans for the future.”

Mr Gardiner adds, “The Lapland Express is one of our most popular events, and this year we’ve moved to online prebooking for the first time in our history.”

This has been a record year for the DCDR, with over 3,500 passengers pre-booking and travelling.

“This move has been a tremendous success and has made the whole event much more welcoming for our passengers,” said Mr Gardiner, “It’s eliminated the long queues at the ticket office, allowing people a more leisurely visit with more time to explore the station and museum.”

The elected representatives also got the chance to talk to volunteers and members of the public on what is one of the most popular events in the railway’s calendar, as well as getting up close to the locomotive itself, a 1935 vintage engine that used to haul sugar beet wagons in factories in the Republic of Ireland.

Mr Gardiner reveals that one of the guests must’ve said something to Santa Claus, and got an early Christmas present, “The locomotive crew offered Colin McGrath a complementary Footplate Pass back from Santa’s Workshop to Downpatrick Station, an offer he readily accepted!”



That’s all folks… we have no seats available for booking now. We’re sorry if anyone missed out on their visit to Santa, but we hope you understand we have an upper limit on how many people we can bring to this event.

If anyone has any queries about a current booking, then please contact us for help.

Our next public trains are the diesel-hauled Mince Pie trains on 7th January, then we close for the winter for maintenance, until St Patrick’s Day.

Hurry – we’re almost sold out

Hurry – we’re almost sold out

The Lapland Express is very, very nearly sold out with just a few seats remaining for Saturday 10th December. Book those tickets now!

Once the tickets are all sold, we’re very sorry to say that there’s no more seats available on any of our trains. If you’ve missed out, please accept our apologies, but we can only take so many people through Santa in the given time.

Our next trains are the diesel-hauled mince pie/New Year specials on Saturday 7th January 2017.

Santa tickets update

Santa tickets update


More Lapland Express trains have been added, so if you want to travel over the next three weekends, then you need to book soon. Visit our online ticket office now!

Santa’s selling out!

Santa’s selling out!


Tickets are fast selling out for the Downpatrick & County Down Railway’s Lapland Express, which is arriving this weekend at the Downpatrick and County Down Railway for four weekends only with a very special passenger – Santa Claus!

Some days are now fully booked and, like writing your letter to Santa, don’t leave it too late to book.

This is the first year we’ve offered people the chance to pre-book their tickets, but unlike previous years, there are unlikely to be tickets available at the last minute so we urge people to log on and get them booked before they’re gone. As the big day approaches, tickets are selling ever faster and at this rate, we will probably sell out the last few weekends before the end of the week.

But Santa doesn’t want any disappointed young visitors, so he’s offering visitors a special **10% discount** for the first weekend (26th & 27th November).

The steam train will be leaving the railway station for the following weekends, 26th & 27th Nov, 3rd & 4th, 10th & 11th, 17th & 18th December, with trains running strictly at 40 minute intervals from 1.30pm. Santa will also be providing his guests refreshments on the buffet coach.

Tickets are selling quickly already online – and cost £8.50 for adults, £10 (including present) children. This includes a present from Santa, as well as the train fare.

Visit our Santa webpage for details of how to book.

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

Santa Now Arriving at Platform 1

Santa Now Arriving at Platform 1

Tickets are now available to buy online for the Lapland Express, which is arriving this Christmas at the Downpatrick and County Down Railway for four weekends only with a very special passenger – Santa Claus!

Railway chairman, Robert Gardiner revealed Santa’s itinerary, “He’ll have travelled in style on board 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 Elf & 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.

news-santa-ianHe adds, “Once the Steam Train has arrived at 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, 26th & 27th Nov, 3rd & 4th, 10th & 11th, 17th & 18th December. Santa will also be providing his guests refreshments on the buffet coach.

Tickets are selling quickly already online – and cost £8.50 for adults, £10 (including present) children.  This includes a present from Santa, as well as the train fare. Log on to our website to choose your train and purchase your ticket – but you better get on your snow shoes as they are selling out quickly!

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

Mr Gardiner also advises to come well wrapped up, “Don’t forget, this is an outdoor event so both parents and children should wear appropriate warm clothing.”

And after Christmas Day is over, you can steam into the New Year with the railway’s popular Mince Pie Specials on Saturday, 7th January.

“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.”

Find our special Lapland Express page here.