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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.
Windows Media - Real Player

BBC Newsline - BBC1 NI
25th August, 2009
Randal Cave returns to Marino Station
Windows Media - Real Player

BBC Newsline - BBC1 NI
28th June, 2009
Report on vandal attack on station and carriages
Windows Media - Real Player

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.
Windows Media - Real Player

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.
Windows Media - Real Player

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!
Windows Media - Real Player

BBC Newsline - BBC1 NI
13th September, 2003
Jennifer Duddy takes a look at the rebuilt station
Windows Media - Real Player

BBC Newsline - BBC1 NI
26th December, 2002
Barbara McCann looks at the fire damage to the station
Windows Media - Real Player

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.
Windows Media - Real Player

ITV Highway - 1991
17th March, 1991
Sir Harry Secombe visits the railway for the national ITV series Highway.
Windows Media - Real Player

UTV Six Tonight - ITV1
30th October, 1989
Ronan Kelly braves the very first Halloween Ghost Trains for UTV on the
Windows Media - Real Player

UTV Six Tonight - ITV1
13th September 1988
UTV's Ronan Kelly takes a trip out to the newly reopened Loop Platfom.
Windows Media - Real Player

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


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
Windows Media - Real Player

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
Windows Media - Real Player

Good Morning Ulster - Radio Ulster
11th August 2009
BCDR veteran Randal Cave returns to his old station
Windows Media - Real Player

News Bulletin - Radio Ulster
28th June 2009
Report on vandal attack on station and carriages
Windows Media - Real Player

Good Morning Ulster - Radio Ulster
23rd March 2009
Will Leitch joins in the celebrations of the 150th Annivesary of the first train into Downpatrick
Windows Media - Real Player

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
Windows Media - Real Player

Your Place & Mine - BBC Radio Ulster
8th December 2008
Anne Marie McAleese takes the controls of the steam train
Windows Media - Real Player

Rick Nugent - U105
1st November 2008
Rick talks to George Legge about the Halloween Ghost Trains
Windows Media - Real Player

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.
Windows Media - Real Player

George Jones - U105
8th April 2008
George talks to Michael Collins about the DCDR's old photo appeal.
Windows Media - Real Player

Joe Lindsay - BBC Radio Ulster
24th March 2008
Joe talks to Michael Collins about how the Easter Eggspress has been.
Windows Media - Real Player

Rick Nugent - U105
15th March 2008
Rick talks to Michael Collins about the Shamrock Express.
Windows Media - Real Player

Alan Simpson - BBC Radio Ulster
14th January 2008
Alan Simpson talks to Michael Collins about the BBC1 documentary 'Raising Steam', broadcast that night.
Windows Media - Real Player

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
Windows Media - Real Player

Alan Simpson - BBC Radio Ulster
30th November 2007
Alan Simpson talks to Michael Collins about the Lapland Express
Windows Media - Real Player

Your Place & Mine - BBC Radio Ulster
17th November 2007
Anne Marie McAleese talks to Michael Collins about the 20th Anniversary of the first trains
Windows Media - Real Player

Your Place & Mine - BBC Radio Ulster
10th August 2007
Caroline Nolan takes the train to see the Inch Abbey Monk
Windows Media - Real Player

.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


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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Snow Fun, But We'll Still be Running!
Saturday, 18th December, 2010

Despite the recent heavy snow the Downpatrick & County Down Railway's Lapland Express will still be ploughing through the snow - so come on down and meet Santa in his workshop train in a winter wonderland!

Trains running 2pm till 5pm.

Our Wee World of Trains
Monday, 14th December 2010

Two of the children who feature in "Our Wee World"

Two of the children who feature in "Our Wee World"

Regular visitors to the DCDR might have noticed something familiar on their TV screen this week, as a BBC1 trail shows our steam engine O&K No. 3, whisked back in time to the 1940s.

This is because the DCDR provided the location for a television programme produced by Barking Films for BBC1 NI.

"Our Wee World" features children from around Northern Ireland, celebrating their area with words, music and drama.

This edition tells the story of a young girl and her brother who are evacuated from Belfast in the 1940s. A silver bell becomes their only symbol of Christmas.

It's on this coming Wednesday, 15th December at 19:30 on BBC One Northern Ireland. For viewers outside NI if you have Sky you can catch it on channel 973 or via the iPlayer.


American Baby Boomer adopted by Downpatrick Railway
Monday, 29th November 2010

The "Baby GM" arrives in Downpatrick on a snowy Saturday mornin

The "Baby GM" arrives in Downpatrick on a snowy Saturday morning

The railway stork has delivered an early Christmas present to the Downpatrick & County Down Railway – a 1960s 'baby' diesel locomotive.

This rather large 'baby' arrived in the early hours of Saturday morning on the back of a specialised low-loader. The 'baby' is yet to be christened, and only goes by the number "146".

The engine is on loan from the Irish Traction Group, a locomotive preservation society, whose aim is to preserve an example of each class of Irish railway diesel locomotives.

Downpatrick & County Down Railway chairman, Michael Collins said, "The ITG don't have their own line to run these vehicles on, and of course they prefer to see them running - doing what they’re built for - and we're happy to help".

Mr. Collins explains why they're calling it 'the baby', "It's railway humour; they were built by General Motors in America, and are a smaller version of the locomotives that are used by Northern Ireland Railways and Irish Rail, so their drivers have always called them the "Baby GMs", even though they are rather huge!"

He continues, "It will also be a useful vehicle in allowing us to retire some of our own veteran diesels for much needed major maintenance in order to keep them in top condition".

The locomotive was introduced into service with Irish Rail on 14th December 1962 and withdrawn this year, on 5th March.

Popular with railway enthusiasts, four have been preserved – two by the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland, two by the Irish Traction Group. Only one remains in service with Irish Rail, making this the first time in Ireland that a locomotive class has operated in service and in preservation at the same time.

Plans will be announced soon for the baby's head to be 'wetted' at a special inaugural service, or Baby Shower, which will take place some time after the Lapland Express trains have finished after Christmas.

Santa Now Arriving at Platform 1
Thursday, 25th November 2010

Santa greets visitors to the railway last year

Santa greeting visitors to the railway last year

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 chairman, Michael Collins said, "We've a very special guest who'll be arriving in style in Downpatrick onboard his own steam train - the Lapland Express - to greet scores of children on the platform."

Mr Collins also says that, although the details of his trip are tightly guarded secrets looked after by Elfin Safety Services, 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.

Travelling behind an eighty-year old steam engine onboard vintage coaches, Santa is expected to merrily get everyone into the seasonal mood by singing Christmas favourites, such as Jingle Bells and Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer.

Mr Collins 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,

Saturday 27th & Sunday 28th November;
Saturday 4th & Sunday 5th December;
Saturday 11th & Sunday 12th December;
Saturday 18th & Sunday 19th December

Santa will also be providing his guests refreshments on the buffet coach, and doors open from 2pm till 5pm.

Fares are £5.00 for adults, and £7.50 for children over three years old, and £5 under-threes. 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 Collins 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. Collins, adding that there is a treat in store for all visitors. All guests will receive a free mince or apple pie on New Year's Day while relaxing on board a heritage train coasting through the County Down countryside," he says, "as a well as a wee tipple of mulled wine or punch for those not driving."

For more information on the Lapland Express, please check out our special FAQ section

Spooky Events At the Railway!
Thursday, 28th October 2010

The haunted Vikings Grave, illuminated on Halloween Night, with ghosts and spirits rising out of graves

The haunted Vikings Grave, illuminated on Halloween Night 2008, with ghosts and spirits rising out of graves

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 Merlin the Magician on the Halloween Ghost Trains!

"Anyone who visits on Halloween weekend is in for a double treat," says Railway Chairman, Michael Collins.

He explains, "As well as travelling on a ghostly steam 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."

Merlin greets some brave visitors

'Merlin' greets some brave visitors

Mr. Collins 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 on Halloween night? 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 Halloween nights, Friday 29th and Saturday 30th October, from 6pm to 9pm, and on Sunday 31st October from 2pm till 5pm for anyone not brave enough to come in the dark - or want to do trick-or-treat later!

Admission is £5.00 for adults and teenagers, £6.50 for children over three and just £4.00 for the under-threes - ncluding a present from Merlin. A concession ticket costs £4.00.

Refreshments will be served onboard a buffet carriage at the Loop Platform, and car parking is free. Mr. Collins 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 will be posted on here website shortly.

Thursday, 7th October 2010

Albert Sage who recently passed away
Albert Sage, former Infrastructure Manager in the early days of the railway, next to G613, who recently passed away. Photo: Bill Haggan

It is with regret that we have to announce the death of Albert Sage (right), who passed away on 2nd October.

Albert was for a long time Infrastructure Manager in the early days of the railway and helped pioneer the techniques that saw the construction of first ever fully-closed railway in Ireland to be reopened here in Downpatrick.

Our sympathy goes to our chairman, Michael Collins, with the passing of his wife, Margaret.

We wish to state that everyone in the Society are thinking about both families in their passage through this most difficult of times.

Farewell to Loco Shed as Gallery Moves In
Saturday, 2nd October 2010

The old 'Tin Shed' comes down to make way for the new Gallery

The old 'Tin Shed' comes down to make way for the new Gallery

It's all change at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway, as work begins to prepare the way for the new £500,000 Heritage Lottery and Northern Ireland Tourist Board funded 'Carriage Display Gallery'. This work involves the clearing of the site, and most noticeably the demolition of the old steam engine shed.

Railway volunteers have described its demolition as "bittersweet". This shed was the very first building the fledgling heritage railway built back in the mid-1980s, but was only meant to last a couple of years until something more "railway-esque" was built. The old 'tin shed' as it was commonly called was really no more than a hayshed that got used as our very first locomotive shed, and was put up 'temporarily' over 25 years ago as something we could use cheaply to store and work on our engines.

However while it's always been incongruous, seeing it come down you cannot help feel slightly nostalgic for those pioneering days - when no-one thought the scheme would last one year yet alone nearly thirty. We're very excited by the prospect of work soon to start on the new gallery and the demolition of glorified locomotive barn really marks the sea-change in how we are able to present our work, from a Heath Robinson affair that wasn't really fit for purpose, to something much more professional.

But it's not the end of the road for the shed, for it has been carefully dismantled by a local contractor, and will be re-erected elsewhere in the district, but without steam engines poking their noses out the doors.

Work on the carriage gallery construction is expected to begin within the next month.

Carriage Gallery Update
Thursday, 26th August 2010

In a welcome move towards the commencement of work on the new Carriage Gallery a notice to contractors has now been printed in today's local daily newspapers, inviting applications from Contractors who are registered with Constructionline or a body who carries out the equivalent certification function or who can produce audited financial accounts.

Contractors must have a documented, third party health & safety management system - Buildsafe NI - or comply within 4 months after award of contract. The following Constructionline categories (Building General) are required for those wishing to be considered for inclusion on a Select List to be invited to tender for the following project: The development will comprise a new single storey steel frame metal clad building connected to existing workshop.

Estimated cost of the project is £550,000 excluding VAT, and is being grant-aided by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

Requests for Pre-Qualification Questionnaire should be sent to R E Quinn Architects, 14 Princes Street, Dromore, BT25 1AY, or email architects@requinn.plus.com

Questionnaires must be returned by 1pm on 10th September 2010.

New Railway Stamps Launched at Downpatrick
Wednesday, 18th August 2010

DCDR volunteer Philip McKinstry and the Royal Mail’s Barbara Roulston launch the Great British Railways series of stamps in Downpatrick

DCDR volunteer Philip McKinstry and the Royal Mail’s Barbara Roulston launch the Great British Railways series of stamps in Downpatrick, in front of GSWR No. 90 Photo: Chris Halpin, Mourne Observer

Downpatrick helped celebrate the launch of a new Royal Mail set of stamps that feature a Northern Irish locomotive for the first time.Great British Railways, issued on 19 August, features some of the classic locomotives which powered their way around the UK.

The set also marks the 50th anniversary of the building of the last UK steam locomotive, British Rail's Evening Star.The Northern Ireland locomotive featured on the 97p stamp is a London Midland and Scottish Northern Counties Committee Class WT - Engine No 2 pictured at Larne Station, circa 1947.

Based on a standard LMS design but built for the wider Irish track, the WTs were the last new steam locomotives delivered to the NCC. Widely known as the 'Jeeps', they were a highly successful engine used on both passenger and goods trains.

To launch the stamps Royal Mail teamed up with Downpatrick & County Down Railway. Chairman Michael Collins said: "This is the first time a Northern Ireland train has featured on a set of Royal Mail stamps and we are delighted to help with the launch."While the majority of Northern Ireland's railways were not incorporated into the "Big Four" railway companies, the NCC was and became very much an integral part of the LMS railway, and actively contributed to the development and modernisation of the railway network right across Britain and Ireland. It is very fitting, therefore, that the quintessential locomotive of the NCC - the 'Jeep' - which served Northern Ireland for so long, takes its rightful place alongside its more widely known cousins from Great Britain".

By the end of the 19th century, numerous private railway companies competed fiercely across the British Isles, but by 1923, with profits waning due to the increasing competition from cars, buses and lorries, over 120 private railway companies were merged into the Big Four.

The 97p stamp which features an LMS (Northern Counties Committee) Class WT - Engine No 2 shown here at Larne Town, circa 1947

The 97p stamp which features an LMS (Northern Counties Committee) Class WT - Engine No 2 shown here at Larne Town, circa 1947

These comprised of the London, Midland & Scottish (including the Northern Counties Committee (NCC) in Northern Ireland), the London & North Eastern, the Great Western - which celebrates its 175th anniversary this year - and the Southern Railways.

After the Second World War the Big Four became British Railways (BR) in 1948, and in March 1960, Evening Star brought to an end over 130 years of steam-locomotive building for Britain's mainline railways, leaving Swindon Works in a blaze of publicity in 1960.

Barbara Roulston, Head of External Relations for Royal Mail Group, said: "The association of steam and stamps goes right back to the 1840s when the introduction of the Penny Post coincided with the arrival of The Steam Age. The steam locomotive came to symbolize an age of unprecedented mobility and industrial prowess across the UK. For this issue we have selected six of the classic locomotives used by the Big Four railway companies as a fitting tribute to the steam era and also to mark the 50th anniversary of the building of the Evening Star, the last of the British-built locomotives."

A similar event was also held at Whitehead, with WT class No. 4 appropriately in attendence, and at Headhunters Railway Museum in Enniskillen.

Stamps and stamp products are available at all Post Office branches, online at royalmail.com/stamps and from Royal Mail Tallents House (tel. 08457 641 641), Royal Mail Tallents House, 21 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB.

Monday, 2nd August 2010

Arthur Muskett (left) and Adam Hamilton (right) who recently passed away

Arthur Muskett (left) and Adam Hamilton (right) who recently passed away

It is with deep sorry and regret that we have to announce the passing of two members. Arthur Muskett, who could always have been found in the carriage shed working on some new project, and Adam Hamilton, a former BCDR fireman who lately came to prominence in the BBC1 documentary 'Raising Steam'. Both had been unwell for some time. Our deepest sympathies from all at the DCDR to their families.

MUSKETT, ARTHUR HENRY - Died July 25, 2010, peacefully, at Barrhall Residential Home, Portaferry, late of 2 Rochester Drive, Belfast. Deeply regretted by his beloved wife Muriel and the family circle. House and Funeral private.

HAMILTON, ADAM - Died July 28, 2010, peacefully, in home in Orby Park, Castlereagh, Belfast, beloved husband, father, step-father and grandfather. Will be sadly missed by wife Maureen, daughter Christine and husband Alex, Adam, Amanda and step-daughter Karen and husband Samuel, Rebekah and Andrew. Donations in lieu, if desired, to Haematology Clinical Fund, c/o Ravenhill Funeral Services, 334 Ravenhill Road, Belfast, BT6 8GL. Peace after suffering.

Carriage Gallery Receives Lottery Funding
Monday, 2nd August 2010

Artist's impression of the interior of the planned carriage gallery

Artist's impression of the interior of the planned carriage gallery

Downpatrick & County Down Railway are celebrating the news that the local heritage railway has secured a grant of £450,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The funding was awarded to the volunteer-run heritage railway museum and will be used to construct a Carriage Viewing Gallery that will allow visitors to learn more about Ireland's important railway heritage during their visit.

Railway Chairman Michael Collins said, "We are absolutely delighted by this award. Our collection contains items of national importance, for example, we have one of only two Irish Royal Saloon carriages still in existence, one item in our unique collection of railway carriages from all parts of Ireland."

He continues, "Most of these carriages are either safely locked away in sheds or under tarpaulins to protect them from the weather – meaning we cannot show them to the public, and many people who ask if it possible to see them have to be disappointed. "This grant will change all that, and provide all-year round access to our vintage carriage collection". Mr. Collins added, "The award will also bring in much needed construction sector jobs to the local economy."
As well as giving visitors access to the carriages, the 'Downpatrick Carriage Viewing Gallery' project will highlight the important contribution made by the railways to the social and economic development of Ireland in general and Northern Ireland in particular.

Commenting on the announcement, Head of HLF Northern Ireland, Paul Mullan, said: "This exciting project will highlight the important link between our transport heritage and the development and advancement of our society." He continues, "Each carriage is important to this history and the project will illustrate the connection between the railway and developments in County Down and other parts of the railway system in Ireland. "The gallery will provide safe access to these historic vehicles for the public to learn from and enjoy, and will enable them to benefit from a greater involvement in Ireland's transport heritage. We are delighted to be involved in this project".

A range of interpretation features, including displays, signage and audio/visual aids, will be designed to explain the heritage and history of the various carriages to increase learning opportunities and provide an enhanced visitor experience. In addition to the improvements on site, a programme of outreach and educational activities will be developed to further open up this collection to a wide range of groups. This work will include the development of an education pack for use in local schools. Funding for the project was awarded through HLF's main funding programme, 'Heritage Grants'. The programme provides grants of over £50,000 for projects that allow people to explore, preserve and celebrate the wide range of heritage, from their cultural and industrial past to green spaces and natural environment.

For further information about HLF and the 'Heritage Grants' programme, please contact 028 9031 0120 or log on to www.hlf.org.uk

BBC Radio Ulster's Evening Extra programme covered this story, click on the links below to listen:

BBC Evening Extra, Monday 2nd August, 2010
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Click Here for Real Player Format

Downpatrick Railway Welcomes Masterplan
Wednesday, 21st July 2010

Downpatrick Masterplan

The Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway has welcomed the publication of the final draft of the Masterplan for the regeneration of the town.

Railway Chairman, Michael Collins, described the document as "extremely encouraging" and welcomed its endorsement of the heritage railway’s role in the town’s regeneration.

Mr. Collins continues, "The Masterplan has fully endorsed our strategy and with their support we are confident that we can make the railway proposals a reality."

He says, "When we met with the Consultants preparing this report we were confident that we could make a significant contribution to both the tourism appeal of the town and help offer other transport options. "The Downpatrick Masterplan now includes recommendations for the completion of the railway’s currently 'mothballed' southern line to Ballydugan, and to restore the bridge over the A25 to connect with the Racecourse," adding, "It has also endorsed our plan to move our engineering activities to a new site at the Business Park and allow our Downpatrick base to be totally given over to public space."

The local tourist attraction had initially expressed concerns back in February about the plan when the first draft was launched, as one proposal featured a new road or busway along the railway's Inch Abbey line.
He says, "We are pleased that the Masterplan now recognises that some form of public transport to and from the Business Park or potential Velodrome development along this route doesn't need to involve tarmac, but rather can use the existing rail infrastructure."

Mr. Collins states, "While we note that the option of a dedicated busway is still on the table, we agree that both a road or rail scheme would need to stand on its own economic feet, but we are relieved that we could agree on common ground and stand ready to help assist with the development of any future proposals for such a scheme."Mr. Collins adds that the credit for this endorsement of the proposed extensions to the Downpatrick railway rests largely with the public.

"Throughout the consultation process many people got in touch with us and the consultants to express their support for our plans – we are absolutely grateful for this vote of confidence from the community and we pledge that we will deliver the schemes you have told us that you want us to build."

The Masterplan document can be found in full here:

Former Cork-Cobh Signals Now at Downpatrick
Monday, 19th July 2010

A signal takes to the air for loading for its transport to Downpatrick

A signal takes to the air for loading for its transport to Downpatrick

This week saw the culmination of a much anticipated project, with the DCDR taking delivery of some much-needed mechanical signalling material from the Cork-Cobh railway line. The material had been removed from the Irish Rail (Iarnród Éireann) network as part of the investment into the Cobh line, which has seen the virtual elimination of old semaphore signalling in this area bar Cork Station itself.

Having recced the locations, the S&T team knew that the material was spread out over three sites, which made for interesting logistics! Two of the sites were adjacent to the Cobh and Middleton lines, and so would require Irish Rail lineside protection for the work, while the third site was at the North Esk freight yard.

A train from Cobh passes the loading work, under the watchful eye of an Irish Rail lookout

A train from Cobh passes the loading work, under the watchful eye of an Irish Rail lookout

On Monday 12th July, a team from the DCDR arrived roughly at 12.30 and, in order to maximise the potential load on the lorry that would take the material home, began to strip the signal poles of everything that could prevent them from being stacked neatly and waste space. One by one the poles were fished out of the pile using crowbars and the ladders, lamps, weights and semaphore spectacles removed.

The following day, Tuesday 13th, the team travelled to Marino Point, between Cork and Cobh and in a very scenic spot near Fota Island. This had the vast majority of items, and was extremely close to the running line. Having completed most of the dismantling, bar the signals, the team moved to the third site just east of Glounthane on the Middleton line. However time was running out, and there was little chance to do more than establish a plan of action for the following day.

Some of the material at North Esk that was dismantled prior to transport

Some of the material at North Esk that was dismantled prior to transport

Wednesday 14th was loading day. The team met the haulier, Murphy Transport, a local Cork firm at North Esk, before travelling to the two other sites. The plan was simple, in order to maximise the load, an ordinary 40ft lorry trailer was used, rather than one with an integral hiab which would reduce a lorry's overall load capacity. However, rather than hire a separate crane, Murphy's offered to use their 28ft rigid lorry with hiab to load the 40fter. This would allow for quick movement and setup between the sites.

Loading went smoothly, and offloading took place in early morning Thursday 15th. On the way home, the team called off at Louth village for one final signalling flourish, to pick up a Great Northern rotating shunt signal from Ardee, which has been donated by Tom and Leonard Hatrick. Our thanks to them for this little gem.

In all, although a very intensive couple of days, it was made up by the fact that much needed vital equipment has now been secured, which will make the operations of our trains much easier, allowing more options for visitor's journeys, as well as adding something more to see at Downpatrick.

Our thanks to Irish Rail heritage officer, Gregg Ryan, and all the Signals and Telegraph personnel from Irish Rail for their help in this project, and to everyone on the DCDR side who helped make this mission a success!

DCDR on CBeebies
Monday, 7th June 2010

The DCDR appeared on an episode of the BBC "Cbeebies" programme "Let's Celebrate" which was broadcast on Monday 22nd March 2010. The programme features a host called "Thomas Ticker" who looks at the stories of children who are celebrating religious and cultural festivals in the UK. In this episode, two children, Eadaoin and Orla, are from Downpatrick and are preparing for St Patrick's Day, and travelled on the train in to Downpatrick town for the carnival.

This sequence was recorded in March 2009.

Click on the buttons below to listen:

Let's Celebrate - CBeebies, Monday 22nd March, 2010
Click here for Windows Media Format
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Who's Filming at the Railway?
Wedneday, 2nd June 2010

Doctor Who star Matt Smith prepares for a take on the platform

Doctor Who star Matt Smith prepares for a take on the platform

Doctor Who star Matt Smith exchanged the TARDIS for the trains of the Downpatrick & County Down Railway this week while filming a new TV drama.

But it was time travel of a different kind as the local heritage railway was transformed into 1930s Berlin for several key scenes of the BBC2 drama 'Christopher and His Kind'.

The Time Lord actor plays the lead role of English novelist Christopher Isherwood who lived in Berlin during the period of Hitler's rise to power in the feature-length drama.

He was joined on set by fellow Doctor Who actor Toby Jones who played the villainous 'Dream Lord' in the episode "Amy's Choice", which aired two weeks ago on BBC1. Toby Jones plays

Downpatrick Station become "Berlin Alhalter Bahnhof"

Downpatrick Station become "Berlin Alhalter Bahnhof"

Gerald Hamilton, a peculiar man who provided the inspiration for the title character in the Isherwood novel 'Mr Norris Changes Trains'.

Railway chairman Michael Collins said they were delighted to assist the film-makers."We have one or two Doctor Who fans amongst our volunteers," he admits, "so they were straight down and amongst the set to get up close and see Matt and Toby's performances."

Filming took place in the late evening and early morning of last Wednesday and Thursday (26th and 27th May). Mr Collins adds that while the script, and the production, is a tightly guarded secret keenly kept by the production team, Mammoth Screen, the Time Lord didn't escape entirely unnoticed.

"A couple of local school children somehow got wind of what was happening and managed to sneak in past the crew to meet Matt and get some autographs, which he was more than happy to do" he grins.

Is this our foyer where you buy your tickets? Or an Amsterdam cafe?

Is this our foyer where you buy your tickets? Or an Amsterdam cafe?

Mr. Collins continues, "It really is terrific what their art department did, our foyer was transformed into an 1930s Amsterdam café, while the station platform was adorned with German station names.

"Nothing was left to chance as they strove to create an authentic 1930s Berlin feel. The crew pasted up posters for the Volksfest carnival of 1933 and ‘Deutschland Ernacht' on the walls and old tables and chairs and a bar replaced ticket racks in the station".

He adds, "They also fell in love with our 1935 German built steam engines, which they simply couldn't get anywhere – even although they were built for Ireland." Mr Collins says that the fact that the Downpatrick railway was chosen for another major production demonstrates its growing appeal as a film location.

"We're no stranger to big names filming in Downpatrick – over the years we've had Griff Rhys Jones, Graham Norton and Harry Seacombe all filming sequences at Downpatrick."

Lights, camera, action, trains!
Lights, camera, action, trains!

He adds, "It shows that we can offer something different to other organisations, where they can set up in time and have the flexibility to get the station and train as they would want it."

The production company is hoping to use a number of other locations in Northern Ireland, including Mount Stewart House in Newtownards, Ballywalter Park Estate and the Scottish Mutual Building behind City Hall in Belfast.

This 90-minute film is directed by Geoffrey Sax (Tipping The Velvet) and produced by Celia Duval (Margot) for Mammoth Screen, with Michele Buck, Kevin Elyot and Damien Timmer as executive producers.

Board the Train Through Time
Monday, 24th May 2010

Viking Attack!The Downpatrick & County Down Railway and Viking living history group the "Gall Gael Vikings" are calling on all would-be Hägar the Horribles to prepare their boarding parties and climb aboard the “Train Through Time” this Bank Holiday weekend, Sunday 30th May.

The train will leave Downpatrick Station and ‘disappear’ through a timewarp to the year 1002AD, where a fierce Viking warrior and trading expedition has landed in the Quoile basin, having arrived from Norway to plunder and pillage!

Colin Murray of the Gall Gael Vikings says they want to pay homage to the Viking King of Norway who was slain in Downpatrick a thousand years ago, "Our camp is at the legendary Viking burial site of the Norwegian King, Magnus Barfoots and we want to bring the rich Viking heritage of County Down to life for warriors of all ages through displays of re-enactment, making the day a Bank Holiday Viking adventure!"

The month of May marks the beginning of the 'Living History' Summer season with a number of festivals taking place throughout the country over the coming months. Mark Samuelsson of The Gall Gael Vikings says they are therefore delighted to be hosting the first Viking festival of Summer 2010 at Downpatrick & County Down Railway.

"It may not be a longboat, but using the train you'll be able to get to Magnus's Grave quickly and speedily for the fun!" he says. But as well as the rough and tumble fights expected of Viking warriors, the camp will also show other aspects of Viking life - domestic, martial, religious and trade.

Colin adds, “We strive to make this as historically accurate to the time period as possible to give both a thrilling enjoyable day, but educational as well.”

The first heritage diesel train leaves Downpatrick Station for King Magnus’s Grave at 10.30am and the last returns at 5pm. Fares include train fare and admission to the camp. Trains run on the DCDR's "south line" so boarding will be at Downpatrick Station only, and not Inch Abbey.

And for those wanting the taste of steam, don't forget the steam train will be out this Bank Holiday Monday, 31st May, as well.

Signal Planting at Downpatrick
Sunday, 22nd May 2010

Signal being erectedA little bit of history was made at the DCDR last Saturday when the first signal in nearly twenty years was erected on site.

The ex-Great Northern Railway lattice signal was reclaimed in 2006 from the depot of Marsden Recovery Specialists Ltd at Graham Gardens in Lisburn, due to redevelopment works. It had originally been bought by the late John Marsden and installed in the corner of the yard, hence the unusual location, before it was moved to Downpatrick.

It was lifted into position in early Saturday afternoon by the Permanent Way team, under supervision from the Signals & Telegraph team. Already it makes an impressive addition to the landscape. The base was given a concrete cap the following Monday

This signal will protect the approach to the main platform, and part of a number that will appear around the Downpatrick railway environs over the coming months and years.

Downpatrick Railway “Outraged” by Theft
Wednesday, 12th May 2010

Volunteers from the Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway have expressed anger and frustration after being targeted by criminals yet again. In the latest incident, all the lead flashing from the station canopy was stripped off.

The damage was discovered on Thursday 9th May when various nails and plastic fixings were found on the platform. Station manager, Neil Hamilton, described what he found, “After some head scratching, we looked up and saw that all the lead flashing on the platform canopy had been stripped off the three sides of the canopy.”

“Our CCTV footage shows three persons coming over fence from field opposite the platform just before nine o’clock on Wednesday night. However this was obviously a well thought out plan as they tried to take steps to avoid further recording of their faces.”

He continues, “But despite this they are spotted again leaving the site at nearly ten o’clock with the lead from the roof”. Police have found a ladder outside the railway site, which has been removed for forensic examination.

Railway chairman, Michael Collins, expressed his disgust, “Not only is this work and expense we could do without, but can you imagine what could happen if someone decided to strip vital parts off one of our trains to take to a scrapman? That doesn’t bear thinking about.”

Mr. Collins says, “We are sick and sore of this constant drip-drip wave of crime being directed against us, and want to spell out that we are not a soft touch and will back full prosecution of these criminals”.

He adds, “These criminals were on site for nearly an hour, working in full daylight on Wednesday night, someone in the car park or surrounding area must have seen something – if you did, it’s vital that you take that information to the police.”

“The police have their suspicions and we have given them our CCTV footage, but we would appeal to these culprits to turn themselves in, or for members of the public to do so. We would also ask all scrap merchants in the area to immediately report any persons attempting to sell a quantity of lead to you.”

Mr. Collins concludes, “Think about your consciences – is it worth a couple of pounds to risk imprisonment?”

Raising Steam Viewing Figures
Wednesday, 5th May 2010

The overnight ratings show that it was watched by an impressive 39,000 people for a repeat, with a 16.2% audience share, and was the highest rated show compared to other output on other channels in that timeslot.

For comparison, the programme that preceded it, the Northern Ireland edition of the Politics Show had 33,000 viewers and a 16% share, showing that Raising Steam performed very well.

The programme first aired on Monday, 14th January 2008, with 114,000 viewers tuning in and an average 26% audience share.

Raising Steam Again!
Wednesday, 27th April 2010

BBC Raising Steam PageThe BBC Northern Ireland TV documentary "Raising Steam" which looked at us and the old BCDR (with some fantastic interviews with BCDR veterans) is being repeated this Sunday, 2nd May at 1200 (noon).

So, if you didn't catch it first time around in 2008, catch it this weekend! For any of our visitors in Great Britain, you can catch it on Sky channel 973, or it is also available again on the iPlayer for a week - make sure you watch it there too, to get the figures up!

More details on the programme here, or in our News Archive (scroll to bottom).

Planning a Steamy May?
Wednesday, 27th April 2010

There’s another chance to catch the steam train at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway on this year's May Days, Monday 3rd May and 30th-31st May.

After the highly successful Easter ‘Eggs-press’ trains the May Day bank holiday is 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.

With plenty to see and do for everyone, from railway buffs to children and families looking for a day out, then head to Downpatrick to sample the atmosphere of rail travel at its most traditional.

And at the end of the month, beware the Vikings as brave Viking warriors pay homage to their King, Magnus Barefoot, who was slain on a site now beside the railway. Will you be brave enough to meet the Norse terrors on the Bank Holiday weekend (30th May).

For the children or model buffs the "Thomas the Tank Engine" model railway will be back as usual. Refreshments, 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.

Trains run 2pm till 5pm and single and return tickets to Inch Abbey are available, and cost adults £5 return, children and senior citizens £4 return.

Don't forget that children aged three years old or below go free, and there's no need to book.

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?

Easter Eggspress Round-up
Wednesday, 7th April 2010

The Easter Bunny braved weather that went from heavy showers, to glorious sunshine, and then howling gales threatening to blow the train over!

Easter Saturday and Sunday proved steady days, with roughly 300 people travelling on each day. However someone must have told the rest of the country, as on Easter Monday nearly double that - 600 people - descended on the DCDR (597, to be precise).

Doors opened as normal at 1pm with the queue half way down the ramp, and no matter how quickly the tickets were sold, more people joined the queue to make sure that right up to 4pm it didn't seem to move.

Trains were at full capacity up until the final two, and the timetable was quickly abandoned to add an extra train service into the day.

Due to the adverse weather conditions, the planned Easter Bunny stall at Inch Abbey was moved to Downpatrick Station, where he could huddle under the platform with his chocolate eggs. The Bunny has proven quite a pull for mums and dads wanting to get photographs of their tiny tots at the station. The new egg display stall, using a platform trolley, really looked the part.

The Easter Eggspress attracted a total of 1,216 people to the DCDR over the three days.


Hop Aboard the Easter Eggspress Train!
Wednesday, 31th March 2010

Elaine & Kerry Adams from Dromore& Emma Wilson and Lewis Edgar-Wilson from Hillsborough meet the Easter Bunny last year

Elaine & Kerry Adams from Dromore and Emma Wilson and Lewis Edgar-Wilson from Hillsborough meet the Easter Bunny last year

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 steam train will be used for excursions from the town centre from 2pm till 5pm on Saturday 3rd April, Easter Sunday (4th April) & Easter Monday (5th 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, “Each child can have his or her picture taken with the Easter Bunny so they can always remember their ride, so bring your cameras. "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 adults, £5 children (including egg), £3.50 children aged below three years old (including egg), and £4 senior citizens. There's no need to book and a ticket lasts all day.


Steaming out this March
Sunday, 14th March 2010

The Downpatrick & County Down Railway kicks off this year’s train services with the St. Patrick’s Day ‘Shamrock Specials.’

Organised as part of the town’s festival celebrations, the steam train will be used for excursions between Inch Abbey and the parade ground from 10.20am till 5pm.

Railway Chairman, Michael Collins, 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.

“The train now acts as a by-pass for the town," he says, "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. Well, if you find yourself having to park out on the Belfast Road – you can save yourself a long walk into town and follow the brown signs for Inch Abbey and walk onto a steam train that will take you into the heart of the carnival!”

Tickets will be available on board the train, and there are a small number of car parking spaces at the Abbey as well as the station, so please take direction on where to park from the train marshalls on duty that day. Parking is on a first-come first-served basis.

From 10.20am the DCDR's "Railbus" will be running the park and ride service between the Abbey and the town centre before the steam train takes over at 2pm.

Tickets for each event are £5 adults and £4 children and Senior Citizens, while children aged three years old or below go free - and there's no need to book and a ticket lasts all day.


Railway Hopeful over Masterplan
Wednesday, 24th February 2010

The Downpatrick & County Down Railway has described discussions with consultants writing the Downpatrick Masterplan as "extremely encouraging".

Whilst recently welcoming the publication of the Masterplan and supportive of many of its aims, the local heritage railway had voiced concerns over some aspects of the report.

These included the proposals for either a "western bypass" of the town that would follow the route of their Inch Abbey line, or a bus-based "people mover" which would also use this route.

Michael Collins, chairman of the railway, said that both parties were able to find many areas of agreement at a meeting held last Wednesday.

"We had a very positive discussion with representatives of the Paul Hogarth Company, where we outlined our thoughts and concerns on a western bypass and we feel that these were recognised and taken on board."

He continues, "We have always maintained that we are not opposed to such a road, only that when planning its route that our needs and those of the surrounding area are taken into account. We feel this has happened."

"We also discussed the idea of the 'People Mover' and reached a broad consensus that the vision outlined in our 'Future Directions' plans fits in extremely well with these proposals."

He continues, "Not only would the railway be able to get people from A to B quickly, we agreed that heritage trains had an advantage over a generic People Mover in that they also have a strong tourism appeal in their own right, along with the fact that the infrastructure is already largely in place."

"We discussed similar examples of this type of operation on heritage lines in England, so there is precedence."

Mr. Collins added, "In a broader sense too we found that we were singing off the same hymn sheet with regard to other aspects of the town regeneration, such as public access to the marshes area, as well as the area directly in front of our station and are encouraged that many of our ideas have been recognised."

He also thanked the public for their support, "We want to thank everyone who has supported our position and we understand that you have made your voice heard; it’s heartening to see so much support out there for our work."

It is understood that the DCDR will now be exploring some issues in further detail with the consultants, and is hopeful of a favourable outcome from the consultation report due in April or May.


DCDR Featured on RTÉ's Nationwide Programme
Sunday, 7th February 2010

To many people's surprise and delight the DCDR appeared on RTÉ's Nationwide programme last Friday at 7 o'clock. The piece, by Ronan Hand, was filmed during Halloween 2008 (yes 2008, not 2009) - many of those involved had assumed that the piece was canned never to see the light of day! However we're very pleased that it was used, and that it will hopefully raise awareness of us in the south.

It was shown as part of a series of three special railway themed programmes shown on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Part one featured the West Clare Railway, and part two featured the Fintown Railway.

The DCDR episode can be found here and is available until 26th February.

A Rail Masterplan? Our Response to Town Regeneration Plan
Wednesday, 3rd February 2010

Rails Across the Road? We believe using rail rather than buses for a northerly park ‘n’ ride scheme for the town would be cheaper to build and be better for the sensitive marshes environment

Rails Across the Road? We believe using rail rather than buses for a northerly park‘n’ride scheme for the town would be cheaper to build and better for the sensitive marshes environment

The Downpatrick & County Down Railway has given a cautious welcome to the new Downpatrick Masterplan, but say more work needs to be done. While there is much of merit in the discussion paper, there are several key recommendations that we feel need to be explored in more detail with the consultants.

There are two key proposals that would directly affect us. The first is the proposal for a western bypass of the town. We have no objection in principle to such a road, so long as the chosen route causes no detrimental visual impact on our visitors' journey. However, from the maps in the consultants' report it is suggested that the road would follow our line from Inch Abbey or replace it; this part of the proposal is unclear.

They say that road links around the Mound of Down were 'discounted through the masterplan process, due to environmental sensitivities' but we would be keen to stress that this alternative could severely impact on one the area's top tourist attractions, and we would wish to discuss options for a route that would best suit everyone.

The second proposal that we would want to find more information about is this recommendation of a 'people mover' shuttling on or alongside our Inch Abbey line to the Down Business Park.
There is a reference on the map to 'Extended Steam Railway Lines' but it then shows one of our lines as the route for this bus service. So we have to ask the consultants - do they wish to duplicate what is already in place?

We submitted to our colleagues in Down District Council our 'Future Directions' proposals last year, which were enthusiastically backed in principle by the Council. We are well aware of the traffic situation in the town and are keen to assist with rail-based solutions. We proposed a link to the Racecourse as well as a Park'n'Ride proposal for the Inch Abbey end to help the town cope with traffic during major events. Given that the key reasons for the consultants' people-mover suggestion was to achieve these goals - our solutions would do exactly what they want.

For instance, compare the costs of reinstating the old rail bridge over the Ballydugan Road, building a car park close to the Inch Abbey hotel site or the Business Park, as well as the costs of the professional restoration of some of our rolling stock to be used on the Park'n'Ride service - and then compare these with the costs of the civil engineering that would be required to build a brand new busway, plus the associated environmental damage to the marshes area that the report is keen to protect, and then the overheads of whoever will be employed to operate the bus link.

Railbus RB3 could be used for any 'People Mover' scheme

Railbus RB3 could be used for any 'People Mover' scheme

We believe that no matter which way you look at it, the Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway would be in a prime position to offer a better alternative at a fraction of the cost and with no major disruption or detrimental visual impact on what is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

We hope to talk with the relevant people in the near future to outline our alternatives directly, to ensure the maximum development of the railway in a way that will not only boost tourism to the town, but also would help provide a real tangible traffic solution to the area in a way that is realistic and achievable.

We would encourage the public to take a look at our proposals, which can be found on our website, and respond to this consultation process to support our proposals.

One proposal does get the seal of approval right away, the proposal to reshape the area in front of the railway station is one that we would certainly welcome, as it appears that it would better integrate the railway with the town centre, allowing people better access from the town centre to our premises, instead of being at the end of a carpark. The creation of a 'Railway Museum Square' is a novel idea, but would think that this name is rather uninspiring, perhaps something like 'James Taylor Square' named after the town's last Station Master, would be more appropriate?

Also, we note that there is no 'Railway Street' or 'Station Street' in Downpatrick, maybe this plan could rectify this? However we would still like an input into whatever shape and design this project will take so that it is sympathetic to our vintage atmosphere.

Our alternative transport proposals can be found here: Future Directions

The Masterplan Consultation documents can be found here: DSD Downpatrick Consultation

The closing date for submissions to the consultation process is 18th March 2010, so if you wish to support our proposals the contact details for the Consultants are:

Email to: downpatrick@paulhogarth.com
Post to: Downpatrick Town Centre Masterplan, The Paul Hogarth Company
Avalon House, 278 – 280 Newtownards Road, Belfast, BT4 1HE

Sixty Years On...
Saturday, 24th January 2010

DCDR chairman Michael Collins appeared on this week's BBC Radio Ulster Your Place and Mine programme to highlight the 60th Anniversary of the BCDR's closure, and to appeal for artefacts.

Click on the buttons below to listen:

BBC Your Place & Mine, Saturday 23rd Jan, 2010
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Sixty Years On... The Last Train From Downpatrick
Friday, 15th January 2010

James Taylor (left), Mr Patton, fireman James Hill, driver Barney Malone on the last day, 15th January 1950

Downpatrick's last Station Master James Taylor (left) and Walter Paton (Train Rosterer), greet fireman James Hill, and driver Barney Malone who are about to leave Downpatrick for Newcastle for the last time on 15th January 1950, before returning to Belfast

Sixty years ago today, the first part of Northern Ireland's once-extensive railway service quite literally came to the end of the line. The axe had fallen on the Belfast & County Down Railway,which had served its rural east Down community for a hundred years. The railway stations south of Comber fell quiet and an eerie silence descended upon mile after mile of deserted track.

No longer would the rumble of trains of passenger-filled carriages pass on their way to Castlewellan or Newcastle, making their stops at Ballygowan, Saintfield, Ballynahinch Junction, Crossgar, or Dundrum, or perhaps branching off beyond Downpatrick to wander across country to Ardglass.Later that year, on April 22, 1950, services from Belfast to Comber - stopping at Bloomfield, Neill's Hill, Knock and Dundonald - and on to Newtownards and Donaghadee also ceased.

The last train from Newcastle was described by local newspapers as ‘like a farewell party for a beloved friend’. The train left Newcastle to Belfast at eight minutes past seven on 15th January 1950. Someone pulled the communication cord when the train was stationary at Crossgar, several window straps disappeared, and detonators on the track, which are usually reserved for fogs, made the journey a noisy one at intervals. Passengers were even getting the train crew to autograph their tickets.

Cheering crowds assembled at Dundrum, Downpatrick and other intermediate stations. A record number of platform tickets were sold at Newcastle, and people stood in the doors of their houses and waved a farewell as the train passed. There were even some eyes which were not quite dry, including those of the train crew, guards Jimmy Pettigrew (who had served on the BCDR for 37 years) and William Johnston and driver Barney Malone and fireman James Hill.

(left to right) William (Billy) Macrory, William (Willy) Irvine and Station Master James Taylor

(left to right) William (Billy) Macrory, William (Willy) Irvine and Station Master James Taylor on the last day of service

At Newcastle objectors to the closure made their protest by sticking slogans on the carriage windows and a large placard, shaped like a tombstone, hung at the rear of the guards van, was removed by officials before the train left the station. It read: "In memory, BCDR born 1869, coordinated 1950, aged 81. Executioners: Brooke and the Pope," referring to the Stormont Ministers who had sanctioned the closure. Other slogans, some of which had been partially torn off by the time the train reached Belfast, were: "We'll bus-seeing you," "Stand in the rain, stand in the 'bus," "A 'bus is b-U-T-A substitute," and "UTA, highest fares in Europe."

There were 300 people on that train, many travelling to the next station and making their own way back just to say they were on the last train. There were two engines on the train, which arrived in Belfast's Queen's Quay station at 8.49pm, 14 minutes behind schedule.

But why was it closed? Up to the 1940s, the railway network in Northern Ireland was operated by three main railway companies: the London Midland and Scottish Railway, better known as the Northern Counties, at York Road Station; the Great Northern Railway of Ireland at Great Victoria Street Station; and the Belfast and County Down Railway at Queen's Quay Station. In 1948, for financial reasons, the Stormont government decided to nationalise the network and amalgamate the LMS and BCDR with the state-owned bus operator, the Northern Ireland Road Transport Board, to form the Ulster Transport Authority.

A tribunal was set up to consider how this could be best achieved and provide an integrated transport system. Railway chiefs hoped the tribunal would recommend that the bus services should no longer compete with the railways, but instead act as 'feeder' services from the countryside to the major stations. But to their despair the tribunal recommended that the entire BCDR main line from Belfast to Newcastle, including the branches to Donaghadee, Ballynahinch and Ardglass should close, and all operations transferred to buses. The only exception would be the Bangor branch.

Passengers say farewell to the BCDR at Ardglass Station, with the last train on the branch between Downpatrick and Ardglass, which closed on 14th January 1950, the night before the main line. Pictured: J. Hamilton (driver, bottom right), B. Savage (fireman, top, standing), W. Irvine (porter/guard, second from right) J. Hamilton retired in 1981, B. Savage went to the UTA buses, retired 1981 as well, W. Irvine left for England.

Passengers say farewell to the BCDR at Ardglass Station, with the last train on the branch between Downpatrick and Ardglass, which closed on 14th January 1950, the night before the main line. Pictured: J. Hamilton (driver, bottom right), B. Savage (fireman, top, standing), W. Irvine (porter/guard, second from right) J. Hamilton retired in 1981, B. Savage went to the UTA buses, retired 1981 as well, W. Irvine left for England.

The simple reason for the closures was that, after being run into the ground during the Second World War, the railways needed a huge amount of investment to modernise them. It was considered cheaper to provide a replacement bus service. It came as a complete shock to many people, especially the axing of the Belfast-Comber line, which served Dundonald, and the line onwards to Newtownards, areas where, as with the Bangor line, the expanding suburban population was already guaranteeing healthy commuter traffic.

The 1950 closures were only the first step taken by the Stormont Government in shrinking the railway network, eventually by two-thirds - from 754 miles to 297 miles, a process begun a good thirteen years before Dr. Beeching began his chopping of British Railways. However, today, the Downpatrick & County Down Railway - based at the town's former BCDR terminus - keeps the memory alive through its restoration of a portion of the former main line to Inch Abbey, and has a museum dedicated to artefacts from the old line.

The museum is also hoping, in the near future, to complete a kilometre long extension of their line to Ballydugan on the old Newcastle line

As part of its commemorations of the BCDR's demise, it is appealing for anyone with any memorabilia of the old line - especially photograph, but also tickets, timetables or even carriages! They are also keen to record, for an oral history of the line, the memories of any former BCDR veterans still around whom they have not yet been able to track down. If you can help, email us now!



Steam in the Heart of Down
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