to Latest News
But We'll Still be Running!
Saturday, 18th December, 2010
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!
2pm till 5pm.
Our Wee World
Monday, 14th December 2010
of the children who feature in "Our Wee World"
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.
Wee World" features children from around Northern Ireland,
celebrating their area with words, music and drama.
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
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.
Baby Boomer adopted by Downpatrick Railway
Monday, 29th November 2010
"Baby GM" arrives in Downpatrick on a snowy Saturday
stork has delivered an early Christmas present to the Downpatrick
& County Down Railway a 1960s 'baby' diesel locomotive.
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
& 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 theyre built
for - and we're happy to help".
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!"
"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".
was introduced into service with Irish Rail on 14th December 1962
and withdrawn this year, on 5th March.
railway enthusiasts, four have been preserved two by the
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.
Now Arriving at Platform 1
Thursday, 25th November 2010
greeting visitors to the railway last year
Express is arriving this Christmas at the Downpatrick and County
Down Railway for four weekends only with a very special passenger
- Santa Claus!
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.
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
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;
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.
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
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.
& 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."
more information on the Lapland Express, please check out
our special FAQ section
At the Railway!
Thursday, 28th October 2010
haunted Vikings Grave, illuminated on Halloween Night 2008,
with ghosts and spirits rising out of graves
something strange happening at the Downpatrick & County Down
Railway this Halloween. Theres 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
Merlins domain pass his tests, then the children will receive
a mystical gift."
greets some brave visitors
adds, "And of course, why not try to turn the tables and scare
Merlin by coming in ghostly fancy dress yourself?"
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!
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
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."
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
Sage, former Infrastructure Manager in the early days of the
railway, next to G613, who recently passed away. Photo: Bill
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
2nd October 2010
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'.
involves the clearing of the site, and most noticeably the demolition
of the old steam engine shed.
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.
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
Carriage Gallery Update
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.
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:
will comprise a new single storey steel frame metal clad building
connected to existing workshop.
of the project is £550,000 excluding VAT, and is being grant-aided
by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Northern Ireland Tourist Board.
Pre-Qualification Questionnaire should be sent to R E Quinn Architects,
14 Princes Street, Dromore, BT25 1AY, or email email@example.com
must be returned by 1pm on 10th September 2010.
New Railway Stamps
Launched at Downpatrick
18th August 2010
volunteer Philip McKinstry and the Royal Mails Barbara
Roulston launch the Great British Railways series of stamps
in Downpatrick, in front of GSWR No. 90 Photo:
Chris Halpin, Mourne Observer
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.
97p stamp which features an LMS (Northern Counties Committee)
Class WT - Engine No 2 shown here at Larne Town, circa 1947
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.
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
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
Muskett (left) and Adam Hamilton (right) who recently passed
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
2nd August 2010
impression of the interior of the planned carriage gallery
& 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
Extra programme covered this story, click on the links below
Evening Extra, Monday 2nd August, 2010
Railway Welcomes Masterplan
21st July 2010
& Co. Down Railway has welcomed the publication of the final
draft of the Masterplan for the regeneration of the town.
Michael Collins, described the document as "extremely encouraging"
and welcomed its endorsement of the heritage railways role
in the towns regeneration.
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 railways 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."
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.
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
19th July 2010
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
of the material at North Esk that was dismantled prior to
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.
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
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
DCDR on CBeebies
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.
was recorded in March 2009.
on the buttons below to listen:
Celebrate - CBeebies, Monday 22nd March, 2010
at the Railway?
Who star Matt Smith prepares for a take on the platform
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
Station become "Berlin Alhalter Bahnhof"
a peculiar man who provided the inspiration for the title character
in the Isherwood novel 'Mr Norris Changes Trains'.
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."
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
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.
this our foyer where you buy your tickets? Or an Amsterdam
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.
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.
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."
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."
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
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.
Train Through Time
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
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.
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.
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.
We strive to make this as historically accurate to the time
period as possible to give both a thrilling enjoyable day, but educational
The first heritage
diesel train leaves Downpatrick Station for King Magnuss 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.
Planting at Downpatrick
little bit of history was made at the DCDR last Saturday when the
first signal in nearly twenty years was erected on site.
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
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.
Railway Outraged by Theft
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
footage shows three persons coming over fence from field opposite
the platform just before nine oclock 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.
But despite this they are spotted again leaving the site at
nearly ten oclock with the lead from the roof. Police
have found a ladder outside the railway site, which has been removed
for forensic examination.
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 doesnt bear thinking about.
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, its vital that
you take that information to 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.
concludes, Think about your consciences is it worth
a couple of pounds to risk imprisonment?
Steam Viewing Figures
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.
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.
first aired on Monday, 14th January 2008, with 114,000 viewers tuning
in and an average 26% audience share.
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!
on the programme here,
or in our News Archive (scroll
a Steamy May?
Wednesday, 27th April 2010
another chance to catch the steam train at the Downpatrick &
County Down Railway on this year's May Days, Monday 3rd May and
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.
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
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?
The Easter Bunny
braved weather that went from heavy showers, to glorious sunshine,
and then howling gales threatening to blow the train over!
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).
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.
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.
Aboard the Easter Eggspress Train!
& Kerry Adams from Dromore and Emma Wilson and Lewis Edgar-Wilson
from Hillsborough meet the Easter Bunny last year
therell be eggs-travagant fun at the Downpatrick & County
Down Railway with eggs galore on this years "Easter Eggspress",
running over the Easter weekend.
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
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.
Each child can have his or her picture taken with the Easter
Bunny so they can always remember their ride, so bring your cameras.
as well as fun for the children, mums and dads also get the chance
to experience rail travel at its most traditional."
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.
£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
out this March
& County Down Railway kicks off this years train services
with the St. Patricks Day Shamrock Specials.
part of the towns festival celebrations, the steam train will
be used for excursions between Inch Abbey and the parade ground
from 10.20am till 5pm.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
& 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
Michael Collins, chairman of the railway, said that both parties
were able to find many areas of agreement at a meeting held last
"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
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; its 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.
Featured on RTÉ's Nationwide Programme
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.
Rail Masterplan? Our
Response to Town Regeneration Plan
3rd February 2010
Across the Road? We believe using rail rather than buses for
a northerly parknride scheme for the town would
be cheaper to build and better for the sensitive marshes environment
& 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
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?
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
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.
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
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
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.
transport proposals can be found here: Future
The Masterplan Consultation documents can be found here: DSD
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Post to: Downpatrick Town Centre Masterplan, The Paul Hogarth Company
Avalon House, 278 280 Newtownards Road, Belfast, BT4 1HE
Sixty Years On...
24th January 2010
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.
on the buttons below to listen:
Your Place & Mine, Saturday 23rd Jan, 2010
Sixty Years On...
The Last Train From Downpatrick
15th January 2010
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
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
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.
to right) William (Billy) Macrory, William (Willy) Irvine
and Station Master James Taylor on the last day of service
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.
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.
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!