to Drive out of Retirement in Downpatrick
Downpatrick Railway Museum is poised to expand its timetable
thanks to a new arrival on site last Saturday, March 30th,
2001. The newcomer is a 'Railbus', on loan from Northern
Ireland Railways, that will allow the Museum to run train
services mid-week during the summer running season.
unusual rail vehicle is essentially what its name suggests
- a bus that can run on railway tracks. The Museum's Company
Secretary, Mike Collins, states that not only will this
vehicle be an extremely useful asset to the railway, it
is also an important piece of railway heritage, as it
has seen service in both Northern Ireland and England.
Railbus was one of four prototypes built in 1981 by British
Rail Engineering at Derby as a possible solution to operating
lightly-trafficked branch lines," states Mr. Collins.
"It operated in England for a year in the Bristol-Temple
Meads area before being purchased by N.I.R., when it was
regauged to operate on Irish standard gauge track (5ft
3), as the vehicle was originally built to the English
gauge of 4ft. 8 and a half ins. Once delivered the vehicle
entered service on the Coleraine-Portrush branch."
the Railbus's tenure on the line was short. "It wasn't
long before it was discovered that the Railbus did not
have sufficient capacity to handle the volume of traffic
on the Portrush line, and since 1990 it has been on display
in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra,"
says Mr. Collins.
that the Railbus would run again came about last year
when the Downpatrick Railway Museum entered discussions
with Translink about bringing the Railbus out of retirement
to operate midweek train services. Mr. Collins states
that "as the railway is run wholly by volunteers,
we don't have the resources necessary to operate a full
train service during the week, a situation that the arrival
of the Railbus will go a long way to resolving."
Translink looked favourably on the idea, and the Railbus
was soon moved out of Cultra in a joint N.I.R.-D.R.M.
operation and was taken to N.I.R.'s goods yard at Adelaide.
Railbus almost returned to service quicker than had been
expected. At a meeting between Translink and D.R.M. management,
the suggestion was made that the Railbus could help save
the Lisburn-Antrim line from closure, which suggestion
was readily accepted by the D.R.M. As Mr. Collins states,
"N.I.R.'s need was greater than our own for extra
trains." He continues, "Unfortunately for N.I.R.,
the same problem that befell the Railbus on the Portrush
branch re-emerged, as its capacity is not sufficient for
a line with the patronage generated on the Lisburn-Antrim
Collins added, "However, the Railbus is exactly what
we're looking for to operate our planned midweek services,
and we're extremely happy to see the Railbus drive back
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