Frequently Asked Questions

All the common questions our visitors ask are listed below with answers, so check before you email us – this could save you time.

  • Do I have to book?
    • You can book your tickets online for all of our trains here

      For most running days you can pay on the day, but for Christmas, Easter and Halloween we are now running a pre-booking system. A few seats may remain on the day for these special events, but the only way you can guarantee a seat is to pre-book via the website.

  • Where does the train go?
    • The trains run just over two miles to the ruins of the Cistercian Inch Abbey, and it is hoped to extend the line southwards towards Ballydugan in the near future. See our visitor information for more details.

  • Do trains run only run on the days listed here?
    • Yes, passenger trains are limited to those days listed on this website.

      However, in between public running days there is plenty of maintenance to be done and a works train is usually out every week, usually on Wednesdays, Mondays, Fridays or Saturdays. There are also numerous private charters throughout the year. So, the railway is quite busy with trains, but not necessarily always ones that carry passengers!

  • Do you run driver experience/footplate days?
    • Sorry, at the moment it is not possible to do driver experiences, either on steam or diesel locomotives. This is something we are considering for future introduction.

      In the meantime, subject to your level of mobility and availability of a suitable engine crew, you can pay £20 for a return trip to Inch Abbey in the cab of the locomotive on a public running day. This is not something that can be booked in advance, it is strictly pay on the day. This is restricted to passenger trains – footplate rides are not permitted on the diesel-hauled ECS trains at the start and end of the day. We cannot guarantee in advance that any specific locomotive (steam or diesel) will be in service.

  • Can I visit the Station Museum and Carriage Gallery outside of advertised running days?
    • Absolutely! We work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and we are happy to accommodate visits by prior appointment.

  • Are dogs allowed?
    • Dogs are welcome and travel free, the only restriction is the buffet carriage, for obvious reasons. Guide dogs are most welcome. A water bowl for dogs is available at the buffet carriage at Inch Abbey.

  • Can you take Visa/Mastercard/etc.?
    • Yes, we can take credit and debit cards in our ticket office, but unfortunately not at our buffet carriage at Inch Abbey due to lack of reliable mobile phone coverage in that area.

  • Do you have a circle of track?
    • No – you’re thinking of Hornby trainsets!

      Our line is built on an original railway line that was closed in 1950 – the line originally went to Belfast and Newcastle back in the past – it’s not like a toy train set! We do have a triangle of track, which is an original feature of the BCDR layout, whereby Belfast-Newcastle express trains would meet the branch trains from Downpatrick to Ardglass.

  • You say you’re the only steam railway in Ireland, what about….?
    • No, we’re the only full-size heritage railway in Ireland, our friends at the RPSI in Whitehead operate on NIR and Irish Rail tracks – they don’t have their own line, and our friends in the Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills Railway, Fintown, etc., are all narrow gauge railways (i.e. the width between the rails is 3ft, not 5ft 3in). For instance, an NIR train could run on our lines but not at the Giant’s Causeway. This allows us to run vintage wooden bodies carriages that can no longer run on the main line, as well as recreate some of the structures and features of the railways of days gone by.

  • Are you part of the RPSI (Railway Preservation Society of Ireland)?
    • No, we’re an independent organisation although many of our members have RPSI membership and vice versa, since we all love the same thing – just in a different context. Our two organisations do belong to the umbrella Heritage Railway Association, which represents our industry right across the UK and Ireland.

  • I thought you were called…
    • You’re probably right. We’ve had various names over the past. We started off life as the Downpatrick and Ardglass Railway (D&AR) as we had originally intended to completely reopen the old BCDR branch line to Ardglass. This was then dropped and Downpatrick Steam Railway adopted in its place, but with perfect timing the boiler ticket on our steam engine ‘Guinness’ expired and we had to adopt “Downpatrick Railway Museum” which was used from 1996-2005. There was also a supporter’s association known as the Downpatrick Railway Society (DRS). Confused? So you should be! With the opening of the Inch Abbey line we settled on a new name, “Downpatrick&County Down Railway” that honours the original Belfast & County Down Railway.

  • I’ve heard of the Belfast and County Down Railway Museum Trust, are you them?
    • No, we’re not. The BCDRMT was set up in the early 1970s with the aim of restoring the BCDR Ballynahinch branch, from Ballynahinch Junction to the town. However, the scheme was unable to get off the ground, and while the BCDRMT still does issue various announcements and proposals, either connected to Donaghadee, Ballynahinch or elsewhere, we are in no way connected with these ventures.

  • Are you getting any of NIR’s old trains?
    • We took delivery of one of NIR’s 450 Class railcars in 2014 which we are converting to a buffet vehicle and will soon be in service. In regards the 80 Class, NIR have retained a number for continued service, and it is not yet clear when these will become available.

  • Are you really all volunteers?
    • Yes, we have around 40-50 volunteers who do everything, from restoring coaches to rebuilding locomotives to manning the ticket office. We only have one employee, a part time administrator who keeps us on the right track, funded by Newry, Mourne & Down District Council.

  • How are you funded?
    • We receive no funding from Stormont, so our work is mostly funded from the fares we charge our passengers. We do receive a small annual grant from Newry, Mourne & Down District Council which helps towards our part-time member of staff and some maintenance works. We also benefit greatly from donations and sponsorship from ordinary people and local businesses. For major projects we usually try to source grant aid from organisations such as the Northern Ireland Museums Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, amongst others.

  • How can I join/volunteer?
    • Joining couldn’t be easier, check out our volunteering webpage. Members can then volunteer, just bring yourself along any Wednesday or Saturday and introduce yourself. Usually you’re given a tour of the various projects being undertaken and you’re free to work on any that take your fancy. We know it’s hard giving up a day of your weekend, and that you mightn’t be able to make it every single week, so don’t let that stop you! We don’t mind how often you come down, as long as you do!

  • I’m researching my family history, and a member of my family worked on the railways, do you have any records?
    • If you are contacting us regards research into a member of your family who might have worked on the old BCDR, we will be happy to hear from you but cannot guarantee that we will be able to help – most of the official records of the BCDR went to the Public Records Office in Belfast, and they tended not to have employment records as we would understand them.

      However for any of the other railway companies the Irish Railway Record Society has opened an email service at irrsie@gmail.com. This address should be used in the first instance for anyone who might wish to contact them with enquiries about realtives who have most of the surviving archive material from old railway companies in their care. The IRRS also publishes their ‘Records of the Irish Transport Genalogical Archive’ which is a great help to those researching their family history. They do not possess BCDR records however.

      Other sources of information include the 1911 census from the Irish National Archive, which has placed on-line a free searchable edition of the census, which includes images of the original census forms filled in by heads of households. It was the last census before 1926, owing to the War of Independence and the Civil War.

  • Do you accept SmartPass or Senior SmartPass?
    • Sorry, we are not part of the public transport network and we cannot provide free travel. We receive no subsidy at all from the government! Check the prices for our trains before you travel or book to see what specific discounts we have for Seniors and other groups.

  • Why do you charge a booking fee?
    • We charge a small fee of 50p for each ticket booked online.

      We need to do this to cover the cost of running the online ticketing system. As a small charity, we cannot afford to absorb all this cost – we already absorb the cost of the credit or debit card transaction online.

      If you do not want to pay the fee, you can pay on cash when you arrive at the station (except for Easter, Halloween and Christmas trains).