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

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The locomotive was introduced into service with Irish Rail on 14th December 1962 and withdrawn this year, on 5th March.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