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The cover of "The Belfast & County Down Railway" by Desmond Coakham

The cover of “The Belfast & County Down Railway” by Desmond Coakham

The old Belfast & County Down Railway still manages to capture people’s imagination sixty one years after it was closed, and now a new ‘definitive’ book about this line is to be launched at the BCDR’s successor in Downpatrick on the anniversary of the line’s closure.

This book is written by Desmond Coakham, who turns 89 years old this month – proving that you are never too old to put pen to paper, or in Desmond’s case finger to typewriter.

The Belfast and County Down Railway connected the City to, among other places, Bangor, Newtownards, Donaghadee, Ballynahinch, Downpatrick and Newcastle, with only the Bangor line surviving today.

Few railways have grabbed the public consciousness in the same way as the BCDR has, maybe it was because it did things differently than its bigger rivals at Great Victoria Street or York Road, with it’s initials fondly or sometimes mockingly changed to mean “Be Careful, Don’t Rush”.

But despite being gone for over two generations its presence still lingers knowingly or unknowingly – whether you refer to the long-gone ‘Holywood Arches’, or can recall the old slogan of “Bangor and Back for a Bob” the memories are still there under the surface.

Desmond Coakham was one person who fell under its spell when he moved to Bangor in 1942. He grew to know the BCDR like no other and his book combines this first-hand knowledge with detailed research of the BCDR’s long history from birth to closure, its personalities as well as its trains – creating what will surely become the first complete history of the line.

The author Desmond Coakham

The author Desmond Coakham

Having gathered up much information, research and photographs (many taken by himself) since the Forties, it was always an ambition of Desmond’s to complete this work, and with the help of his close friends and publisher Colourpoint Books, this book is now the culmination of a seventy year old relationship with the line!

To celebrate the publication of this book, the aptly-styled Downpatrick and County Down Railway, a heritage line setup in 1985 on the BCDR’s terminus in the town to preserve the memory of the old line, are hosting a book-signing with the author on Saturday 15th January, which is also a poignant date as it also marks the 61st Anniversary of the closure of the BCDR in 1950.

So if you’ve walked along the Comber Greenway or the Mourne Coastal Walk at Dundrum, or even if you are old enough to have gone on a seaside trip to either Newcastle, Ardglass or Bangor, or simply looked up at an old stone bridge beside the road and wondered about the railway line that used to run there, then the “The Belfast & County Down Railway” by Desmond Coakham will be indispensible.

Doors open at 2pm, and the DCDR is offering free travel to anyone who purchases a book on the day to be signed, price £25 and published by Colourpoint Books in hardback. Normal fares apply to ordinary travellers, or for anyone bringing their own copy to be signed, at £5 adults and £4 children..