DCDR Chairman Michael Collins looks as if he is about to go on safari with a squad of B-Specials during filming for a new TG4 series
The Downpatrick & County Down Railway will once again grace the small screen, featuring in a documentary about the significance of railways in Irish history that will be screened on Irish language station TG4 in the New Year.
The series is called Boithre Iarainn, and is a six-part series for TG4 about the closure of railways across Ireland, and is due to be aired in January, 2012. Filming took place over two days at the railway, Wed 6th and Thur 7th July.
The DCDR provided location services for two days, where re-enactments of a number of events that happened on Irish railways throughout the 1900s were staged.
These scenes included recalling the tradition of families travelling for their summer holidays to Bundoran on trains, pilgrims making their way to Lough Derg and on board the “Radio Trains” of CIE (Irish Rail’s predecessor), the series also looks at the darker side of Irish history with re-enactments of two IRA attacks Cork in the 1920s and in Clones on trains that led to the deaths of many soldiers and civilians.
Downpatrick & County Down Railway chairman, Mr. Michael Collins, said the documentary was one a series of films and programmes to be shot at the railway, which he said was becoming increasingly well known for its film potential.
He said the TG4 crew were delighted and surprised by the wealth of props and trains available to them, with carriages from the 1920s and the 1950s used as authentic trains for the documentary.
He said a number of other film opportunities were also in the pipeline.
“These help our fundraising as an associated fee, they are also very useful for publicity as they spread the word about the local railway,” he said.
The Irish Rail and DCDR team dismantling and loading the various component parts of the turnout in Bagenalstown Railway Station yard
The Downpatrick & County Down Railway has taken delivery of a specialised piece of railway track – a “switch” or also known as a “turnout” – that allows trains to be guided from one track to another at a junction.
The switch was purchased from Irish Rail (Iarnród Éireann) in the early part of 2011, and was collected on the morning of 27th July from Bagenalstown in Co. Carlow.
Railway volunteer, Robert Gardiner, who went down fellow Downpatrick railway stalwart Robert Edwards to assist the Irish Rail team in dismantling it, said that they are delighted to have acquired this item.
“If we are to realise our goal of operating trains on both our North Line to Inch Abbey and our South Line to Ballydugan or the Racecourse, we need to remodel the track into Downpatrick Station – which was laid over 25 years ago – to allow this to happen,” he says.
“We currently operate under the one-engine-in-steam principle, which means we cannot have more than one train on the same piece of track.”
The overall dimensions of the turnout are 90ft long by 15ft wide, therefore a specialised crane lorry was needed to load and transport the materials north. As much as possible was lifted intact, but the majority was dismantled. Sleepers have been numbered to make reassembly easier in Downpatrick
“However,” he adds, “should we expand our services we couldn’t operate in this way – and we have worked out a comprehensive signalling and track plan which meets statutory requirements to achieve this in anticipation of our extensions opening.”
He continues, “We were very lucky to have acquired a number of turnouts from Northern Ireland Railways earlier in the year for the new sidings into our Heritage Lottery funded Carriage Gallery, but we would still be short a number of these turnouts to complete the work on our passenger lines,” adding, “So we have been keeping an eye out and our good friends in Irish Rail told us of this one in Bagenalstown which had been removed some time ago when the line had been upgraded.”
This turnout is of the older “bullhead rail” type, now largely redundant on modern railways, replaced by the more modern and heavier “flat bottom rail”.
Mr Gardiner continues, “It was a sweltering summer’s day for a change, and we were all roasted, but we would like to thank everyone in Irish Rail who helped move this turnout 200 miles north!”
It is estimated that the combined track redesign and signalling plan will be complete by 2013/2014.
South Down MP and SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie MLA and DCDR chairman Michael Collins check the guage is right with the newly laid rails inside the Carriage Gallery
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie was given a guided tour of the new gallery under construction at the Downpatrick and County Railway last week.
The MP said she was delighted to visit the Lower Market Street facility to see at ?rst hand the ongoing work on the gallery project which is expected to open for business around Easter next year.
She said the Downpatrick project involves around half a million pounds of capital investment in what she described as an “important tourism project for the Lecale area.
The MP continued: “I hope other projects connected with the railway programme come to fruition such as the link to the St. Patrick Centre and the reinstatement of the bridge at Ballydugan Road
“These are important projects to this area in that tourism heritage is a major contributor to the local economy. It’s important this work is accompanied by the provision of additional bed spaces such as a replacement hotel.”
Miss Ritchie also commended members of the Downpatrick railway project board for their significant work” in bringing the history of the railway in Co. Down back into focus and in making a contribution to the tourism economy of St Patrick’s Country and the Mournes.