Buy tickets     News     FAQs     Contact

Buy tickets     News     FAQs     Contact

Our railway is closed

Due to the ongoing situation with Covid-19, we are closed to the public and all visitors for the rest of 2020. Sadly, this includes the popular Christmas and Halloween events. 

It is not possible to book any tickets at this time.

Please see our Covid-19 appeal page for more details.

 

New Visitor Centre Unveiled at Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway

George Legge, Margaret Ritchie MP, Bob Brown, Michael Collins, Stephen Bil, John Wilson and Mickey Coogan at the launch of their new £700,000 '"Carriage Gallery" Picture by Bernie Brown

George Legge, Margaret Ritchie MP, Bob Brown, Michael Collins, Stephen Bil, John Wilson and Mickey Coogan at the launch of their new £700,000 ‘”Carriage Gallery” Picture by Bernie Brown

It’s Ireland’s only full-size heritage railway, and now the Downpatrick & County Down Railway has one thing it’s always been missing: a modern visitors’ centre.

Housed in a spectacular building, which harks back to the great Victorian termini, the “Carriage Gallery” is Ireland’s only dedicated carriage museum which tells the story of the development of railways in Northern Ireland from the 19th century to today, and was unveiled at a special “completion” ceremony on Friday 17th August.

The ‘Gallery’, costing £700,000, displays not artworks but vintage vehicles from all over Ireland, as well as carriages unique to the old railway which used to run between Belfast and Downpatrick, Newcastle, Ardglass and Bangor, as well as artefacts and an audio-visual exhibition.

The crowd at the completion launch. Picture by Bernie Brown

The crowd at the completion launch. Picture by Bernie Brown

Railway Chairman, Michael Collins, said, “This is the only centre in Ireland that gives the limelight to carriages, not the engines, as it was the carriages which carried the people that used the railways and it is through them that we can tell the social history of the areas and the people the railways served.”

The ‘completion ceremony’ saw over a hundred people, including local MP Margaret Ritchie and representatives from Heritage Lottery Fund and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, as well as Down District Council, marking the end of a project that, Mr. Collins says, started “on the back of an envelope” in 2005 before the process of applying for £450,000 and £200,000 from the HLF and NITB respectively began.

George Legge a volunteer with Downpatrick & County Down Railway at the launch of their new £700,000 '"Carriage Gallery" Ireland’s only dedicated carriage museum now open to the public.

George Legge a volunteer with Downpatrick & County Down Railway at the launch of their new £700,000 ‘”Carriage Gallery” Ireland’s only dedicated carriage museum now open to the public.

The gallery boasts six vintage passenger carriages, the second oldest surviving steam locomotive in Ireland, one 1980s prototype Railbus and four goods wagons, including the former Belfast & County Down Railway’s “Royal Saloon”, which carried the future Kings George V and VI, as well as King Edward VII and their consorts.

Already causing a stir are two ancient six-wheeled carriages from the Midland Great Western Railway, from the 1890s which operated from Dublin to Galway, and the same type that starred in the 1952 John Wayne classic ‘The Quiet Man’. Hidden from view under tarpaulins since they were donated by Irish Rail in 2007, their dilapidated condition creates a direct contrast to the three fully restored vintage carriages on display.

The Gallery is an expansion of the already popular Downpatrick and County Down Railway attraction which has been opened since 1987 – painstakingly rebuilt by volunteers from the remains of a line abandoned in the 1950s – and runs vintage trains through the Downpatrick marshes to Inch Abbey on its own railway tracks every weekend of the summer and during special annual events throughout the year such as Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Coralie, Florence and Ruby Noble talking to George Legge at the launch of the new £700,000 '"Carriage Gallery"

Coralie, Florence and Ruby Noble talking to George Legge at the launch of the new £700,000 ‘”Carriage Gallery”

Mr. Collins says, “In this year we have seen the opening of the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre, and the Titanic Belfast centre, and the new Gallery represents a significant enhancement of the tourist offering in Co. Down”.

He adds, “And like the Causeway Centre is not aimed at ‘Geology Enthusiasts’ nor is Titanic Belfast aimed at ‘Boat Enthusiasts’, our Gallery, museum, and trains are not aimed at just ‘Railway Enthusiasts’ or ‘train buffs’, but the entire family from mums, dads, kiddies, to granny and granddad, and we know that the Gallery will prove incredibly popular with our visitors”.

Trains are running every weekend at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway and tickets cost £5.50 adults and £4.50 children/senior citizens, including entry to the new Gallery, and the DCDR is always looking for new volunteers to join.

Pride of Place Judges Visit Downpatrick Railway

The Pride of Place judges pictured with railway volunteers, local support groups and Councillors outside Downpatrick Railway Station. Photo (c) Down News

The Pride of Place judges pictured with railway volunteers, local support groups and Councillors outside Downpatrick Railway Station. Photo (c) Down News

It was all full steam ahead as judges from the prestigious all-Ireland Pride of Place competition recently visited Downpatrick and County Down Railway (DCDR) to hear first hand about the inspiring voluntary work it does to preserve our railway heritage and promote cultural tourism in Down district.

On Thursday 9 August the local voluntary railway charity group was given the opportunity to show judges why they should win a Pride of Place Award in this year’s all-Ireland competition. Down District Council nominated the group for the annual competition.

Pride of Place is an all-Ireland competition aimed at recognising and celebrating the vital contributions that voluntary organisations make to the life of their area. The competition focus is on people coming together to shape, enhance and enjoy all that is good about where they live. Pride of Place also enables entrants to look at other voluntary organisations’ undertakings and to learn from their experiences.

Michael Collins, DCDR Chairman said: “We have around 200 members and 50 of those are very active members from all walks of life pooling their expertise and enthusiasm to help develop Ireland’s biggest voluntary railway project.

Alison McGrenaghan, Magnus Vikings Association, Una Savage, Down Tourist Officer, and Lesley Simpson, Keeper of Collections at Down County Museum get set to board a train for Inch. Photo (c) Down News

Alison McGrenaghan, Magnus Vikings Association, Una Savage, Down Tourist Officer, and Lesley Simpson, Keeper of Collections at Down County Museum get set to board a train for Inch. Photo (c) Down News

“The volunteers come from a range of backgrounds in management, engineering, public services and general trades have literally driven the railway body to be a major player in local tourism and heritage in Down District.”

The Pride of Place judges, Mr Declan Nelson and Mr John Quinlivan, were welcomed to Downpatrick by the Chairman of Down District Council, Councillor Michael Coogan, and Mr Michael Collins, Chairman of Downpatrick and County Down Railway, and received a presentation in the St Patrick Centre prior to a tour of the railway centre.

The judges were fully briefed on the extent of the voluntary effort by the BCDR and their tremendous contribution to cultural tourism and environmental improvement was not hidden under a bushel.

As part of the tour, the judges were introduced to the Railway’s management committee, its volunteers and representatives of organisations the Railway works with, and with whom the judges were keen to discuss the valuable contribution the Railway makes.

In assessing entrants, the judges award marks for: Impact on Community; Innovation; Sustainability; Local Leadership; Management; and Overall Impression.

Railway volunteer Herbie Bodel with Anne Rowney and Marisa Murphy of Fashion Forum arrive at Downpatrick Railway Station in their Singer Vogue 1964 and Singer Super 1947. Photo (c) Down News Looking over the new £700,000 visitors' centre at the Downpatrick and County Down Railway are Patricia McGrath, secretary of the Downpatrick and County Down railway, Philip Campbell, Magnus Vikings Association, Sally Shields and Down District Councillor Patsy Toman. Photo (c) Down News

Railway volunteer Herbie Bodel with Anne Rowney and Marisa Murphy of Fashion Forum arrive at Downpatrick Railway Station in their Singer Vogue 1964 and Singer Super 1947. Photo (c) Down News
Looking over the new £700,000 visitors’ centre at the Downpatrick and County Down Railway are Patricia McGrath, secretary of the Downpatrick and County Down railway, Philip Campbell, Magnus Vikings Association, Sally Shields and Down District Councillor Patsy Toman. Photo (c) Down News

Now in its tenth year, the Pride of Place competition is growing in terms of its prestige and popularity. The competition is run by Co-operation Ireland in partnership with the All-Island Local Authority Steering Forum, a forum which encourages strategic and sustainable approaches to cross-border co-operation by local authorities.

Mr Collins added: “The DCDR is Northern Ireland’s only standard gauge heritage railway and a popular visitor attraction based in Downpatrick. It was founded in 1985 to preserve our railway heritage for future generations to enjoy. The Railway is a not-for-profit society, a registered charity and museum which has rebuilt part of the former BCDR Belfast to Newcastle main line.

“The society has a membership of around 300 people some from across the world and earns its revenue from the fares it charges visitors, donations and membership subscriptions.

“It has been successful in obtaining substantial funding for its major restoration projects – mostly recently towards its new £700,000 Carriage Display Gallery which the judges visited today. We also run special culturally themed days are a regular feature of the visitor experience at the Railway such as the Magnus Barelegs Viking weekend, Halloween, Christmas and St Patrick’s Day trips and they are very popular.

Looking over the new £700,000 visitors' centre at the Downpatrick and County Down Railway are Patricia McGrath, secretary of the Downpatrick and County Down railway, Philip Campbell, Magnus Vikings Association, Sally Shields and Down District Councillor Patsy Toman. Photo (c) Down News

Looking over the new £700,000 visitors’ centre at the Downpatrick and County Down Railway are Patricia McGrath, secretary of the Downpatrick and County Down railway, Philip Campbell, Magnus Vikings Association, Sally Shields and Down District Councillor Patsy Toman. Photo (c) Down News

“The DCDR Iis staffed entirely by volunteers, with the railway being painstakingly rebuilt from nothing by people giving their time, knowledge, skills and enthusiasm for railway heritage and culture. Volunteers are at the heart of our organisation.,” said Mr Collins.

The winning entrants will be announced at a gala awards ceremony which will be hosted later in the year by Co-operation Ireland. (Irish Public Bodies Mutual Insurances Ltd is the major sponsor of the 2012 Pride of Place Competition in association with Co-operation Ireland.

This article originally appeared on Down News