DRD Minister Hosts EU Transport Chair at DCDR

Herbie Bodel, Brian Simpson MEP and DRD Minister Danny Kennedy MLA, pictured in the new Carriage Gallery

Herbie Bodel, Brian Simpson MEP and DRD Minister Danny Kennedy MLA, pictured in the new Carriage Gallery

Transport Minister Danny Kennedy has hosted Brian Simpson, Chair of the European Parliament’s Transport Committee, on a visit to Northern Ireland – and took him on a trip on Northern Ireland’s only full-size heritage line!

Brian Simpson is also the Vice President of the Heritage Railway Association.

Danny Kennedy said: “European Transport policy needs to take account of regional variances in terms of transport needs and existing infrastructure. For example, unlike most parts of Europe, freight is transported entirely by road in Northern Ireland and it would not be economically viable to upgrade our rail network to transport freight.”

The European Parliament’s Transport Committee is currently considering a new Trans-European Transport Network Regulation (TEN-T) , and its funding instrument, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Regulation.

Danny Kennedy MLA (Minister for Regional Development), Brian Simpson MEP, Herbie Bodel (DCDR) and Robert Gardiner (DCDR).

Danny Kennedy MLA (Minister for Regional Development), Brian Simpson MEP, Herbie Bodel (DCDR) and Robert Gardiner (DCDR).

The Minister added: “The TEN-T and CEF regulations will determine how people and goods move throughout the EU for many years to come. It is important that we continue to work to ensure our transport infrastructure meets our future needs and supports economic growth by facilitating investment from other member states and beyond.”

The visit was organised after the Minister made a recent visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where Danny Kennedy invited the EU Transport Chair to learn more about transport need and networks in Northern Ireland.

However heavy flooding nearly scuppered the day, as heavy rains had flooded our north line! Undaunted the Downpatrick Duck (nearly literally) paddled away and took the Minister and Mr Simpson out to Inch Abbey via the south line in the Railbus, hauled by the tamper. Not exactly as planned, but it did the trick!

Obituary – Michael Collins

Michael Collins, who passed away yesterday

Michael Collins, who passed away yesterday

It is with deep regret that we have to announce the death of Michael Collins, who served as our Chairman for the best part of the last decade. He was a true gentleman, whose friendship and contribution to the railway will never be forgotten.

Mike was taken ill on Monday and despite emergency heart surgery, he passed away in hospital on Wednesday, 3rd October.

Michael Collins was born in 1949 and came from a transport background. His grandfather joined Belfast Corporation as a tram conductor before World War I and retired as an inspector in 1947. In the same year his father joined the Northern Ireland Road Transport Board as a driver, became a conductor and later an inspector under the Ulster Transport Authority and Ulsterbus.

In 1967, whilst a student, Michael’s father arranged for him to join the newly formed Ulsterbus as a conductor attached to Smithfield depot in Belfast. Michael returned to this holiday job each summer until 1972.

He graduated from Queen’s University Belfast in that year with a BA in Geography and Political Science and a post-graduate Diploma in Business Administration, later upgraded to an MBA. On graduation he was offered the post of Personal Assistant to Werner Heubeck, Ulsterbus’s charismatic Managing Director.

After two years in this job, he moved to a management post in the Health Service before eventually taking up a lecturing position in business and management at the College of Business Studies in Belfast, finally retiring as a Principal Lecturer at the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education.

Since his Ulsterbus days, he retained his interest in transport and was involved with the fledgling railway in Downpatrick from the late 1980s, serving on its board for many years before taking up the position of chairman in 2003, which he held until his death bar one year in 2007/2008. He was hoping to continue in the role for one more year to help see that the two extensions planned for the DCDR came about.

He was also the Company Secretary of Irish Transport Heritage, which is dedicated to bus preservation, and had recently become involved in the Charles Shiels Charity Houses in Killough.

On hearing of this sad news, the newly elected board (following last Saturday’s AGM) held a minute’s silence at the Wednesday night meeting, which Mike was hoping to chair, and then adjourned the meeting as a mark of respect.

To all who wish to pay their respects, his funeral will be held at 9.30am on Saturday 6th October in St. Gerard’s Church on the Antrim Road, this will be followed by the cremation at Roselawn Crematorium at 11.30am on the same day.

Our deepest sympathies to his daughter Aoife, sons Michael and Aodhan and all the family circle, Mike was a valued friend and his vast experience and wise council will be sadly missed by us all.

Obituary – Desmond Coakham

Desmond Coakham, who passed away earlier today

Desmond Coakham, who passed away earlier today

We regret to have to announce as well the death of Desmond Coakham, aged 91, who passed away today, Thursday 4th October.

Desmond was a well-known authority on the old Belfast & County Down Railway, completing his life’s ambition of a comprehensive history of the BCDR last year, amongst his other photographic books, but always incredibly modest about the fantastic wealth of photographic archive he took of the old railway.

Desmond was an honorary life member of the DCDR and was as regular a visitor as he could be given his age, and was always on hand to assist advise on historical details to help with the restoration of the two BCDR carriages, even up to very recently, with livery details for the BCDR Railmotor.

He was a retired architect who was also a life-long railway enthusiast. His professional career led him to becoming a regular commuter on the Belfast & County Down Railway in the 1940s, and developed an intimate knowledge of the BCDR as a living entity.

He was a respected and long-standing member of the Irish Railway Record Society, to whose Journal he contributed many articles.

For those who wish to pay their respects to Desmond Coakham, his funeral will take place at 2pm this Monday, 8th October, at St. Patrick’s Church in Ballymoney.

Our deepest sympathy to his circle of friends.