A new landmark feature for Downpatrick town centre is rising above lower Market Street at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway. An impressive lattice arch, bearing the railway’s name is soaring above the car park, and accompanying brickwork promising to dramatically improve the appearance of this part of the town centre.
Railway chairman and Project Manager John Wilson explains, “We came under-budget for our prestigious Gallery Gallery and visitor centre, and thanks to the generosity of our funders Heritage Lottery Fund and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, rather than see that money unspent suggested funding a number of extra improvements.”
“We have been very keen to regenerate that area of the car park and try to improve the visual attractiveness of the station for some considerable years, something also outlined in the Downpatrick Masterplan, but our resources have always had to go on keeping our vintage fleet of steam and diesel locomotives and carriages running.”
He continues, “Our funders agreed this area needed regeneration and we all wanted something dramatic that had the wow factor, and it was our late chairman Michael Collins who came up with the idea of the arch – inspired by an original feature of the Great Northern Railway station still standing at Cookstown.
“Like all great ideas at the DCDR we thought it was almost too ambitious but we did some mock drawings, asked our consulting engineers Armstrong and Taylor to cost it and we were delighted that they felt it was very doable”
When it came to the brickwork no detail was left undone.
“Historical accuracy has always been the ethos with everything we do at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway,” Mr. Wilson says, “And the dwarf wall replicates the style of brickwork of a similar wall that used to stand at the old Belfast & County Down Railway’s station at Bangor, while the piers copy the brickwork styles of the BCDR’s stations at Cultra and Tullymurry”.
Also, as part of final touches to the Gallery project, a new interpretative display has been installed in the railway’s workshops.
“For some time now visitors have been prevented access to our carriage workshop because of safety issues, but we have now created a dedicated area safely away from machinery or tools where they can go in and watch restoration work go on, along with interpretative displays illustrating carriage construction which complements the new Carriage Gallery perfectly.”
The Downpatrick & County Down Railway will be running its “Shamrock Specials” on St. Patrick’s Day – which you can board at the main station, as well as at Inch Abbey which will be acting as one of the day’s Park and Ride services from the north of the town centre.