Heritage diesel traction has its turn in the limelight this August Bank Holiday weekend, as the Downpatrick & County Down Railway turns over its passenger trains to diesel locomotives for one day only, Sunday 28th August.

Railway Chairman, Robert Gardiner said, “This is your only chance to experience classic 1950s and 60s Irish diesel locomotives in action on a passenger train this year!”

The day will mark the public debut of “A” class locomotive A39R, following a complete repaint into an attractive heritage livery.

Mr Gardiner adds, “We delighted to say that this is A39R’s first outing on passenger trains since the Irish Traction Group completed a full repaint into the highly distinctive 1970s black & orange colour scheme, more commonly referred to as ‘Black and Tan’ by railwaymen.”

This locomotive entered traffic with Coras Iompair Éireann (CIÉ), the Irish state-owned transport company in May 1956 and saw widespread service across Ireland, including on cross-border Enterprise services to Belfast.  Originally fitted with an English Crossley diesel engine, due to poor reliability they were re-engined with American General Motors engines in the late 1960s.

Also joining A39 will be ‘Baby GM’ 141 class locomotive No. 146, a yankee engine built by General Motors at their premises at La Grange, Illinois, USA in 1962.

Mr Gardiner says “This American baby boomer is one of the last remaining examples of a class that saw service all over Ireland, including the famous ‘Derry Road’ line from Portadown to Dungannon, Omagh and Strabane, giving that line a short-lived taste of the future before it controversial and premature closure in 1965.”

A limited number of cab ride passes are available for the day, priced £20 for one return journey. These are only available on application at the ticket office. Visitors must have a reasonable level of fitness to climb into the cab of a diesel locomotive.

Ordinary admission fares apply for the day, you can travel up and down on as many passenger trains as you want with your tickets. Adults: £6, Under 18s £4.50, concession £5.50, Family (2 adults, 2 children) £18. Children 3 and under travel free.

Steam services also run on Saturday 27th August as well as Bank Holiday Monday, 29th August. As usual, our museum, carriage gallery, gift shop, model railway and buffet carriage will be open all afternoon, so there’s plenty to see and do in between the train trips.

Keep an eye on this website and our Facebook page for more details: www.facebook.com/downrail