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 the Americans on Sunday 27th August.

Railway Chairman, Robert Gardiner said, “This is your only chance to experience classic Irish 1960s diesel locomotives in action on a passenger train this year!”

Mr Gardiner adds, “We are delighted to announce that our yankee engine, ‘Baby GM’ 141 class locomotive No. 146, built by General Motors at their premises at La Grange, Illinois, will be providing a fantastic rumble on this Bank Holiday special service”

The distinctive black and orange locomotive entered traffic with Coras Iompair Éireann (CIÉ), the Irish state-owned transport company in on 14th December 1962 and withdrawn on 5th March 2010 and saw widespread service across Ireland, including on cross-border Enterprise services to Belfast and lines now closed to Omagh.

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 Great Northern Railway’s famous ‘Derry Road’ from Portadown to Dungannon, Omagh and Strabane, giving that line a short-lived taste of the future before it controversially and prematurely 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.

Tickets are available to purchase online or available from the ticket office on 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 trains too!

Steam services also run on Saturday 26th August as well as Bank Holiday Monday, 28th August.

Mr. Gardiner says “A trip to the station is also much more than boarding the train, with our museum and Carriage Gallery visitor centre we bring the golden age of the railway vividly to life and you can find out what impact the railways had on people’s lives, through artefacts from the smallest such as a ticket in the upstairs exhibition, or the largest such as lovingly restored railway carriages in the Carriage Gallery and the stark contrast of the wrecks these vehicles once were when rescued.

For the younger train fans, children can enjoy their own “Kids’ Station” in the Gallery, and dress up as a train driver or guard, or can get to drive Thomas the Tank Engine on a model railway – or will the big kids want a go too?”

Also open to the public for the first time this year is the lovingly restored Bundoran Junction signal cabin, now taking pride of place at Downpatrick Station rechristened ‘Downpatrick East’, where you can imagine yourself as the signalman controlling the trains and learning about the vital role signalling had on our railways.

The new signal cabin is easy to get to, at the end of the main platform in Downpatrick – and is the only genuine vintage signal cabin that is also wheelchair accessible.

The Downpatrick & County Down Railway’s ‘Summer Steam’ season also continues every weekend throughout August and the first two September weekends.