A Steamy End to May

A Steamy End to May

Catch the steam train at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway on this year’s Spring Bank Holiday, Monday 28th May,

The Spring Bank Holiday Monday is the perfect chance to take another trip to Inch Abbey this time to sample the delights of a real steam train and rail travel at its most traditional.

The train is being hauled by a ‘Black Beauty’ of the steaming kind, Orenstein & Koppel steam locomotive No. 1, a German-built locomotive that hauled wagons filled with sugarbeet during her working life in factories in the Republic.

If you’re looking for something to do in the gloriously sunny exam weather, you can catch the steam train out to the 12th Century Cistercian monastery at Inch Abbey – perhaps taking a picnic out with you to enjoy some chilled time on the banks of the River Quoile?

Teas, coffees and cold drinks as well as lots of buns at highly competitive rates will also be served all day onboard the DCDR’s buffet carriage parked at Inch Abbey station; if travelling in to the town from Inch Abbey the return journey can be made on any of the services.

A trip to the station museum and the Carriage Gallery visitor centre brings the golden age of the railway vividly to life and looks at the impact that 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 and climb on board the cab of a locomotive or carriage for their photograph to be taken, or can get to drive Thomas the Tank Engine on a model railway – ‘big kids’ might even get a go too.

For those a little more adventurous, and perhaps live out a childhood dream, you can buy a ‘Footplate Pass’ for just £20 and get to travel up in the locomotive cab with the driver. A reasonable level of fitness is required for these.

Trains run at the new times of 1pm to 4pm, with all-day access tickets costing: adults £7.00, £5.00 children and £6.00 senior citizens, and don’t forget that children aged three years old or below go free.  A family ticket costs £20, and  Or you can join the DCDR Society and get free travel for the entire summer months, as well as get regular updates on what’s happening at Northern Ireland’s steam centre.

You can buy your tickets when you arrive, or online now – visit our online ticket office!

Find out what to do on your visit here.

Iconic 80 Class ‘Thumper’ Arrives in Downpatrick

Iconic 80 Class ‘Thumper’ Arrives in Downpatrick

The Downpatrick & County Down Railway’s “Save an 80 Class” appeal to safeguard the future of one of Northern Ireland’s most distinctive trains came to a successful conclusion with the delivery of the iconic railcars over the weekend of 12th & 13th May.

The local heritage railway had launched the fundraising appeal at the start of April to help bring the retired units to their preserved line, saving them from the scrapyard.

Robert Gardiner of DCDR (left) with Simon Reid, of Reid Freight Services, before power car 69 is unloaded.

Robert Gardiner of DCDR (left) with Simon Reid, of Reid Freight Services, before power car 69 is unloaded.

Railway chairman, Robert Gardiner said, “In less than a month we raised a staggering £12,500 from donors from all across Ireland and Great Britain, from £5 to £1000, with an addition £7,000 pledged from the Modern Railway Society of Ireland.”


He continues, “This has been the most successful fundraising campaign we’ve ever undertaken, and we are deeply humbled by the response from the public towards this campaign – our thanks to everyone who donate.”

The four vehicles that make up the 80 Class unit, power cars No. 90 and 69 and driving trailers No. 752 and 749, were transported from Translink’s York Road engineering depot over the weekend of the 12th and 13th May, using a specialist low-loader lorry from Reid Freight Services in England – one long enough to accommodate the heavy vehicles – the power cars weigh over 63 tonnes!

Mr Gardiner adds, “We’ve been quietly working on this project since the vehicles were withdrawn from passenger service in 2011, but I don’t think anyone expected it would be this long before the project came to fruition.

Power car 69 is carefully winched off the truck.

Power car 69 is carefully winched off the truck.

“However, what an amazing time it has been – we have been incredibly lucky to have arranged with Translink to get two of the vehicles repainted into their original maroon and blue livery, but using modern long lasting and durable two-pack paint. The operational units will therefore feel entirely heritage and look very presentable to our visitors when they arrive, and not look like a modern Translink train.

“It has also been a joy calling into York Road every so often to check on progress – the enthusiasm and pride that the team behind the project in NIR have in the restoration of these two vehicles is simply fantastic.

DCDR's Robert Gardiner shakes hands with MRSI Secretary Andy Boal

DCDR’s Robert Gardiner shakes hands with MRSI Secretary Andy Boal

He also paid tribute to the pioneer of this project, “I’m also delighted to have got agreement from the family of our late chairman and friend Mike Collins to name power car No. 69 after him. Mike was a keen driving force behind this project back in 2006 when the initial vehicles were withdrawn and again in 2011, I think it’s a wonderful testimony to him. I’ve been in touch with a foundry that specialise in casting nameplates and hope to place the order for these soon.”

With the vehicles secure and delivered, attention turns to getting them into service.

Mr Gardiner continues, “All donations will all go towards the cost of this repainting, the transportation costs and also the ancillary work needed to return these vehicles to passenger service which can now begin.

“This will include deep cleaning the interiors and other works and getting them ready for passenger service  – and hopefully we’ll be able to launch the vehicles later this year subject to driver training – anyone interested in helping with this refurbishment work is more than welcome to register to become a volunteer, or indeed to learn to drive the train.”

Mr Gardiner adds, “There’s nothing to stop anyone becoming a guard or driver of these trains if they are willing to go through our in-depth training and pass all the necessary exams!”

Donations to the appeal are still welcome, and can be made by logging on to our 80 class appeal webpage.