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.
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Mr Gardiner adds, “We’ve been quietly working on this project since the vehicles were withdrawn from passenger service in 2011, but I don’t think anyone expected it would be this long before the project came to fruition.
“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.
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 Mike was a keen driving force behind this project back in 2006 when the initial vehicles were withdrawn and again in 2011, I think it’s a wonderful testimony to him.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.