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 26th August, with the steam trains charging into the holiday spirit on Saturday 25th and Monday 27th August.
Railway Chairman, Robert Gardiner said, “This is a chance to experience classic Irish 1930s and 1960s steam and 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 in 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entered traffic with Coras Iompair Éireann (CIÉ), the Irish state-owned transport company in on 14th December 1962 and withdrawn on 5th March 2010 and saw widespread service across Ireland, including on cross-border Enterprise services to Belfast and lines now closed to Omagh.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 now available online as well as 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 cost £7.00, with under 18s costing £5.00 and concessions at £6.00, with a family for two adults and up to three children at only £20. Children aged three and under travel free.
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 at the station is the lovingly restored Bundoran Junction signal cabin, 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 the railways 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.