In early 1985 it was decided that the DARS’s objectives would be best fulfilled by splitting into two organisations: The Downpatrick & Ardglass Railway Company would be a company limited by guarantee and undertake responsibility for the management of the railway, whilst the Downpatrick Railway Society would function as a support group, responsible for restoring, maintaining and operating the railway.
After Lord Dunleath generously leases the trackbed to DARS for a peppercorn rent, work begins on setting up a base in Downpatrick. Though the site of the original station was now built on, the society was able to set up in the site of what was once its approaches. Planning permission for a workshop and new station building were applied for, and in October boots finally hit the ground when volunteers arrived on site to begin clearing up the trackbed as far as the Loop Platform.
After Gerry and his supporters hold a meeting in Denvir’s Hotel, a constitution is drafted and a costed feasibility study prepared. The Downpatrick & Ardglass Railway Society is born, and by the end of the year it will have received support from Lord Dunleath, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum and other railway societies across Ireland, in addition to full backing by Down District Council.
After a chance walk along the abandoned trackbed between Downpatrick and the Loop Platform, local architect Gerry Cochrane MBE immediately identifies the site as the perfect location for a heritage railway. After a meeting with its chairman Eddie McGrady and Director of Tourism Bryan Coburn, Gerry secures the backing of Down District Council. Together they agree a three-phase plan to rebuild the railway from Downpatrick to Ardglass.
The railway closed due to Covid-19, and we all went home and ate bacon 24/7.