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Save an 80 class!
DCDR has long held an ambition to save an ex-NIR 80-class railcar set. Our dream has been realised with the arrival of the 80 class trains at our railway in summer 2018. There is still a lot of work to be done to get the 80 class into service, so we still need YOUR help!
In 1965 huge swathes of railway lines were axed in Warrenpoint, Dungannon, Omagh and the West and it looked like the rest of the network would follow suit. In the early 1970s NIR ordered the first of these vehicles and they became the train of the Troubles. Despite bombs and hijackings these trains the people of Northern Ireland moving and our rail network alive.

Sadly, the last of the 80 class has just been withdrawn from service and without your help their last stop could be the breaker’s yard.

It doesn’t need to end this way!

We want to turn back the clock for these trains to allow our children and grandchildren to fall in love with their unique spirit.

For over a decade, DCDR has held the ambition to own an 80 class – our own high quality, Northern Ireland native, operational diesel train – and the 80 class  operated on the remains of the old BCDR too, even working out of the old Queen’s Quay Station before it closed in the 1970s.

With an 80 Class in our fleet we can expand our timetable to include days and times that we normally couldn’t operate. It will make school trips easier and cheaper to run and when our Ballydugan extension is open, it will operate a service to Inch Abbey to connect with our steam train.

To help return the 80 Class trains to their former glory, we have agreed with Translink to repaint two carriages into their original maroon and blue livery, but this and the transport to Downpatrick doesn’t come cheap.

And we’ve a challenge for you – for every pound you donate, one of our volunteers will match it pound for pound up to £4000.

We’re also providing a range of benefits to donators, to ensure you are rewarded for your kind contributions to the 80 Class project at Downpatrick.

How to donate

Photo: Sam Somerville

Donate online

You can donate online, now, using our PayPal buttons below – which also show the rewards you can get for larger donations.

If you are a UK tax payer, then please remember to tick the box so we can claim gift aid on your donation!

Donate £50

You’ll get a chance to travel free on an 80 Class running day of your choice, when the train enters service.

Donate £500

You’ll get the rewards for £50, £100 and £250 – and also exclusive access for a lineside photography session with a DCDR guide.*


Donate £100

You’ll get the £50 reward + an invite to the official opening ceremony.


Donate £1000

You’ll get all the other benefits, plus an exclusive, solo driver experience in the 80 Class at Downpatrick.#


Donate £250

You’ll get the rewards for £50, £100 and also an exclusive cab ride in one of the first trains that the 80 class runs at Downpatrick.


Donate other amounts

Donate as much as you can – any amount, whether little or large, is very welcome to help us with this project!


* Entitles you to ONE photography session, which must be by prior arrangement and in the company of a DCDR guide

# When DCDR resumes driver experience sessions – date yet to be confirmed. This will be one-on-one, instead of having to share with another participant

(All participants in these two offers must be 18+, medically fit, and sign any relevant disclaimer documents required for the sessions)

If you’d rather donate by post

If you would rather donate by post, then the process is easy!

Just download the donation form by clicking here, print it out and fill it in, then post it with your cheque to the address below. Cheques should be made payable to ‘Downpatrick & County Down Railway Society Ltd.’.

Please remember to tick the box for Gift Aid if you are a UK taxpayer – it adds 25% to the value of your donation.

80 Class Appeal
Downpatrick & County Down Railway
Market Street
County Down
BT30 6LZ



A Tribute to our late Chairman and friend

Photo: Jonathan Allen

We are delighted to finally announce, after keeping this a secret for a long time and following discussions with his family, that after arrival at Downpatrick 80 Class powercar No. 69 will be named after our late Chairman, Michael Collins.

Michael was absolutely passionate about preserving an example of the 80 Class for future generations, and worked tirelessly on getting approval for this at the DCDR, as well as working on the business case with Translink to ensure that not all the units would be scrapped. Even when he was suffering ill-health, he still attended a spare parts reclaim party at Ballymena in 2012 to see for himself that the project had actually started.

Michael Collins was born in 1949 and came from a transport background. His grandfather joined Belfast Corporation as a tram conductor before World War I and retired as an inspector in 1947. In the same year his father joined the Northern Ireland Road Transport Board as a driver, became a conductor and later an inspector under the Ulster Transport Authority and Ulsterbus.

In 1967, whilst a student, Michael’s father arranged for him to join the newly formed Ulsterbus as a conductor attached to Smithfield depot in Belfast. Michael returned to this holiday job each summer until 1972.

He graduated from Queen’s University Belfast in that year with a BA in Geography and Political Science and a post-graduate Diploma in Business Administration, later upgraded to an MBA. On graduation he was offered the post of Personal Assistant to Werner Heubeck, Ulsterbus’s charismatic Managing Director.

After two years in this job, he moved to a management post in the Health Service before eventually taking up a lecturing position in business and management at the College of Business Studies in Belfast, finally retiring as a Principal Lecturer at the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education.

Since his Ulsterbus days, he retained his interest in transport and was involved with the fledgling railway in Downpatrick from the late 1980s, serving on its board for many years before taking up the position of chairman in 2003, which he held until his death bar one year in 2007/2008. He was hoping to continue in the role for one more year to help pursue the 80 Class project.  It is with deep sadness that he did not live to see this project come to fruition.

Whilst some 80 Class units were named, not all were, and never along a theme. Some were named after the Antrim Glens, some organisations like The Boys Brigade, and one after NIR’s former Chief Executive “Sir Myles Humphreys”. We intend to have nameplates cast in the same size and style as these, and to perhaps reenact the naming ceremonies carried out by NIR in the past!

Frequently asked Questions

Photo: Roy Carlisle

1. How will my donation be used?

The money and donations you raise will help us to fund the repainting and transportation of the vehicles to Downpatrick, as well as any restoration work needed to bring the train into service. It doesn’t matter how much you donate, whether it’s a £10 donation or £100, every single penny helps.

2. How will the 80 Class be used and when will it be running?

Currently there are a number of running days in our calendar that are served by diesel locomotives, using the same carriages as our steam services. Therefore for passengers, other than the locomotive there’s no real significant difference in their journey. We would substitute these with the 80 Class, giving something different for passengers travelling on steam and diesel days. The 80 Class will also allow us to expand our timetable, by using it (as many heritage railways do in GB) at times earlier or later than it is currently possible to do with the steam engine (due to the length of time required to steam the locomotive). We will also examine the possibilities of expanding the number of days we currently operate (i.e. Bank Holiday weekends) where demand may not justify steam.

The ultimate plan, however, is to use the 80 Class as an integral part of our visitor experience. When the Ballydugan extension opens it is our intention to restore regular steam services to the South Line via the Loop Platform. The 80 Class will be used to provide a connecting service between the Loop Platform and Inch Abbey, providing a longer trip for passengers, as well as giving passengers a chance to experience different forms of rail transport and the experience of changing trains – but this plan is some way off!

3. How will this benefit schools?

The 80 Class requires fewer staff to operate, meaning we can reduce the cost of charters for school parties and make it more likely that we will be able to operate them. This means that we can help further our educational aims and let the next generation experience rail travel as their grandparents would have. Visits can be tailored to meet specific teaching needs relating to the National Curriculum, or to provide experience of specific events, such as WWII evacuation exercises, or occasions, such as enrichment days.

4. Is the 80 Class okay to run on the DCDR?

Yes, the DCDR has examined the actual practicalities and logistics of operating these units on our line and found no inherent problems. The units will be certified as fit-to-run and crew trained in the normal fashion.

5. Where will the 80 Class be stored, isn’t it a bit cramped at Downpatrick?

Once the railcars arrive we will probably at the limit of the amount of stock we have on site, but through re-positioning several long term projects to other sidings we intend to stable the two repainted cars of the 80 Class (one power car and one driving trailer) in front of the Carriage Gallery or the bay siding so that they can be readily deployed with minimal movements for operations. The two remaining cars are strategic spare units to ensure if one of the operation units is withdrawn, services can be maintained, or also to provide extra capacity at certain times. These will be stabled elsewhere on site.

6. Will I receive an acknowledgement of my donation?

When you donate online you will receive an email confirmation of your donation almost immediately. To keep costs down, DCDR does not normally send acknowledgements of donation received through the post. Please let us know if you would like us to do so. People who donate £50 or above will be contacted personally to arrange for their rewards.

7. What is Gift Aid?

Gift Aid is a simple way to increase the value of your gift to the DCDR – at no extra cost to you. If you pay tax in the UK, we can reclaim the basic rate tax (25%) on your gift. So, if you donate £100, it is worth £125 to us. The process is simple – all you have to do is make a Gift Aid declaration. If you are donating online, just tick the Gift Aid box during the payment process. For postal donations, please make sure to tick the Gift Aid box on the form before you post it.