Long-serving DCDR volunteer Jonathan King was nominated for the Heritage Railway Association’s Young Volunteer of the Year award – and he won!
Jonathan set off for Brighton on Saturday morning along with fellow DCDR volunteer Morgan Young. Despite both being relatively young men, both serve on the DCDR Board of Directors and both are long-serving, hard-working volunteers.
Getting to Brighton just in time after heavy delays caused by fog at the airport, they headed straight to the Hilton Metropole for the Heritage Railway Association’s annual awards.
Before long, the dinner had started and Jonathan and Morgan found themselves sitting with Lord Faulkner himself (the namesake and patron of the Lord Faulkner Young Volunteer of the Year Award) as well as representatives of the National Wagon Preservation Group, the Chasewater Railway, and the Keith and Dufftown Railway. As it happens, this would turn out to be quite the lucky table with all railways sat around it taking home an award!
Following speeches by HRA Chief Executive Steve Oates, compere Paul Lewin, and special guest speaker Francis Bourgeois, the awards got underway. With Young Volunteer of the Year handed out towards the end of the ceremony, we waited with bated breath as the other awards were handed out to some very deserving railways for a range of amazing restoration projects and personnel.
Finally, the moment arrived and Lord Faulkner was invited up on stage to present the Young Volunteer Award. Jonathan faced some stiff competition from volunteers at the Welshpool and Llanfair, Peak Rail, and the Avon Valley Railway. Whilst any one of them would have been a deserving winner, in the end Jonathan’s name was the one in the envelope and we could not have been more excited for him!
After getting plenty of photos and congratulating the other successful railways, Jonathan and Morgan were able to get a quick selfie and chat with the legendary Francis Bourgeois, who expressed his sympathy for DCDR following the flood. As it turns out, he’s quite fond of the Irish Traction Group’s A Class locomotive!
As the news of Jonathan’s victory filtered back to Ireland, congratulatory messages and ‘donations’ to fund celebrations rolled in. All that was left to do now was for Jonathan and Morgan to crack open a bottle of Prosecco, which they shared with their new friends at the Welshpool and Llanfair. Celebrations lasted well into the small hours and it will probably come as no surprise that the DCDR delegation took things easy the next day!
On Sunday they rounded off the trip with a visit to the Volk’s Electric Railway, who were also in high spirits after winning Railway of the Year the night before. Jonathan and Morgan were treated to a return journey along the length of the line as well as an extensive behind-the-scenes tour of the railway’s workshop and headquarters. Congratulations to the Volk’s on their victory, and a huge thank you to their staff and volunteers – especially Ian and Adrian – for accommodating Jonathan and Morgan. And with that it was time for them to head home, arriving back in Belfast late on Sunday evening after a fantastic weekend.
Jonathan’s victory comes as a very welcome spot of good news after our recent flooding, but more importantly is well-deserved recognition of his tireless dedication and contributions to the railway over the years. A huge congratulations to Jonathan, and well done to everyone else at this year’s awards.
A big thank you to Jonathan and Samuel Turner from the Gwili Steam Railway in Wales, who saw the devastation that the flooding had on the news and had a whip-round around their volunteers for our Flood Relief Appeal.
Jonathan travelled over to Northern Ireland to personally present the cheque to vice-chairman Mike Beckett and membership secretary Innis Mennie last weekend, where they got shown round the lovely ongoing mess tidy up.
We’re very touched by the support of our Welsh friends, and hope to show off the railway in a better state to them soon!
It is with deep regret that we have to cancel our planned diesel gala event planned for January 6th, 2024.
This is due to unprecedented levels of flooding in Downpatrick town and the surrounding countryside, which you may have seen on the TV and online news.This is the worst flooding the railway and the town has ever experienced, and the damage is significant. All of our diesel locomotives and railcars have been submerged in water for some time. This means water may have entered axleboxes, traction motors and other aspects of the locomotives. It will take us many months to restore the locomotives, and we are braced for very bad news because it is possible that some may be beyond our ability to repair. We will not know until the waters fully subside and full inspections can take place. This all takes time.
146, G617, A39R, 80 class power car 90, and the Wickham railcar have all been in deep water, and it is simply not possible for them to be ready in January. Additionally, power car 69 in the workshop, under restoration, has also been submerged. The steam locos are also partly submerged but are not as complex to recover as more ‘modern’ traction is.
450 class railcar 458 has been luckier, and escaped water rising above the axleboxes everywhere except the driving trailer cab end, but we still need to inspect it and dry it out fully to prevent possible major damage.
On top of this, all of the track outside of the station area remains deeply submerged and we are unable to inspect it and ascertain what work is needed, or if any major damage has occurred.
As if that wasn’t enough, the locomotive sheds, workshop and carriage gallery have also been under deep water, 4-5 feet at times. Spares, tools, and all manner of other things we need for the railway have been damaged or destroyed. Damage will run into tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds.
With all of the above in mind, we have no other option but to cancel the diesel gala. We are truly very sorry about this.
Please be patient, as the refund process takes time and we are very busy with the clean up and administration at this very difficult time.
Our volunteers are heartbroken at what can only be described as a disaster for the railway, and while we are determined to build back and open again, we have a massive task ahead of us and need all the support and understanding the wider community can offer.
We have faced major hurdles before and have overcome these. With the hard work of our volunteers, hopefully we can do the same once again and in due course we will see a return to better times.
Thank you for your understanding and support at this time.
Our railway has been hit by major flooding at the end of October and start of November 2023.
The flood waters have totally overwhelmed the railway and much of the centre of Downpatrick, leaving the railway tracks, yard, buildings and rolling stock submerged in deep flood water and much damage has been incurred.
We understand that you may be concerned about ticket bookings for the Lapland Express and also the 6th January 2024 diesel gala. Please be assured that nobody will lose out on their bookings, but we must expect disruption in the coming weeks with some events impacted.
Our team is very small and run by volunteers in their spare time, so we please ask for your patience when waiting for any responses to queries. As it is likely that phone lines will be unavailable, the best way to contact us is via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Lapland Express trains are on sale now, with loads of interest so far you should definitely book your places early to avoid disappointment!
This year we have added an extra date, so Santa’s trains are running on NINE DAYS over five weekends, with Saturday 23rd December as well as the preceding four Saturdays and Sundays:
- Saturday 25th & Sunday 26th November
- Saturday 2nd & Sunday 3rd December
- Saturday 9th & Sunday 10th December
- Saturday 16th & Sunday 17th December
- Saturday 23rd December
Trains depart Downpatrick at 12:00, 13:15, 14:30, 15:55 and 17:10 though do check because not all trains run on all days.
We have tweaked the age groups slightly this year to 0-5 and 6+ years, with a new range of gifts from Santa. Your tickets will get everyone in your group a hot chocolate and cookie, though alternatives are available and we do provide ‘free from’ options for adults and kids with food intolerances – contact us after booking to arrange this.
Book those tickets now – head over to our Santa page to find out more details.
Will you be running a ‘quiet train’ for kids with ASD?
FRIDAY FLASH SALE ALERT!
HOLY SUPERTRAIN, BATMAN! Calling all citizens of Gotham and beyond, we’re offering a FLASHtastic deal! Get a dazzling 25% off on all ticket prices for this weekend only!
Join us for an action-packed journey this August and as it’s Friday, the legendary superhero with lightning-fast speed and a heart of gold, The Flash has insisted on having a Flash Sale!
This August 12th, the devilish duo Clown Prince of Crime and the ever-unpredictable Harley Quinn, known for their terrifying brand of mayhem, are trying to make a clean getaway onboard the train and we have to stop them – as there’s no telling what chaos might unfold if they get their hands on the train’s controls! But there’s one thing the devious duo haven’t counted on: Gotham’s caped crusader and his friend are following them here, ready to put a stop to their fiendish plot. Help Batman, the Caped Crusader, and his Justice League allies Wonder Woman, the Amazonian Princess, and the Flash, the Scarlet Speedster, tackle the wily schemes of The Joker and Harley Quinn. Keep your eyes peeled for their devious traps as our heroes use their cunning skills to save the day.
This is going to be a tough mission, and we’re going to need all the help we can get. Join us in heart-pounding escapades as we battle villains and champions justice for all! Unleash your superhero spirit and hop aboard our fantastical Supertrain as we zip through the scenic landscapes of Gotham, County Down! Be a part of the action and witness the epic showdown between good and evil! Come dressed as your favourite superhero or supervillain! Will you be the hero Gotham deserves or the villain it fears?
It’s time to get your tickets and join our superhero brigade on the most action-packed train journey! Let’s unite to bring justice and excitement to the world of Supertrain Showdown!
Our Lapland Express trains have been selling out fast, and loads of you have been asking if there will be more tickets available. Well we have been working hard with Santa to add extra capacity to our trains, and we are pleased to offer additional seating on most of the trains on all four weekends.
On the December trains these bookings are currently only available for groups of up to four people at a time as we have to limit seating bays to one group each and all of the larger bays are sold out already.
If you want to book a larger group, you should make two separate bookings for the same date and time, and then let us know afterwards, so we can try our best to get you sitting together when we allocate the seats. Trains have been added at 16:40 on Saturday November 26th and Sunday November 27th which can accommodate larger groups as well.
Book those tickets now – head over to our Santa page to find out more details.
Unfortunately we will not be open for Halloween trains this year.
Our volunteers are working really hard behind the scenes to get ready for the Christmas trains, including getting the steam locomotives and carriages ready, and we simply don’t have the manpower or the time to set up and run a proper Halloween event this year. We hope to bring a much-improved Halloween offering in 2023.
Part of the problem this year is the loss of key volunteers during the pandemic, and the ever-increasing burden on the remaining few as we work hard to keep tracks and trains up to the high standards required for railways in the 2020s. If you feel you want to join the team to help out, it really is great fun when all your hard work pays off. See our volunteering page for more details.
Following Thursday’s sad announcement of the death of Her Majesty the Queen, the directors and volunteers of the Downpatrick and County Down Railway offer our condolences to the Royal Family at this difficult time, and share sympathies with all of those mourning her passing.
At present, our free trains for European Heritage Open Weekend will be proceeding as planned this Saturday and Sunday.
This situation may be reviewed in light of any changes in advice from the government, so please check our Facebook page before you travel, or sign up to our mailing list. If there are no further updates then you can safely assume we are still opening as planned.
It was a busy few days for DCDR, as we took delivery of a four new (to us) wagons from Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) on Monday and Tuesday, with shunting taking place before public trains even finished on Saturday and all day Sunday as well.
These wagons are destined to help our Permanent Way gang keep our track up to standard, as well as help rehabilitate the currently mothballed ‘south line’ beyond Magnus’s Grave. This acquisition demonstrates our commitment to maintaining our track to the best standard possible, as well as ultimately being used for the extension to Ballydugan by giving us better tools for maintenance.
The wagons are three ballast hoppers, which can hold up to 20 tonnes of stone (known as ballast) that is deposited on the railway line to hold the track in place and give a good smooth ride when tamped. The fourth wagon is a special brake van which has an underfloor plough fitted that then spreads this stone to where it’s needed. The wagons give much higher capacity than our trusty Daisy dumper or ballast regulator, though these still have their place for smaller and more precise jobs.
These particular hoppers were built by CIÉ and Parsons Ltd in the 1970s, and ran all across the Irish Rail network until their withdrawal in 2013. These wagons were parked up in Dublin’s North Wall yard where they remained for the last nine years until they were finally sanctioned for scrap. At that point the DCDR got in and asked if a number of the best ones could be kept aside for us.
Iarnród Éireann Chief Executive Jim Meade said:
As custodians of the railway, we are acutely aware of the importance of rail heritage. We are fortunate on this island that we have a community of professional and dedicated organisations such as Downpatrick & County Down Railway who are committed to preserving our rail heritage. It was a pleasure to work with D&CDR who have now taken ownership of three ballast wagons and a ballast plough from ourselves, and we look forward to seeing their use by the team in Downpatrick for many years to come.
They were delivered by Railway Support Services Ltd over the last two days, so if you were stuck behind the convoy and wondered what these were, now you know! They will be back again next week, with more secret new toys for us…
We are very impressed with the condition of these wagons and they will need little work to bring them into service – certainly the sight of ballast being ploughed will be pretty impressive. As well as being useful tools, we hope these might become interesting exhibits in their own right.
Our sincere thanks to the team at Irish Railway Models who have offered to support the cost of transport, as well as one of our volunteers who funded the purchase of them, and of course as Irish Rail and Railway Support Services as well.