At a glance:
Builder: Metropolitan Vickers (Dukinfield, Manchester)
Build date: 1956
Original company: Córas Iompair Éireann
Withdrawal date: 1985
Final company: Iarnród Éireann
Arrived at DCDR: 2014
Current status: Under restoration
Current owner: ITG

C231 is one of the five Irish Traction Group-owned locomotives at DCDR. It was built in 1956 by Metropolitan Vickers at their works in Dukinfield, near Manchester for CIÉ. C231 was part of an order of 34 ‘C Class’ locomotives, built alongside 60 ‘A Class’ locomotives which were larger versions of the same design. The C Class were ‘Bo-Bo’ meaning they have two axles on each bogie, whilst the A Class were ‘Co-Co’, meaning they had three. The trade-off was that the A Class had larger engines and could pull heavier trains, but the C Class had better route availability thanks to their lighter weight.

Like the rest of the C Class, C231 was initially put to work on secondary and branch lines across the country, such as those of the former Cork, Bandon & South Coast Railway. Though the dieselisation of these lines no doubt helped them to soldier on for a few more years, the mass closures of the 60s and 70s left the C Class without a purpose. However a second lease of life came in 1969 when the entire class was re-engined, replacing their original, unreliable 550hp Crossley engines with 1100hp ones from General Motors.

C231, now renumbered as B231, was then put to work alongside its classmates on the suburban lines around Dublin, having been fitted to work in push-pull mode with converted AEC railcars, one of which survives today in our collection. This new duty was the precursor the DART system, and consequently once the electric wires had went up and the new multiple units had entered service, C231 was once again without purpose. After three decades of service, C231 was finally withdrawn in 1985.

The locomotive then languished at Inchicore until 1992, when it was purchased for preservation by the Irish Traction Group. After being repainted into CIÉ green and re-assuming its original number, C231 was sent to England in 1999 for initial restoration work. After starting for the first time in preservation and participating in an open day at Old Oak Common, it returned to Ireland in 2000 for further restoration. In November 2009 it was moved once more, this time to Moyasta in County Clare along with four other ITG locomotives for display in a future museum there.

However a few years later it was realised that, as C231 was already so close to being made fully operational, it would be better moved to DCDR where the restoration could finally be finished and the locomotive used in regular service. A great working relationship between DCDR and ITG had already been established, with four of the Group’s other locos already working at our railway. C231 arrived at Downpatrick in June 2014, and though it was able to put in a special appearance at the ITG Diesel Gala in October that year, there is still some work to be done before it can be officially released into traffic. Ironically, our ITG volunteers spend most of their time looking after our steam engines instead of their own diesels!