At a glance:
Builder: Córas Iompair Éireann (Inchicore Works)
Build date: 1955
Original company: Córas Iompair Éireann
Withdrawal date: 1994
Final company: Iarnród Éireann
Arrived at DCDR: 1995
Current status: Operational
Current owner: DCDR

1944 was assembled in Inchicore by Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ) after being delivered in kit form by English manufacturer Park Royal. Entering service in the summer of 1955 as a high-density seating Suburban open, it originally carried the number 1381.

50 of these ‘Park Royal’ carriages (as they came to be known) were built to two designs; 10 were for intercity duties and the remaining 40, which included our own 1944, were suburbans. Park Royals were the widest coaches in Ireland at 10′ 2” in width and were extremely lightweight at just 26 tons. They were designed by infamous CME Oliver Bulleid (the man behind such curiosities as CIÉ’s ‘Turfburner’ and the Southern Railway’s ‘Leader’ class) as a quick and cheap fix to rolling stock shortages, only intended to last 15 years.

When built most Park Royals were outshopped in CIÉ’s distinctive pea green, though some – with 1944 among them – carried a darker shade with an eau-de-nil stripe along the length of the coach. They were fitted with inward-opening doors and motorcar-esque handles, but these soon gave way to conventional carriage doors as they confused passengers. Seating was arranged in a 3+2 configuration with 3 more seats in each of the two vestibules, seating 70 passengers in total.

Up until August 1983, 1381 (1944) had had a fairly uneventful working life, but this would change on 21/08/1983 when she was involved in the unfortunate Cherryville Junction Accident. This saw an ex-Galway train crash into the rear of a broken-down ex-Tralee train, killing seven and injuring 55.

Following the accident, 1381 (which had been the second carriage behind the ex-Galway loco) was repaired and converted into a brake standard open (BSO), and it was at this point she took on her new number officially becoming 1944. She returned to service in November 1983 having gaining a small guard’s compartment with a hand brake and train brake to allow easy train marshalling. A toilet would be added later in 1989.

1944 was one of the last three Park Royals in service, finally being withdrawn in May 1994. She finished her days in company service based in Limerick, working the Limerick – Limerick Junction shuttle alongside slightly newer ‘Cravens’ carriages. With such high seating capacity, it was recognised that 1944 would be particularly useful at Downpatrick and we purchased her for preservation shortly after withdrawal.

In December that year, she moved to Adelaide yard in Belfast along with Travelling Post Office 2978 on the back of a freight train, and from there the pair were moved to Lisburn for storage over the Christmas and New Year period. They finally arrived in Downpatrick in early 1995.

1944 was soon put into service at Downpatrick, but this was not to last as it became clear she needed a full overhaul after her forty years of mainline service. She was withdrawn once again in 1998, suffering from extensive corrosion among other issues. Work began on re-skinning but this was put on hold in 2004 when our Carriage Department had to focus efforts on repairing a recently-vandalised carriage. Unfortunately, this short-term postponement turned into a long hiatus, as other projects and issues took priority.

After eight long years, work finally resumed on 1944 in 2012. This saw a total external and internal overhaul, with a new floor, new internal panelling and new lights. In 2018, this overhaul was coming to an end and in summer that year, 1944 had the honour of becoming the first coach at Downpatrick to be spray-painted as she was returned to her original Brunswick green livery (having arrived in black and tan and ran initially at Downpatrick in pea green), complete with eau-de-nil stripe and hand-painted lettering. With Christmas fast approaching, a month-long blitz was carried out in November to get the carriage over the finishing line just in time for our Christmas trains. She finally re-entered traffic on November 24th, after a day of gauging trials behind O&K No. 3, which was coincidentally also on its first running trials after overhaul.

Today, 1944 is the pride of our running set and still going strong after over six decades – not bad for a coach with a 15-year lifespan!