Monthly Archives: June 2019

The Cavan and Leitrim Railway – The Arigna Tramway

Ballinamore to Arigna

We re-start our journey back at Ballinamore Railway Station again. The plan below is a repeat of one provided in an earlier post. It is helpful in orienting ourselves once again. [1: p132] This first picture looks southwest from the throat of the motive power depot towards Cannaboe level-crossing. [4]The photographer has stepped out into the permanent way to take this picture, it also looks towards Cannaboe level-crossing. [4] Walking Northeast, someway along the platform opposite the station building brings us to this somewhat overexposed view. The footbridge is missing from the image because it is overexposed. [4]This view looks northeast from the footbridge. [4]Two photographs taken at platform level. [4]Three images taken in the MPD at Ballinamore. [4]Cavan & Leitrim 4-4-0T 4L in front of the pair of Cork Blackrock 2-4-2Ts 21st March 1959, (c) Martin Cowgill. [5]An array of filthy motive power on shed at Ballinamore. From left to right: C&L 4-4-0T 4L in front of the pair of Cork Blackrock 2-4-2Ts, 10L & 12L, and Kerr Stuart 2-6-0T 4T by the water tower on 21st March 1959, (c) Martin Cowgill. [5]One of the line’s original locomotives, No 8 in the shed at Ballinamore on 21st March 1959
Formerly named Queen Victoria, No 8 retained it’s original chimney and dome cover. The cutaway cab sheet dates from the locomotive’s time as an Arigna Tramway locomotive, (c) Martin Cowgill. [5]Tucked away out of use was C&L No 2, the former Kathleen, No 2 is the sole survivor of the line’s locomotives in Ireland, being preserved at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum. Tralee & Dingle No 5 spent time on the line and also survives in working order on it’s original line, 21st March 1959, (c) Martin Cowgill. [5] Ballinamore Station building pictured from Railway Road in 2009 on Google Streetview. Looking Northwest from the approximate location of the station footbridge, also from 2009.Looking Southeast from the location of the station footbridge, again in 2009.

The tramway line to Arigna ran alongside the main line as far as Tully gates and then turned to the right “on a five-chain curve and a downgrade of 1:33 to pass the Lower Town gates.

These three images are provided by two different mapping services. The first two are extracts from historical maps held by the OS of Ireland which can be accessed via ‘GeoHive’ [6]

The third is provided by RailMap On-line [7] and is based on the Google satellite mapping service. Lower Main Street level Crossing was adjacent to the Canal and from that point the Tramway levelled and ran alongside the old canal. Two images of the location of Lower Main Street Level-Crossing taken in 2018. Both views are adapted from Google Streetview. The first looks East back towards the Station the second looks Northwest along the line heading for Arigna. The canal can be seen in both pictures.

Flanagan says: “About a quarter of a mile past the gates of Lower Main Street Crossing, on the right, was the site of Stradermot Quarry siding. From here on the line wound tortuously right and left through low-lying ground often flooded by the canal and sometimes made impassable to trains. After a fairly level run, the halt at Ballyduff (3 miles) was reached. The cottage and gravelled passenger space were on the left, past the gates which were protected by one of the few signals on the tramway. There was a water tank at the halt up to about 1893 and a replacement, filled by a ram, was erected in 1901, although the site chosen was actually on the Ballinamore side, not far from Lock 7 on the canal. However, the tank’s capacity was insufficient and a second one on the same base was added in 1904. Both were out of use by 1919 and at least one was loaned to the Board of Works for the construction of the extension. No water facilities were provided after 1919. The halt had a telephone and was used as a temporary block post..” [1: p141-142]Looking back along the line of the tramway towards Ballinamore from a point close to Ballyduff.

The old road at the level-crossing immediately before Ballyduff Halt used to follow the line shown in blue, as can be seen on the OS Map extract above. That road has now been diverted along the line of the railway in red. Ballyduff Halt was encountered straight after the crossing.Almost immediately beyond Ballyduff there was a four-chain right-hand curve, and then the line met a road coming in on the left. That road is now the R208 on the above satellite image. The tramway followed the north shoulder of what is now the R208. It’s route is shown on the OSI Map extracts below. [6]Flanagan asserts: “The cheap construction of the line was obvious from here on, as it faithfully reflected every hump and dip in the county road. Short, steep gradients followed one another in quick succession, the steepest yet encountered being a drop at 1:28 to the ‘4’ milepost. Just beyond, the road veered briefly to the left and the intervening space was the site of the down, facing Dromkeen Wood siding, at the bottom of the ‘Long Bank’. The siding was the standard six wagon-lengths and lasted from March 1918 to January 1919, being installed for the removal of timber for sleepers.” [1: p142]I believe that this is the place referred to above by Flanagan where the road and tramway separated to allow room for a siding. [6] Within a short distance and a few ungated crossings Cornabrone Halt was reached, it appears towards the left of the map extract above. [6]

Going on towards Cornabrone, the line continued to meander and passed the ‘4.25’ milepost before, Flanagan says, it encountered a  grade of “1:29 on a four-chain left-hand curve. It rose steadily to the ‘5’ mile-post and then descended with another four-chain twist to 5.5 miles, after which it rose slightly to Cornabrone Halt (5.75 miles).” [1: p142]

Cornaborne Halt is shown in the adjacent colour image from the 1950s. Cavan & Leitrim 3T (HE479/1889) is at Cornabrone halt with an Arigna-bound mixed train. [8]

The halt was the first of the three well-known roadside stopping-places and, like the others, consisted solely of an enamelled nameboard which nestled in the hedge on the far side of the county road. There were requests for a siding here in 1901 but they were refused, as was an earlier one in 1898. There were never any facilities whatsoever at these halts.” [1: p142]The location of Cornabrone Halt in 2018 (Google Streetview).

Once past Cornabrone, “the line descended sharply at 1:29 and continued to fall until, after a brief downgrade of 1:32, it crossed the Aughacashlaun River and reached Aughacashlaun ballast siding (6.5 miles). It was an up, trailing siding which had the points in the middle and extended east almost to the river bridge. Although the contractor had a siding here, the C&L one dated from 1896, when the Board of Trade ceased to object, and lasted till 1952. The siding points gave the C&L men a lot of headaches as, although they were protected by an Annett’s lock, the local people had found a way of opening them by interfering with the rodding. In 1926, drivers were warned to proceed with caution and later the points were officially immobilized though the siding was left. It was again brought into use about 1936, when repairs were being carried out to the bridge, and was afterwards left intact; it was infrequently used up to 1946 for sand traffic.” [1: p142-143]Aghacashlaun Siding and Bridge. [6]Looking West this view of the R208 in 2018, shows the location of the siding marked in red just beyond the Aghacahlaun Bridge (Google Streetview).

Flanagan continues: “After more humps and curves, though not so sharp as before, the line fell at 1:32 to Annadale (7.5 miles), another roadside halt. A full station was proposed in 1889 and there was also a plan for a refuge siding for heavy trains in 1896. A final idea was for the transfer of Kiltubrid siding to here in 1903 to make the place a crossing point. Annadale was the stop for the historic Lough Scur and for Driney, though special excursionists for the latter place alighted at Driney Curve itself, half a mile farther on.” [1: p143]This indistinct image is a still from a video taken int he late 1950s and shows the location of Annadale Halt. [13]The location of Annadale Halt in 2018.The image above shows the length of tramway between Annadale Halt and Kiltubrid. [13]

Just beyond the ‘8.5’ milepost, the line curved right at 1:37 and made an oblique crossing of a river and the Drumshanbo road as shown in the adjacent image which looks back towards Ballinamore. [9]

The combination of road junction, bridge and level crossing made this place, which was right beside Kiltubrid halt (8.75 miles), very dangerous.

The next image shows a locomotive heading into Kiltubrid Halt from Ballinamore. [3]

The halt consisted of a house, shelter, and platform on the right-hand side, nicely situated on a four-chain curve. Behind the station-house, and entered from the Drumshanbo end, was the goods siding which dated from the opening of the line. It had its own disc signal, erected in April 1888. As there had been no crossing place on the tramway so far, it was proposed in 1897 that a loop be installed here and some land was bought. However, in December 1901 the engineer stated he was unable to buy all the land he required and put forward a plan for the more economic use of the existing space. This was agreed to in February 1902, but in May of the following year it was decided that Annadale be the crossing point; in the event, no change was made to either place. Kiltubrid also boasted a telephone, being a temporary block post.” [1:p143]

Kiltubrid Halt. [6]Google Earth shows that the alignment of the tramway can still be picked out. The approach from Ballinamore (Google Streetview).Looking back towards Ballinamore – the old tramway bridge is still standing! (Google Streetview)Looking forward from the crossing into the small station site (Google Streetview).In 2018, the small station building still exists and is in use as a private dwelling (Google Streetview).This still from a video shows Kiltubrid Station from an Arigna-bound train. The short siding is visble of the right side of the image. [13]Leaving the Halt at Kiltubrid the line drifted back to run along the verge of the road. The left-hand red line is the siding alignment.

A little past the halt, the line began to climb for a quarter-mile at 1:28.  “Then,” says Flanagan, “it swung sharply across the road by an un-gated crossing and remained to the right of the road for the rest of the way to Drumshanbo. The worst banks of all were in this section, though the steepest were mercifully short. At 9.25 miles there was a short fall and a little farther on a climb at 1:26. The line then undulated until it finally rose at 1:25 to reach the roadside stop at Creagh (10.25 miles).” [1: p143]Cornaleck Crossing was the point at which the tramway crossed back over the Drumshanbo Road. [6]The tramway swung across the road on a curve at an un-gated crossing (Google Streetview). The tramway continued from this point on the north side of the road towards Drumshanbo.This video still is taken looking towards Ballinamore at Cornaleck Crossing. [13]Creagh (Crey) Halt. [6]Approaching Creagh from Ballinamore. [13]

There was a short section of tramway where, in order to make the curvature manageable for trains the road and tramway separated for a few tens of metres as shown below. [6]This 2011 satellite image shows the route of the old road highlighted in blue with the route of the C&L in red. The modern R208 follows the red line and the sharp meander of the old road has been abandoned.The same location looking towards Drumshanbo along the R208 in 2010.

Flanagan says that, “from there to Drumshanbo the run was mostly downhill, the chief point being a hump (1:33) at the ‘11.25’ post. At this point the road veered away to the left and the line had its own right of way through Fallon’s Cutting, over the Priest’s Bog, past the Three Arch Bridge and down the 1:32/1:41 Drumshanbo bank.2 [1: p143-144]To the east of Drumshanbo a train heads for Ballinamore. [10]Fallon’s Cutting. [6]The old railway leaves the line of the new road (above) and heads north, running across the North side of Drumshanbo to the Station. After  Fallon’s cutting road and rail converge and then diverge as shown above.

As the two transport modes diverged, the railway began to cross a bog.

The route across the bog is shown on the next OSI map extract. As the railway curved round from a northerly to a westerly direction it was in cutting once again [6]

The road from Drunsanbo (Convent Avenue) to the East doglegged in order to cross the cutting roughly on the square.

The line ran under ‘Three Arch Bridge’ which is still in place in the early part of the 21st century. The route of the old road can still be picked out as it swings to cross the bridge, both on the satellite image and in the Streetview picture below.

The railway cutting has been infilled to allow the new road (Covent Avenue) to cross its line. This can also be seen easily in the picture of the bridge below.

Beyond Three Arch Bridge the C&L descended Drumshanbo Bank and entered the Station which can just be picked out on the left side of the OSI Map extract above. [6]The approach to the site of Drumshanbo Station in 2018. This road is numbered R208.

“Drumshanho was yet another place where the C&L got its names wrong and the GSR did not improve matters by introducing an Irish error in the bilingual nameboard. The station (12.25 miles; Class 20 had one platform on the down side. The main buildings originally had one storey but the agent’s house was enlarged in 1914 when another floor was added at a cost of £70 2s 9d. A ground frame at the Arigna end of the platform controlled the yard. Behind the frame was the very short engine shed road. A temporary shed was built in 1888, and lasted until the 1900s. A new one was erected in 1908 at a cost of £77 10s and was a wooden structure which, surprisingly, was not burnt down till about 1923, after which engines were left out overnight, as at Belturbet. For some odd reason no shed ever existed at Arigna and no engine was regularly stabled there, apart from No 6 during the making of the extension.” [1: p144] Flanagan’s sketch map of Drumshanbo Station. I am not too sure why he has chosen to invert the usual practice of the North point being at the top of the image. [1: p144]The OSI Map extract above has north to the north! Sadly the word Carricknabrack sits over the plan of the station area. [6]

The photo above shows the route of the line through the old station.

The station building is shown on the adjacent image as it was in the early 21st century. It is a detached five-bay one- and two-storey former railway station, built c.1885. It is now used as a house. Set in its own grounds. Pitched slate and tiled roofs with stone and rendered chimney-stacks. Terracotta ridge cresting and cast-iron rainwater goods. Roughly dressed random coursed limestone and pebble-dashed walls with gable-fronted porch with slated roof. Brick dressings to gable eaves. Replacement uPVC windows with segmental heads and stone sills. Timber door to projecting porch. [12]

This former station building is one of a few structures associated with the railway at Drumshanbo that remain. Its fine stonework and brick detailing are typical of Victorian architecture. Today this house stands as a reminder of the Ballinamore, Arigna and Aughabehy Line, which served the area until 1959. [12]

The water tower also remains. It  is now disused. Its construction is of random coursed limestone walls with round-arched openings and surmounted by cast-iron water tank. It has a timber battened door with overlight and window with cast-iron frame. It was built as part of a well-designed complex of structures and is of architectural and technical merit. [14]

The Goods shed still stands in the early 21st century. It is a detached single-bay single-storey former goods shed, in use for storage. It has a pitched slate roof with brick chimney-stack. It is of roughly dressed random coursed limestone walls with brick dressings to gable eaves. There is a fixed window with stone sill to segmental-headed window opening. A modern opening has been provided to the south gable and blocked square-headed opening to west elevation. There is a limestone former station platform to north with a section of railway track. It has been altered to meet modern day needs. However it has retained much of its original fabric. Brick dressings to the gables enhance the coursed stone elevations, resulting in a structure of architectural merit. The surviving railway platform contributes to the setting of the shed. [15]Drumshanbo Station seen from the West in the 1950s. [21]

Another picture at almost exactly the same location. This is a video still from the late 1950s. [13]A video still showing shunting in Drumshanbo Station with the Station building in shadow on the right. [13]Drumshanbo Stationhouse to the right and the goods shed, to the left, taken from another arm of the R208. [7]Two 1950s image looking West along the line towards Arigna for the National Library of Ireland. [16]

Flanagan says: “Opposite the station-house, two road-widths from the platform, stood the 5,000-gallon water tank. For many years it was filled by a windmill just to the west of it but the mill was very troublesome and it was often necessary to call on the permanent-way gang to hand-pump the water. To remedy the situation an arrangement was made with Mr Laird, a mill-owner from the town, whereby he supplied the water from his mill. This reputedly cost the company £80 a year and in 1918 it was decided to reduce costs by installing an oil-engined pump. Unfortunately, the pump, which cost £197, was a failure, and the old arrangements were reverted to in 1922. In January 1923 it was ordered that the pump be removed and the hand-pumping gang reduced in number. About this time, too, the windmill was taken down. Later, the town supply was used.” [1: p144-145] The water tower is shown behind the station ground frame in the image adjacent/immediately above. [16]

Originally, Drumshanbo was neither a staff nor a crossing station but from 1892 it became both, although the loop used was near the goods store and not opposite the platform. The line at the latter point was merely a goods loop (being protected by traps) and was not laid till 1915. At the Ballinamore end of the station a short line diverged on the left to serve Campbells’ hardware store; the line was built in 1920 and was worked by hand points before being connected to the ground frame in later years. Other sidings were laid in 1890, 1902 and 1913. The goods store and loading bank were on the left on a curve and the private Lairds’ Store was at the end of the store road. The goods sidings, and the running line in between, curved both left and right in turn, within the station boundaries, and working could be quite complicated, especially if it was necessary to run round via one of the sidings.” [1: p145] Looking East through Drumshanbo Station site in 2018 towards Ballinamore.Looking West from beside the goods shed (Google Streetview).

The adjacent monochrome image shows a view looking back to the station from alongside the sidings shown on the OSI Map extract above. [16]

Flanagan continues: “Outside the station, the line met the un-gated road-crossing at Carrignabrack. It was on a four-chain reverse curve and a few yards beyond it was a second similar crossing. Once more on the right of the road the line crossed the Lough Allen Canal and then passed through a pleasantly-wooded section on a low stone embankment.” [1: p145]This OSI Map extract shows the tramway crossing the road on two occasions, leaving the tramway on the left of the road when it crossed the canal. [6]

The adjacent image shows the level-crossing just prior to the Lough Allen Canal Bridge. [16]Immediately after crossing the canal the tramway crossed the road again and continued on the north side – the right side of the road heading for Arigna. [6]The route to the West (Google Streetview) 2018. The Lough Allen Canal as it appears on the North side of the R208 (Google Streetview) 2018.The OSI Map Extract shows the line curving gradual towards the Northwest and the road (in the bottom right corner heading Southwest. The Mahanagh Crossing and the Shannon Bridge are near the top left of the extract. [6]This satellite image shows the old railway alignment which was on its own right of way and the modern R208 which follows the same alignment until it curves away to give room for a junction with the R280. [7]

“There was a short fall at 1:28 at the ‘12.75’ milepost, where the road swung to the left and made a U-turn to recross the line again at Mahanagh gates (13.25 miles). A little beyond the crossing the line rose slightly to cross the single-span girder Shannon Bridge.” [1: p145]Mahanagh Level Crossing looking back from a train of empty coal wagons towards Drumshanbo. [13]Shannon Bridge looking back from the same train of empty coal wagons towards Drumshanbo. [13]The Map extract shows Mahanagh Crossing to the bottom right. The crossing cottage only just edges into the extract. Shannon bridge is towards the top of the extract with the road bridge (Galley Bridge) alongside. [6]The Crossing keeper’s cottage at Mahanagh has been extended significantly. The line passed on the near side of the cottage not far from the location of the access gates to the cottage in 2018 (Google Streetview). Two images above of the River Shannon looking to the south side of the R208. The location of the railway bridge abutments on each bank can just be seen, (Google Streetview). The adjacent image shows the railway bridge from the southwest with the road bridge behind. [11]

“The tramway was now in Co. Roscommon and just past the river it rejoined the road, remaining on the left of it for most of the run to Arigna. The section rose slightly at 1:193 and was dead straight for over half a mile before leaving the road for good and curving left to run into Arigna station (14.75 miles).” [1: p145]The end of the line at Arigna before the construction of the extension. [6]A closer image. The layout is not the same as below as re-modelling took place as the extension was built. [6]Flanagan’s sketch plan of Arigna Station. [1: p146]

For details of the Extension, please follow this link:

The Arigna station, as shown in the adjacent National Library of Ireland image, [18] “was delightfully situated in a glade of tall alder trees, and had a very elongated layout. The station-house was on the one platform on the right, with the ground frame at the west end. The Arigna station-house was always the odd man out on the C&L. In latter days it was of concrete block construction, [adjacent, [19]] the building dating from 1923-4. The original was also non-standard, being a single-storey, red, corrugated-iron structure. A more solid building was not possible as a firm foundation could not be obtained. Light as the original was, there were reports of it sinking in December 1890, though the engineer managed to cure this trouble. The new house was much more solid, and had as foundation 100 wagon-loads of material from the pit at Ballyheady.” [1: p146]

The run-round loop was at first beyond the platform and it curved left, ending some little distance from the station at the 24ft turntable. Off it, to the right, a goods loop diverged, upon which were a loading bank and store. Past the latter, the loop closed into a single line which served another loading bank, authorized in November 1888.” [1: p146]

The Arigna yard seen from close to the passenger station building. the line curving away to the right is the Extension. [20]

“After the opening of the extension, the layout was changed and the run-round loop was ex-tended to the Ballinamore end of the platform. The first line then to diverge right was the extension itself, the other being the lengthened goods loop. The goods store was of corrugated  iron with a high gabled roof, and it survived until about 1940.” [1: p146-147]Arigna Station viewed from the East – 2-6-0T locomotive No.3T sits at the platform. [17]The station building in the early 21st century, also taken from the East, (Google Streetview).

“Arigna station was the only Class 4 one on the C&L but the £45 allowance was augmented by the Arigna Mining Company, which also paid for the 1892 ballasting of the station-yard and used to share the other general expenses of the station. There was a stable for cart-horses in the yard and, for some six years after its opening, a carriage shed, situated opposite the goods store. This was another Rogers building but the smallest on the line, its dimensions of 60ft X 12ft X 10ft being only just enough for the single branch coach; it was transferred to Ballinamore in 1894. A water tank, erected in 1889 and replaced in 1892, was built on a crate of sleepers opposite the station-house. The second tank was also positioned there and, although officially unrecognized, Arigna had water till the end. It was pumped by hand and was used only when drivers were trying to coax leaky engines. A cart weighbridge, for the coal traffic, was provided early on and replacements were installed on two occasions though none survived to the closure. [1:p147]Turning the locomotive at Arigna was a very exacting task as the locomotive turntable was short for the Tralee and Dingle engines. The locomotive had to be properly balanced on the pivot otherwise the fireman would not be able to move the engine. The driver is pushing from the rear. [17]


  1. Patrick J. Flanagan; The Cavan & Leitrim Railway; Pan Books, London, 1972.
  2., accessed on 22nd May 2019.
  3., accessed on 25th May 2019.
  4.×4-Black-White-photo-prints-/292954701892, accessed on 11th June 2019
  6., accessed on 11th June 2019.
  7., accessed on 11th June 2019.
  8., accessed on 11th June 2019.
  9., accessed on 11th June 2019.
  10., accessed on 24th May 2019.
  11., accessed on 14th June 2019.
  12., accessed on 13th June 2019.
  13., accessed on 13th June 2019.
  14., accessed on 13th June 2019.
  15., accessed on 13th June 2019.
  16., accessed on 13th June 2019.
  17., accessed on 15th June 2019.
  18. ((c) James P. O’Dea), accessed on 15th June 2019.
  19. ((c) James P. O’Dea), accessed on 15th June 2019.
  20. ((c) James P. O’Dea), accessed on 15th June 2019.
  21., accessed on 15th June 2019

The Cavan and Leitrim Railway – Ballyconnell to Belturbet

Ballyconnell to Belturbet

NB: A flavour of the Cavan and Leitrim Railway can be obtained by visiting the preservation line and museum at Dromod. The relevant details are as follows:




Cavan and Leitrim Railway, Station House, Station Road, Dromod, Co. Leitrim, N41 R504,
Ireland.     Phone: +353 71 963-8599.


We re-start our journey at Ballyconnell Railway Station, we heard quite a few stories about the location at the end of the previous post in this series, so just a few photos and some architectural information about the remaining station building will suffice before we go on with our journey to Belturbet. ….

The Irish National Inventory of Architectural Heritage carries the adjacent image of the passenger station building at Ballyconnell in the early 21st century and comments as follows: [4]

Detached three-bay single-storey and three-bay two-storey former railway station and station master’s house, built c.1885, having gabled bays and projecting gabled entrance porch to former house, and recent red brick porch to former platform side of station. Recent rendered lean-to extension to front elevation. Now divided into two dwellings. Pitched slate roofs, decorative clay ridge tiles, and decorative brickwork detailing to barges and eaves, recent metal rainwater goods, and rendered chimneystacks. Red brick walls with vitrified brick banding, bevelled brick plinth course. Two-over-two sash windows in segmental-headed openings with yellow and vitrified brick arches, yellow brick hoods, and stone cills. Round-headed window to north-west gable with brick archivolt and single-pane upper sash. Segmental-headed opening to entrance porch with timber sheeted door and overlight. Detached single-storey limestone plinth to former water tank located to south, formerly on other side of railway tracks, having later corrugated-iron roof, rock-faced limestone walls with dressed arrises, round-headed multiple-pane cast-iron window, and segmental-headed doorway, tank no longer in place. Platform and former track replaced by garden.” [4]

The former Ballyconnell Railway Station was part of the narrow-gauge Cavan and Leitrim Railway which opened in October 1887. Serving the Arigna coalmine, the line outlived most of the other Irish narrow-gauge lines and ran on coal until its closure in 1959, giving a further lease of life to redundant engines after the introduction of diesel. The station and adjoining dwelling are elaborately detailed with polychrome brick detail of high aesthetic quality and form a contrasting ensemble with the limestone of the adjacent former goods shed and the well constructed supporting base of a former water tank. The building is an excellent example of the high quality of nineteenth century railway architecture and retains many of its original features, including sash windows and cast-iron rainwater goods.” [4]

We noted, in previous posts about the C&L, that there is a plan to create a Greenway along the full length of the Cavan & Leitrim Railway from Mohill to Belturbet. The notes written about those proposals describe the full length of the line. The plans for the Greenway from Ballyconnell to Belturbet are as follows:

“Beyond Ballyconnell, the Greenway would seek to avoid crossing the N87 national route and would probably join the old track west of Killywilly Lough. The route to Belturbet is very flat with a lot of gentle curves and skirts three large lakes over this 10 km section. There are some metal bridges on stone abutments where the line crossed several small rivers. Tomkin Road was the most significant station on this section partly due to additional traffic associated with the Tomkin Road creamery which had its own railway siding. The Erne Bridge at Turbett Island is at the approach to the refurbished Belturbet railway station site. There would be considerable merit in extending the greenway for approx 4 km along the Erne to the international scouting site at Castle Saunderson.” [2]

As we have noted before, the Greenway description of the route highlights key things on the way but by no means provides the detail that we are looking for! The first part of the route ahead appears on the satellite image below. Ballyconnell is about a quarter of the way into the image from the right and the marked change of direction of the line after having crossed the Woodford River is easy to see. Trains leaving Ballyconnell for Belturbet travelled first in a Southeasterly direction. [5]As we noted in the last post, there was a relatively gentle gradient out of Ballyconnell station which help to provide effective gravity shunting for the goods yard. Flanagan says that: “The 1:76 of the bank soon steepened to 1:36 before reaching the summit at the 28 milepost. The short descent at 1:43 was followed by a one-mile switchback section before the line levelled to reach Killywilly Crossing (29.5 miles).” [1: p139]The OS Map extract shows that after crossing the Woodford River the line crossed two main routes south of Ballyconnell before passing under a minor road near to the Western end of Lough Killywilly. The first of these two routes we have already seen in the last post. The crossing gates at that location provided the Western protection to the station site. The second is the modern N87.[3]The pink line shows the approximate route of the C&L. [5]Looking Northwest along the N87 towards Ballyconnell. The approximate alignment of the old railway is shown in pink again. There is no evidence of the line at the crossing location. Field boundaries in the satellite image indicate the route of the old line.

The line curves through the crossing on the N87 and gradually turns northwards. Close to the Western end of Lough Killywilly, an old highway which used to cross the line on a bridge. It is picked up on the 1940s OS Map extract but it is hardly visible on the modern satellite image and appears no longer to be in use as a road.

From here the C&L curved around once again to wards the East and ran across the top of the Lough before reaching Killywilly Crossing.Killywilly Crossing and Keeper’s cottage as seen in the 21st century. Flanagan tells us that there was a cornmill here and in May 1888 the Belturbet Market train was ordered to stop here as an experiment. However, the stop only lasted five or six weeks, there being only one passenger per train to avail themselves of it. [1: p139]Location ‘1’ is Killywilly Crossing, location ‘2’ is the bridge over Rag River and location ‘3’ is Tomkinroad Station and Crossing. [5] The black and white satellite image below comes from 2010 and show location ‘2’ at that time. Tomkinroad Station (location ‘3’) appears at the right hand side of the colour satellite above and at the right side of the OS Map from the 1940s. Flanagan says that it “too, was wrongly named, the correct form having one word and being a direct anglicization of the Irish name. The platform, gatehouse and shelter were on the down side and there was an up, facing siding opposite the platform. Although suggested by the stationmistress in November 1887, the siding was not laid till January 1899 when the traffic from the adjacent Tomkinroad creamery made it worthwhile.It was lifted about 1940 when the points were in need of renewal.” [1: p139]The Crossing-Keeper’s House and Station building at Tomkinroad still stands today and has been extended across what was the platform. The line ran across the front of the building and across the minor road on which the photographer is standing.The C&L continues towards Belturbet. The field gate is supported on one of the old crossing gate posts.The layout of Tomkinroad station was pretty typical of a number of halts on the C&L. They were usually sited immediately adjacent to a road crossing and had a very simple building which accommodated the crossing-keeper who also acted as station-mistress (or -master). The siding here served a creamery nearby. The sketch above comes from Flanagan’s book [1: p139]The location of Tominkinroad Station is in the top left of this satellite image. The river bridge mentioned below can just be picked out to the East of the station. The next level-crossing was just to the Northwest of Lough Long. [5]This 1940s OS Map excerpt covers almost exactly the same area as the satellite image above. [3]

Just to the East of Tomkinroad Station, the old railway crossed the Rag River again and then meandered eastwards through the crossing on the northwest corner of Lough Long.The crossing-keeper’s cottage has been allowed to deteriorate. This view is taken looking North from the minor road.The same cottage, this time looking from the East near to the location of the level-crossing gates.The line turned to a southeasterly direction and ran close to the shore of Lough Long before turning back to the Northeast. [5]The next level-crossing can more easily be picked out on the OS Map extract. I cannot offer you pictures at the location. [3]The satellite image and the OS Map show the next length of the old line. It crossed another minor access road before turning South-southeast along side what is now the N3. Just in the bottom corner of the OS Map above, a road over-bridge can be picked out. It carried what is now the N87 road over the C&L. [5][3]

Flanagan says that from Tomkinroad Station the remaining 3.5 miles of the journey to Belturbet were “again fairly level. There were two over-bridges, one stone (Stag Hall) and the other timber. [Then] nearer the terminus and after these [bridges] the fine four-span stone viaduct over the River Erne” [1: p139] was encountered. I have not been able to locate pictures of the first two bridges referred to by Flanagan. The stone viaduct over the River Erne remains in place in the 21st century. The River Erne can easily be identified on the images above. The two bridges referred to by Flanagan are obvious on the left side of the OS Map. The modern N3 runs south where no road used to be – between the two bridges on the OS Map. [5][3] Both locations are picked out on the larger scale satellite image below. Neither is visible in the 21st century.The River Erne Bridge in the 21st century. [2]A more recent, closer shot of the same bridge. [6]The location and bridge over the Erne are very attractive. [7]The quality of this image is not high, it is an extract from the Irish GSGS Series 3906, 23-31-SW Belturbet Map It shows the line of both the C&L and the GNR on the South side of Belturbet. The various bridges can again be made out relatively easily. [8]The Erne Bridge and the Belturbet Station site.A view west along the trackbed across the river viaduct.  [17]The view north, above, from the C&L bridge over the River Erne. The adjacent map shows Turbet Island on the north side of the railway bridge. The earthworks on the island are the remains of a motte and bailey castle. [9]

After the bridge the line “passed No 1 Gates, Straheglin [Holborn Hill], and rose sharply at 1:46 to enter Belturbet station (33.75 miles). The C&L designation was Class 2 although the company had no passenger terminal of its own, the GNR platform being used. The C&L line ended on the left-hand side in a bay. All booking and waiting facilities were provided in the GNR buildings and the ‘joint’ platform was devoid of fittings, although there was an overall roof further up on the broad-gauge line. [1: p139-140]Looking back towards the Erne Bridge from the level-crossing on Holborn Hill at the station throat. One of the crossing gateposts remains and supports the wooden gates for the footway/greenway.Looking forward, in 2012 into the station site from Holborn Hill. The crossing-keeper’s cottage remains and has been modernised and extended as a private dwelling.Patrick Flanagan’s sketch plan of the station site at Belturbet in 1929. It is difficult to reconcile Flanagan’s map with what exists on site in 21st Century. However, please see the maps below from GeoHive where the layout is considered further. [1: p140]

Flanagan continues to describe Belturbet Station:

“Off the C&L run-round loop, on the down side, was a small store on a short curved siding which ended in a carriage dock (installed 1890). Just west of the store, at the points, was the station ground frame in a 1901 ‘cabin’. In order to reach the transfer, engine and carriage roads it was necessary to use a head-shunt and operations were quite tricky. The first road back from the head-shunt was the loco and carriage road; the second opened into a goods loop. The latter ran through a tranship shed where the transfer of goods to GNR metals took place and, outside again at the far end, it closed into a single long siding which extended far into the Northern yard. Before the shed was a joint loading bank similar to that at Dromod. So awkward was the layout here that tailrope shunting was the recognized practice from 1888 to 1893, but this was afterwards discontinued and was certainly not done after 1900. The loco siding also resembled that at Dromod, reaching the 24-ft turn-table before entering the single-road shed. Between the table and the shed was the 7,000-gallon water tank which was always filled from the GNR supply under an agreement made at the start; Belturbet was thus the most trouble-free place on the line so far as water was concerned. It was agreed in 1891 to transfer the GNR windmill to C&L land at the Erne Bridge; it was replaced by a pump in 1925. During temporary closures of  the GN Belturbet branch in the 1920-23 period, a GNR fireman was allocated one day a week to pump water for the C&L. From about 1936, only the walls of the engine shed remained intact, the GSR having ordered the removal of the roof after a mishap. One day, Passage Engine No 12L was on the mixed train which was then working from Ballinamore, the shed being out of use. The driver decided to put the engine in the shed to enable him carry out some repairs. Until then, only the C&L engines had been inside and nobody realized that the Passage engine chimneys were higher than the C&L ones. As No 12L moved into the shed it dislodged the keystone from the door arch and weakened the whole roof. Afterwards, when the workings were altered, engines were left out at Belturbet at night.” [1: p140-141]

“At the approach to the turntable a siding diverged to the right; it was the carriage shed road and ran behind the tank. The shed was identical with that at Dromod (100ft X 12ft X 10ft) and was also built by Rogers. It was removed by the GSR in the 1930s. The shed road points were spiked and the line lifted. As at Dromod, a small room for drivers was provided at Belturbet.” [1: p141]

These two images are from GeoHive the national on-line mapping service provided by Ordnance Survey Ireland. Location ‘1’ on both images is the level-crossing at Holborn Hill. Location ‘2’ is the passenger facility for both C&L and GNR lines. Location ‘3’ is the GNR Goods Shed. Location ‘4’ is the goods exchange facility and location ‘5’ the darker triangle of land to the south side of the site was the location of the C&L carriage shed, engine shed and turntable. Flanagan’s sketched arrangement is correct, but the site was much more cramped than his sketch suggests. He ignores the GNR goods shed on the Northeast of the station site. [10]

First, some images of the station area when in use.A train from Dromod leaves Belturbet an approaches the crossing at Holborn Hill. [16]A view looking East from under the overall roof showing a GNR train on the left and a C&L train on the right. [16]1948: the shared platform – GNR/C&L. The passenger station facilities were provided entirely by the GNR. On the left is a Cavan & Leitrim (3 ft. gauge) train for Dromod or Arigna, headed by 2-4-2T No. 12L (ex-Cork, Bandon & South Coast Railway). The other platform face served the Great Northern (Ireland) Railway (5 ft. 3 in. gauge) branch from Clones. [12]

The adjacent image is a view of the station from GNR rails to the East. [13]

The first image below shows a GNR branch-line train at Belturbet viewed from the Southeast. [14]The adjacent image is taken from the East looking along the GNR lines into the station complex at Belturbet. [15]


Locomotive No 1 Isabel on the turntable at Belturbet in 1923. Robert H. Johnstone of Bawnboy House was the longest serving director of the Cavan and Leitrim Railway, serving on the board from 1883 until the amalgamation with the G.S.R. in 1925. This engine, No 1 was named after his daughter, Isabel. The other engines except No 8, (Queen Victoria) were also named after directors’ daughters. It is interesting that between 1887 and 1925 Isabel had worked well over half a million miles between Dromod, Arigna and Belturbet! [19]

And some images of the site after closure but before restoration taken at different times by Roger Joanes. [11][20]Loco No. 3T at Belturbet immediately after closure, 26th August 1959, (c) Roger Joanes. [20] Two pictures of the gradually decomposing station site in the 1990s. [11]

The Station Site has been refurbished and a few images illustrate this.

A heritage centre now operates from the site. The transformation is remarkable. It is interesting to note that at both ends of the C&L Mainline there is a railway heritage centre. One in Cavan and one in Leitrim. The adjacent image shows the visitor centre at Belturbet which was once the passenger station building.The GNR Goods Shed in the 21st century. [18]The station master’s house is now a holiday cottage. [21]The station master’s house and the goods transfer shed. [18]

A bonus at the end of this post! The Railway Roundabout Video of the Cavan & Leitrim Railway. [22]

There are two further posts to follow. ……………………

The first will reflect on the two heritage efforts, particularly the preservation society at the Dromod end of the line. Included with this will be other images from along the line which have not been included in posts so far.

The final post will look at the tramway which ran from Ballinamore to Arigna.



  1. Patrick J. Flanagan; The Cavan & Leitrim Railway; Pan Books, London, 1972.
  2., accessed on 24th May 2019.
  3., accessed on 22nd May 2019.
  4., accessed on 31st May 2019.
  5., accessed on 19th May 2019.
  6., accessed on 1st June 2019.
  7., accessed on 1st June 2019.
  8., accessed on 1st June 2019.
  9., accessed on 4th June 2019.
  10., accessed on 4th June 2019.
  11., accessed on 4th June 2019.
  12., accessed on 4th June 2019.
  13., accessed on 1st June 2019.
  14., accessed on 4th June 2019.
  15., accessed on 4th June 2019.
  16., accessed on 4th June 2019.
  17., accessed on 5th June 2019.
  18., accessed on 6th June 2019.
  19., accessed on 29th May 2019.
  20., accessed on 19th May 2019.
  21., accessed on 7th June 2019.
  22., Railway Roundabout 1958, accessed on 19th May 2019.

Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway – Part 1 – Railfile

This is a link to a blog that I wish I had written! I have just come across it today (5th June 2019). It begs a closer look at the route on old maps and modern satellite images.

It is on my list of tasks for the future!

I am particularly drawn by the fact that it was built at the turn of the century and had been lifted/removed by 1917 to be used on the continent as part of the war effort. Sadly, the story ended at the bottom of the sea as the ship transporting it to the continent was sunk by enemy action. [1]

As has kindly been pointed out to me, the most recent news about that loss can be found on [4]

A scheme for building this railway was suggested as early as 1860 with a bridge across the Torridge and stations at Northam, Appledore, Clovelly, Hartland and Bude. In 1866 a start was actually made on a line to run to Appledore with a branch to Westward Ho!, however soon after a full ‘first sod cutting ceremony’ by the Earl of Iddesleigh, the contractors went bankrupt and the project was abandoned. A project to create a 10 1⁄2 miles (16.9 km) branch from Abbotsham Road Station to Clovelly had also been put forward by Messrs. Molesworth and Taylor. [3]

Finally the Bideford, Westward Ho! & Appledore Railway was incorporated on 21 May 1896, with its Head Office address at the Electrical Federation Offices in Kingsway, London WC2. Soon after the line passed to the British Electric Traction Company (BET). It was not until 24 April 1901 that the single track line was opened as far as Northam, although the first trial train ran with a few friends of the directors in January 1901. The first train, pulled by Grenville was played off by Herr Groop’s German Band which had been hired for the season and it reached speeds of 36 mph on its inaugural run. The remaining extension to Appledore finally opened in 1908, on 1 May, costing £10,000. The railway was built in three sections, with the first being from Bideford at 0.39 km, the second from the termination of the first, being to Westward Ho!, length 6.4 km,  7.23 km, and the third being from the termination of the second, to Appledore, length 3.2 km, 3.91 km. [3]

The contract for construction was awarded to a Mr Charles Shadwell of Blackburn and the estimate was for £50,000. The initial outlay was £87,208 and Mr Shadwell was removed from his post on 13 December 1901. A subsequent court action proved that he did ‘wilfully default’ and judgement was given against him in 1905 for £7,500. Plans had been made for a 3 ft gauge track, however as it was hoped to connect the line with the L&SWR by a bridge over the Torridge, the line was built to a Standard Gauge specification. Gradients were severe in places, with a 1 in 47 on the Kenwith Castle to Abbotsham Road section. [3]

Here are a few pictures which were not included in the linked post above, all were taken at Westward Ho!Westward Ho! Station in 1908. [3]This picture of Westward Ho! Station was taken in the very early years of operation, soon after the turn of the 20th century. [3]A later, open view of the station platform and the station building which features more clearly in the image below. [3]Westward Ho! Station. [3]A similar view taken in June 2009 and available on Google Streetview. The Station Site has been extensively redeveloped. The large cream house can still be seen. The bell tower/campanile of the church which only appears behind buildings in the monochrome image can be seen on top of its church roof! The station and mock-Tudor building appear to have gone but the  building behind (to the left of the church) is still in place! The Westward Ho! station site in 1969. By this time the site was in use as a bus depot/station. I can find nothing left of this scene. The area has been and continues to be extensively redeveloped.[2]

A review of the route of the old railway seems eminently sensible. I hope that Part 2 will not be long in the making!


  1., accessed on 5th June 2019.
  2.!_railway_station, accessed on 5th June 2019.
  3., accessed on 5th June 2019.
  4.…-a079367549, accessed on 6th June 2019.

Resources for further investigation, [2]:

  1. Baxter, Julia & Jonathan (1980). The Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore railway 1901-1917. Pub. Chard. ISBN 0-9507330-1-6.
  2. Christie, Peter (1995). North Devon History. The Lazarus Press. ISBN 1-898546-08-8
  3. Garner, Rod (2008). The Bideford, Westward Ho! & Appledore Railway. Pub. Kestrel Railway Books. ISBN 978-1-905505-09-8.
  4. Griffith, Roger (1969). The Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway. School project and personal communications. Bideford Museum.
  5. Jenkins, Stanley C. (1993). The Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway. Pub. Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-452-0.
  6. Kingsley, Charles (1923). Westward Ho! Pub. London.
  7. Stuckey, Douglas (1962). The Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway 1901-1917. Pub. West Country Publications.
  8. Thomas, David St John (1973). A Regional History of the Railways of Britain, Vol.1: The Westcountry. Pub. David & Charles.