The West Clare Railway – Part 7 – Moyasta to Kilrush and Cappagh Pier

The Line of the West Clare Railway from Moyasta to Kilkee

Moyasta was a junction station. The two lines which left to the south and to the west served Kilrush and Kilkee respectively. The two routes feature on the adjacent map. This post focusses on the line to Kilrush and on to Cappagh Pier.Before we set off, we note two things, as we did in the last post, about the station at Moyasta. First, the presence, in the 21st century, of a preservation line based at the station; and second, the layout of the junction at Moyasta. Although a direct line was provided to allow trains to travel between Kilkee and Kilrush. In practice it was little used in later years as trains tended to enter Moyasta station from either of the two villages and the set off from the station for the other village. This required some manoeuvrings in the station area!

However, when the pier was in use at Cappagh, “the Loop … was extremely useful for allowing a direct passage to through traffic, especially from Cappagh to Kilkee.” [2]

We spent time in the last post in this series looking at the preservation line. The link to that post is: https://rogerfarnworth.com/2019/05/09/the-west-clare-railway-part-6-moyasta-to-kilkee

We also considered the loop line in the same post and we will not repeat what was said in that post about the link that made direct services between Kilkee and Kilrush/Cappagh Pier possible.There were four road-crossings at Moyasta, all within a radius of 200 yards of the station-house. By the late 1980s, Lenihan observed that, “as at most other such places, there was nothing, for at Moyasta, just as at Knockdrumniagh, near Ennistymon, road widening has changed utterly the lie of the land.” [2] The plan is taken from Patrick Taylor’s book. [1] 

We allow our two guides, Edmund Lenihan and Patrick Taylor to take us out of the station and its environs and on to Kilrush and Cappagh Pier. The presence of the preservation railway means that the locations of the crossings shown above are easier to define in the early 21st century than they might otherwise have been.Moyasta No. 1 Crossing (above).

The adjacent image is taken at Moyasta No. 2 Crossing looking back towards No. 1.

The picture below is also taken  at the No. 2 Crossing looking towards Kilrush. The Shannon estuary can be seen in the distance.

The Line to Kilrush

Edmund Lenihan comments in the late 1980s that the line from the station beyond Moyasta Crossing No. 1 was so overgrown as to be impassable. [3][7] The forty-third milepost was at Crossing No. 2. This crossing was the site of a serious accident “when a young boy, trying to save the gates from an oncoming trail, was knocked down and killed.” [4]

From the road to the junction with the loop is only a relatively short distance.Moyasta junction with the Kilkee/Kilrush loop on the left. The railcar has left Moyasta Station which is of the extreme right of the picture with a service to Kilrush. As we have already noted, there were few non-stop workings between Kilrush and Kilkee. Trains from one or other village used to enter the relevant platform at Moyasta and then propel backwards before using the loop to head on to the other village.

The line continues from the crossing in a wide, graceful sweep along the edge of the bay no more that 300 mm above the high-water level. Effectively the line was on causeway as there is evidence of the sea invading the land beyond the line.Continuing on into the townland of Carrowncalla North the embankment of the old line acts as a breakwater. After a length of straight track, the line curved southwards again. Soon the next road crossing was encountered, Carrowncalla No. 1. In the late 1980s the crossing-keeper’s cottage was intact but seemingly unoccupied. [5] Later, in a return visit in 2008, Lenihan noted that the cottage had been renovated but was still not lived in. [6] 150 yards to the West of the crossing, the road bridged a boat channel. The crossing is shown on the OS Map extract and satellite images below. [7]The narrow neck of land to the west of the boat channel continued on and came to a head at Ilaunalea, 500 metres distant. This can be seen easily on the satellite image above. “From here in 1863 it was proposed to build an embankment across the mouth of Poulnasherry, by way of Black Island and Ilaunbeg, to Kilnagalliagh, on the western shore. It was a daring plan and probably would have succeeded but for the ill-advised attempt to close the mouth of the bay in the face of winter tides.” [5] By the 1980s, only eroded, scattered remains  were visible, and that only at low tide. This, ultimately misguided attempt to cross the Poulnasherry is referred to elsewhere in this string of posts about the West Clare Railway.The blue line on the satellite image above shows the route of the West Clare Railway. The orange line shows the route of the planned but eventually incomplete railway crossing the mouth of Poulnasherry. The orange line could have been extended in a northwesterly direction and looking at satellite image shows the old formation still evident to the Northwest. The importance of the line drawn on the image above to to show its route across the tidal estuary.  The embankments show clearly on the OS Map extract from the 1950s, immediately above. [7]

Immediately south of the point where the orange and blue lines diverge/meet (and just off the satellite image above is the location of an un-named accommodation crossing there was then a straight length of track before Carrowncalla No. 2 Crossing. Lenihan diverted a way from the West Clare for a time to explore the coast line and the older earthworks before heading back to the West Clare at the point of this level crossing. He says: “As we walked the undulating straight road back to where it met the line at Carrowncalla no. 2 crossing we could not but notice a sprawl of old buildings right of us, almost on the shore. Looking from a distance exactly like a scene from the marsh episodes of Great Expectations, the house was vaguely sinister, even in daylight, its hipped gable turned coldly to us, its face fixed on the river as if expecting the arrival of secret visitors. The actor Oliver Reed now owns it, so we were later told. Just north of the crossing, very close to the railway, stands Ferry Lodge, one-time home of William Dalton, paymaster of the West Clare, but it was to the crossing cottage that we directed all our attention. The ground is spongy here; even the side drains appear to be tidal, perhaps not surprisingly, since, according to the map, spring tides cover much of the land directly south of the line. From a little cutting close to the site of the forty-fifth milepost, a different angle of the sinister old house on the shore became visible, as did, for the first time, the flashing beacons on the twin stacks of Moneypoint power station 5 miles to the south-east beyond Kilrush; Fionn Mac Cumhaill’s goalposts, as they have been aptly called. The river, now visible on three sides, made a pleasant companion to our walk through this part of Carrowncalla South, but only briefly; a substantial cutting soon blinkered all but a narrow view directly ahead. The side walls here are at least 12-feet high, and we were hardly surprised to find the surface underfoot deteriorate rapidly. ” [8]

Between the unnamed crossing and Carrowncalla No. 2, the line ran in a straight South-southeasterly direction. In the 21st Century, it is in use as an access road for much of that length. Lenihan visited the level-crossing location again in 2008 and commented that the house had been fully renovated and was now lived in. [6]Looking North-northwest along the formation of the West Clare Railway (marked by the blue line) from Carrowncalla Crossing No. 2. The Crossing-keeper’s cottage has been extended to make an excellent modern home. (Google Streetview).Above, looking South-southwest from the same location. (Google Streetview). The image below comes from Taylor’s book and is taken on the North side of the crossing. [16]

South of Carrowncalla Crossing No. 2 the line curved a little towards the Southeast and ran for a short while alongside a small bay before crossing Brew’s Bridge. The location of Brew’s bridge can just be picked out at the bottom right of the adjacent satellite image.The extract from the OS Maps shows the location clearly, just to the Southeast of the bay. Lenihan comments one the location in the late 1980s: “Before us was the gap where Brew’s Bridge once stood, and across the road a new house, built almost on the line. We had better make enquiries, we decided. An invitation to rest and have a bite to eat was gratefully accepted, and in the course of twenty minutes’ conversation we heard much that interested us, some of it to do with the railway, some about the area in general.The headland jutting into the estuary directly in front of the bridge is Baurnahard Point, and the cabbail there was once a bailiffs’ hut. It is many years since those gentlemen resided there, either because poachers have turned honest or more probably because there are just no salmon to catch any more. But lest it be thought that decline of fish stocks is a completely modern phenomenon, listen to what a newspaper of 1874 had to say of a drastic fall in the numbers of fish caught in the spring of that year: ‘Since the legislation and use of the drift nets the fishermen on the Lower Shannon are catching all the best fish … [whereas] … the more wealthy proprietors on the upper waters are catching very few’. What has modem technology done, after all, except move the problem a few hundred miles out into the Atlantic?” [9]
The northern abutment of Brew’s Bridge in 2009. (Google Streetview).The more southerly of the two bridge abutment  in 2009 with the house alongside the old formation as mentioned by Lenihan. (Google Streetview).

Beyond Brew’s Bridge the line gradually turned Eastward. The going was relatively easy.The next crossing was Leadmore No. 1 which was south of the Shanakyle Graveyard. The Crossing-keeper’s cottage here has also been renovated and is lived in. [6][7]

In the 1980s, Lenihan commented that “to enter Leadmore no. 1 cottage was to get a brief glimpse of the past, for the interior of the house was quite unchanged from how it would have looked in West Clare days. An old railway clock, the open fireplace, a drawing of engine no. 5 from 1892, all testified to a lingering regard for old times, though the owner was quite adamant that she had no regrets over the passing away of the railway.” [10]Leadmore Crossing No. 1 with the old keepers cottage to the right and the line back towards Moyasta shown by the blue line. (Google Streetview).Looking ahead along the line to the East and towards Kilrush from the smae location, (Google Streetview).From Leadmore Crossing No. 1, the line heads East-northeast into Kilrush.En-route to Kilrush the old line passed through Leadmore village. [7]

One length of the line en-route to Kilrush was close enough to the water to need a revetment constructing to protect the line. That location can be seen above on the left of the OS Map extract. The school shown on the right of the extract is now the location of L&M Keating (Maritime) Ltd. We are actually now very close to Kilrush station. The OS Map extract below shows the first part of the station site which was to the West of the Level Crossing.Taylor comments: “The line from the down home signal, where a short steep decline at 1 in 72 commenced, continued past the two road carriage shed, and one road engine shed on the up side, until Leadmore No. 2 level crossing was reached before entering the yard at Kilrush. This crossing, whcih was built on a curve, was protected by up and down signals.” [16]This view looks back along the old line towards Moyasta. The renovated Crossing-keeper’s cottage is on the right. The crossing gates were relatively narrow and the stone pilasters which supported the gate are still evident. (Google Streetview). To the left of the line behind the cottage were two buildings which were rail-served. The engine shed and carriage shed. The engine shed was the smaller building closer to the cottages.From the same location (Google Streetview), looking into the station yard which in 2009 was now grassland. The station building can be seen in the distance immediately to the left of the blue line.The station site at Kilrush taken from the East. (Google Streetview in 2011). The station building and platform edge are still visible. The goods shed has been replaced by a corrugated steel roofed structure.The station site at Kilrush also taken from the East. (Google Streetview). The station building is shown to greater advantage. The old Merchants’ Quay which is on the left of the image, is now (2011) the access route to Kilrush Marina.An early (circa. 1890) picture of Kilrush Station taken from the West. [11] The next four pictures are closer looks at this image.This image shows the view across the station site to the docks/Merchant’s Quay and Leadmore. The old goods shed can be seen in the centre of the picture. [12]This view of the harbour at Kilrush shows the station building and goods shed, centre-right. A signal and ground-frame hut can be seen centre-left. [12] The image below is an excellent period photograph of the station building. [12]The access road to Kilrush Marina has been improved and is now (2018) metalled and Merchant’s Quay has been refurbished. It provides a good location to take a picture of the station building(s) and Glynn’s Mill building(s) as they appear in the first quarter of the 21st Century. [12]

Taylor describes Kilrush as “the self-styled ‘Capital of West Clare’ … the second largest town in the county, and chief market centre for the surrounding area. There is a fine harbour here which provides accommodation for vessels, and some very pleasant woodland walks on the east side of the town. Kilrush was provided with a large station on the down side with a verandah overhanging the platform. The yard was controlled by a ten-lever frame in a concrete block type cabin, and a network of points controlled a run round loop, a goods loop, the turntable spur and a siding on to the quayside through the ‘Dock Gates’. The carriageand loco sheds were on the Moyasta side of Leadmore No. 2 crossing, on the up side but facing Kilrush, on the station side there was a  water tank(3800 galls.) supplying columns at each end of the yard also on the down side, on the opposite side was the goods store and a large loading bank with a wagon weighbridge at the Cappa end.” [16]Taylor provides a number of important photographs of the Kilrush station site – the first of these shows the engine shed and carriage shed in 1958. [16]Also taken by D.F. Russell, this picture looks back towards the engine and carriage sheds from the middle of the station yard. [17]The station in the 1950s viewed from the Goods platform, (c) IRRS No. 10748. [18]

Edmund Lenihan, writing in the late 1980s, having just explored the station site, said:

“Uncomfortable, even dangerous, though it was to have to pick our way through this wasteland, we did it, still hopeful of finding something. We might as well have gone by the road; there were no wonderful discoveries, no magical ending, only the station-house, standing, as always, just across the road from Glynn’s mills and round the corner from Merchants’ Row and Frances Street. But it seems to cringe now, so alone is it in the midst of its forlorn surroundings. We stopped to stare, almost to commiserate, though we had intended to pass right on, see some of the town and call on our way back from Cappagh, if light permitted.

A fine red-brick building it must have been one time, but even though one half of it now seemed to be occupied, the other part was semi-derelict and appeared to be a mere garage or store shed, if we were to judge by the large doors in the eastern gable-end. What might have brought so historic a structure to such a pass was a story we could not resist, no matter what constraints of time were upon us. So we once more entrusted our hopes and expectations to the hospitality of Clare people, and, as usual, were not turned away empty handed.

We were taken by the owner on a guided tour of the premises and shown all there was to see, which was little enough in comparison to what had been either removed or destroyed. When the house was sold after the closure of the line, it was gutted and used as a truck garage, and only in recent years has it been re-established as a dwelling house. It will be a long process to restore it fully, but the present owner is determined to do so.

In spite of the hardships it has suffered, the building still possesses some charm and much of its original timber-work, a tribute to the quality of the materials used in its construction. By the gable-end where the large doors hang, traces of other demolished structures tell of a larger building than now exists, but too little remains for one to be certain of their function. At the rear of the house as it now is we walked along the former platform, but found no evidence of the verandah and its fine decorative cast-iron supports that we had noted in pictures from the Lawrence Collection. (Even by 1954 this had been removed, as photographs of that time show.) Nor can the quay be seen from here any more. A shed, built in the mid-1960s, fills the space where four separate lines ran, and obscures all view of the river. Even the location of the turntable, two water-columns and the 3,800-gallon water tank can no longer be made out.

At the western end of the station we looked across the wasteland we had arrived through and it was hard to imagine the activity that was a daily (and often nightly) feature of the place for almost seventy years: the shunting, the offloading and the transfer of cargo. Hard also it was to visualise the terror of railway guard Michael Ryan whose foot became wedged between the rails here during shunting and whose cries went unnoticed as he was run over and killed by wagon no. 27 on 10 March 1933. His tragedy, in a sense, symbolises the tragedy of Kilrush itself, for in spite of the coming of the Moneypoint power station, it has well-nigh expired almost unnoticed. A town of broad streets, fine houses and great natural endowments has fallen on lean times, and a harbour from which great benefits might still be expected now lies choking to death in mud and silt.’ One can only hope that the proposed multi-million-pound marina and its ancillary projects will help to revive a town that deserves far better of native government than it has got over the past half-century.” [13]

The station building has been significantly refurbished as the modern photos above show. In 1999, Lenihan wrote:

“In the years since I last visited [Kilrush] a great deal has changed, and for the better, particularly at the station end. Gone is the rubbish dump that defaced the area beside Leadmore no. 2 level-crossing cottage (p.249). It is now as clean and level as a town park, and an unimpeded view of the station is possible from several hundred yards away. ‘Crush marina, which was then only in its planning stage, is now in full operation and has brought life back to the creek, though hardly to the same extent as when Turf Quay, Customs Quay and Merchants’ Quay were in their heyday. Close by, a Scattery Island interpretative centre has been opened, and across the creek, beside Doherty’s timber yard and the site of the removed railway bridge (p. 256), is a new activity centre. Near the Scattery Centre a workman pointed out to me an overgrown space between two houses where once stood a wooden dwelling that seems to have been for the use of railway personnel and in which at least one former stationmaster lived. The engine shed still stands, as does Leadmore no. 2 cottage, though the latter has suffered much in the intervening decade. The `1891′ stone plaque is gone, many slates are missing and the timber-work is rotting. A pity this, in view of the improvements all round it. On the landward side of the road to Cappagh pier, a great deal of house building has been going on, and only two green fields remain.” [14]

Writing in 2008, Lenihan describes the station site again:

“The station-house is there, certainly, and is once more a dwelling, for two families now. Its eastern gable, which was disfigured by a large door during the building’s days as a truck garage, has been restored. But the fine triangle of clear ground between it, the marina and Leadmore no. 2, which common sense might suggest should be preserved as a public amenity, is now under pressure of commercial development, despite the fact that the future of some of the similar recent developments in the town is uncertain because of the deflation of the property bubble.

Glynn’s mills, on 13 January 2008, when I visited, were swathed in what looked like plastic sheeting. The building was in the process of being transformed into apartments, I was told by a passer-by. But at least the imposing facade, recognisable from so many photos of the past century and more, is to be retained.

A short distance from the station, where the railway bridge diagonally crossed the creek (its fine abutments remain), there is now a footbridge leading directly to an activity centre, and to the right of this is a boat yard, obviously an appendage of the marina.This was the space occupied by Doherty’s timber-yard on our 1988 visit.

As then, few traces of the line now remain along the Cappagh road. In fact, the only visible reminder that trains ever passed this way is the stonework surrounding the site of the turntable at the pier head (p.257-258). Luckily it has been preserved; otherwise the West Clare Railway here would be not a legend only but a myth. And whatever else it may have been, it was certainly never that.” [15]

The sketch plan above shows Kilrush station in its heyday. It is provided by Patrick Taylor. [1]

The adjacent OS Map extract shows the West Clare railway continuing beyond Kilrush Station. It turns through 180 degrees on a tight radius curve. The bridge over the tidal channel is Bridge No. 68 shown on the sketch plan above.[7]

The railway then continued in a Southwesterly direction on the South side of Kilrush Creek, as shown in the OS Map further below. [7]The way ahead to Cappagh Pier. Bridge No. 68 has been removed and replaced with a footbridge, (c) D.F. Russell. [21]The approximate line of the old railway to Cappagh Pier is shown by the blue line (Google Streetview – 2011). The footbridge is at approximately the location of the old railway bridge.Looking West down Kilrush Creek in 2011 (Google Streetview). The station is visible on the right of the picture the railway embankment and bridge abutment are right of centre. In this picture from 2011 (Google Streetview) the road which used to turn through a very sharp right-angle bend has been diverted to run directly alongside what was the alignment of the railway.As can be seen in the OS Map extract below the road and rail drift apart on their way westward.Passing Bleak House on their left, trains from Kilrush then curved round to the South east before entering Cappagh Pier Station close to Cappagh House. Just prior to the station a gravel extraction pit was passed on the right. Beyond the station there was a short gated stub line with a turntable. The turntable gave access to Cappagh Pier and the line ran out to the end of the pier and a Goods Store. [7]

Taylor’s sketch plan of the station and pier is shown below. [1]

Historically there were two platforms at Cappagh Pier Station and each had canopies. Taylor’s comments about the station appear below.The gravel pit in the OS Map extract is now the site of the RNLI station (Google Streetview).From this point road and rail run immediately parallel to each other into Cappagh Pier Station (Google Streetview).The turntable location is marked in the paving at the site of the station and pier at Cappagh, (Google Streetview).This satellite image shows the full extent of the old line in the vicinity of Kilrush and Cappagh. [19]The terminus at Cappagh in 1953, (c) IRRS No. 10439. [20]Turning 90 degrees to the left from the above photograph, this is the view down the pier at Cappagh. The turntable is in the foreground and the Good Store is visible at the end of the pier. [21]

Taylor writes: “On the last mile of line from Kilrush to Cappa Pier, after passing through the level crossing gates at 47 m.p., and over the Ballykett stream bridge No.68, past Doherty’s timber yard (where a private siding ran into the yard on the up side) the line veered sharply to the right and ran along the opposite bank of Steamers Quay passing Supples crossing before turning left into Cappa. The line continued through a gate on to a small turntable 9’6″ long which turned wagons singly to the right and on to the pier which was provided with two sidings running parallel. The second siding was installed by the G.S.R. in 1933 for the quick turn round of wagons. Cappa was provided with two running roads and two platforms. The Platforms had overhead concrete roofs and entrance was gained to them at the pier end. The roofs and the down platform were removed by the G.S.R., possibly also in 1933.” [21]

This brings us to the end of our survey of the West Clare Railway. What remains is to look at locomotives and rolling stock in a future post.

References

  1. Patrick Taylor; The West Clare Railway; Plateway Press, 1994, p48.
  2. Edmund Lenihan; In the Tracks if the West Clare Railway; Mercier Press, Dec. 2008, p228.
  3. Ibid., p230.
  4. Ibid., p231.
  5. Ibid., p234.
  6. Ibid., p304.
  7. http://geohive.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=9def898f708b47f19a8d8b7088a100c4, accessed on 2nd July 2019.
  8. Lenihan, op.cit., p238.
  9. Ibid., p241.
  10. Ibid., p245.
  11. https://www.facebook.com/kilrushcu/posts/railway-station-kilrush-co-clare-circa-1890/1200065626698858, accessed on 4th July 2019.
  12. https://docplayer.net/58337136-A-tribute-to-kilrush-in-the-great-war-by-ger-browne.html, accessed on 4th July 2019.
  13. Lenihan, op.cit., p250-251.
  14. Ibid., p293.
  15. Ibid., p305.
  16. Taylor, op.cit., p49.
  17. Ibid., p50.
  18. Lenihan, op.cit., p253.
  19. http://www.railmaponline.com/UKIEMap.php, accessed on 5th July 2019.
  20. Lenihan, op.cit., p258.
  21. Taylor, op.cit., p52.

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