Category Archives: Railways Blog

The West Clare Railway – Part 8 – A Miscellany

One Person’s Identification with Miltown Malbay

A friend has sent me a copy of a book by Gabriel Vaughan entitled ‘My Affair with Malbay’. [10] It is an anecdotal history of the western part of Co. Clare centred on the life and times of a series of generations of The Vaughan family. It has one chapter devoted to the West Clare Railway. [10:p26-36]

Gabriel Vaughan’s father, Paddy Vaughan, worked on the railway. Family life revolved around the station at Miltown Malbay. Gabriel Vaughan says:

“It was almost impossible for me to miss the train at 8.56 a.m. when going to school in Ennistymon every morning. Dad knew the benefit of the proverbial saying “Go to work or school on an egg.” A good breakfast was sacrosanct and I also had to be in time for the train. So often the refrain would go like this: “hurry up, take your time, and eat enough”. Sometimes the train would be held for me for a minute or two until I had safely boarded the train. Other times, I was put into the guard’s van with a mug of tea and a few slices of bread. No way was I going to miss school. Thanks Dad!

On one or two occasions when the porter Tommy Honan was absent and my Dad had slept it out, the train, after passing the Flag Road gates, could be heard from a distance, whistle blowing urgently, alerting the station master to have the gates across the line opened.

The train approaching Miltown in the morning carried a lot of girls from Doonbeg and Quilty going to work in The Malbay Knitwear Factory and was called “The Glamour Express”.

I had a privileged ticket because my father worked for the West Clare Railway Company and I travelled first class to school. Often the only other passenger with me was the local Protestant Minister, Rev. Cannon Elliot travelling up to Ennistymon to greet his flock there. Although he was a kind gentleman, I did not find it easy to converse with him.

Jackie Fox together with his horse called Friday, was the local carrier of goods from the railway station to the town. Every young boy in the town rode on his cart from time to time. A low sized good-humoured fellow was he and strong as an ox. Flour was then delivered in sacks weighing 280 lbs but this enormous weight proved no obstacle to Jackie as each sack was deftly swung onto his cart. I remember walking with Dad down Cloonboney way, when for the first time I heard peals of thunder. This noise, strange to my ears, was explained to me by my father, as Jackie unloading firkins of Guinness for subsequent delivery. Guinness was then delivered in wooden casks, the iron or aluminium lung had not yet arrived on the scene.” [10:p26]

“The railway station was a centre where the youth of the town gathered to play. The boys playing cops and robbers would split into two groups. One group had to seek the other in different hiding places throughout the station and lock them up in prison, cattle wagons being our “Mountjoy”. The hero was the lad who surprised the prison guards and released the prisoners, thus the game lasted longer. In the station yard we had a large flat concrete area, a disused cattle pen and we erected a tennis net made up of two poles and a rope. Mo Connolly, the American tennis star was our idol of the time.

When my father went fishing in the evening, we had a “swimming gala” in the water tank perched 20 feet on top of the engine shed. The tank was about 30 feet long by 12 feet wide and held about 10,000 gallons of water which was pumped up from Cloonboney river just 500 yards beyond the distant signal on the line to Lahinch. Needless to say there were wigs on the green when my father found out what was happening in his absence.

As well as tennis and swimming, other sports such as, running, jumping, golf and baseball were organised in the environs during the summer holidays. A novelty for us was playing baseball and this was made possible by Richard McMahon’s ball and bat sent to him by relatives in America. Paddy Griffin who lived on the Lahinch road near the White Strand, fell down between two wagons and managed to rip a bad gash in his thigh.

One day my brother Michael was heard screaming way down town by the local Garda Sergeant who post haste got on his bicycle and went to the station to investigate. Michael had been sitting on the track when Tommy Honan changed the points to be ready for the evening train. Luckily for Michael his position was about 2 yards from the tip of the points so no damage was done. It could have been very serious, as it was, he escaped with only a bruised backside.

I can remember one fatal accident that occurred on Sunday the 25th August 1946. The unfortunate train driver Patrick O’Neill was killed. Early that day he was the driver on a “Special” to Lahinch, probably for Garland Sunday, a locally observed former pagan festival, now extinct. The light engine … was driven on its own to Miltown to be turned on the turntable for the return journey to Ennis later that evening from Lahinch. Patrick O’Neill who came from Limerick may not have been familiar with the layout of Miltown railway yard. When reversing past the points to drive off to the turntable, he had his head out the right hand cab window, not realising there was only 8 inches clearance between the engine cab and the goods store wall. He was squashed between the engine and the goods store gable wall. It was a horrific accident. Dad had gone to Ennistymon for the day not being on duty, and was immediately summoned by the Gardai to deal with the horrible stiuation.” [10:p27]

“As it happened, Tom Reidy, another driver was a passenger to Lachich that day and he was contacted and brought by road to Miltown to act as relief driver.” [10:p28]

Vaughan goes on to discuss some of the history of the line which we have dealt with elsewhere. He makes reference too to the Percy French song ‘Are Ye Right There, Michael?’ and then goes on to say:

“Why the line, one of the best loved of all the distinctive Irish narrow gauge railways, should have closed is a mystery. It’s chronic unreliability, perpetuated by Percy French’s song was a myth. In fact the line by today’s standard, was as well engineered as any in Ireland. It was well maintained by the staff, with no rubbish strewn about the line. Unfortunately, it lost money and in 1960 losses amounted to £23,000. In all my years travelling on The West Clare Railway, I have to say, it may have been colourful for all the wrong reasons, but it mostly ran on time.

In the summertime they put tourist or saloon coaches on the line, these were panoramic coaches with large glass windows to allow for maximum viewing of the scenery. They are now all the rage with European railways … The West Clare tourist coaches, of which were four, were all constructed on six wheel bogies, in Ennis between the years 1905 and 1906. Each coach had seating for 32 passengers.

I remember early morning “specials” leaving Miltown at about 7.30am. These “specials” transported hundreds of matchgoers to Ennis, and pilgrims to Knock and to Croagh Patrick, who of course transferred at Ennis to the Great Southern Railway Company to finish out their journey.

Some say it’s a pity that the line wasn’t constructed in standard gauge instead of narrow gauge. This would have done away with the necessity of trans-shipment of goods at Ennis. The Swiss who are acknowledged expert rail builders have no problem conforming with both gauges. Their solution is to transfer the narrow gauge wagons, intact onto broad gauge bogies. Imagine all the work involved in transferring beet from one wagon to another at Ennis, for trans-shipment to the Tuam or Carlow sugar factories. A proposal was made in 1936 to widen the gauge from 3 feet to the standard 5 feet 3 inches, but this came to nothing despite much debate which carried on until the 1940’s. I think £23,000 of a loss in the 60’s was not an enormous loss to bear.

The fact that C.I.E. scheduled buses to leave Kilrush and Ennis at the same time as the train, did not help either. The door to door deliveries by ever increasing numbers of lorries, owned by the manufacturers of goods and providers of services, seemed more efficient than deliveries by train and horse cart by the local carrier. The outcome of all these changing trends, was that the business community did not give enough support to their railway.” [10: p31]

“At this time it was normal practice for maintenance at the stations to be carried our by a pool of C.I.E. tradesmen based in Limerick or Ennis. Picture the scenario, a burst pipe in Miltown has to be repaired. A plumber would leave Limerick at 9 a.m. and connect with the 11 a.m. West Clare at Ennis, arriving at Miltown at noon. After a long and slow trip from Limerick, tea is first the order of the day naturally. Work would begin at 1.30pm and cease at 3.30pm in order to wash and shave for the trip home on the 4 o’clock train. Of course if it were a big job the trades men stayed over- night in the town. Economy how are you? I could not understand the logic of it. For years my Dad tried to rectify this wastage of time and money by C.I.E., by getting this maintenance done by local tradesmen. It worked eventually when they saw light at the end of the “tunnel.” Actually we had no “tunnels” on the West Clare line! There is no use in crying over spilt milk!

Because Miltown was once a terminal station on the West Clare Railway, provision was made for engine drivers to sleep over- night at the station and so a bedroom and kitchen was provided for them. During my Dad’s term at Miltown there was no need for this facility, the line having been extended as far as Kilkee and Kilrush. The kitchen continued to be used to make that extraordinary, wonderful sweet tea in a billy-can by various tradesmen. A small double-sided tin containing on the one side tea and on the other side sugar was emptied into the boiling water in the billy-can together with milk. The ensuing beverage was out of this world to us as youngsters. Potatoes were often half boiled by us also in the billy-can and with a pinch of salt and lump of butter, those potatoes tasted far superior to anything cooked at home.

The bedroom, which at this stage was rough and ready was used to store the turf which came from Shragh bog. The wagon of turf arrived at Miltown station on the up-line on the 3.35 p.m. goods train. All hands were on the platform in a mad scramble to get the wagon emptied of it’s fuel before the passenger train’s arrival at 5.30pm.

The Shragh bog yielded sods of turf that were really massive, some were 4 inches square by 14 inches long and had to be broken with a hatchet in order to fit into the grate of the stanley range. In a way it was like the steam engine, as one had to have a really hot fire going, to get enough heat in the oven for baking, so you had to be a good stoker as well as a good cook. This breaking of the turf was one of the Saturday morning chores to be done by either my brother Michael or myself.

During and immediately after the 2nd World War, spare parts for the engines as well as fuel were in short supply. The steam locomotives were “rag order” for want of spending a bit of money on them. About this time saw anthracite for the first time being used on the locomotives. We called them “duck eggs” because of their shape.” [10:p32]

“In 1945, C.I.E. had taken over responsibility for The West Clare Line from The Great Southern Railway Company. A report first published in 1948 (Milne Report)  gave the hint of possible closure of the West Clare branch of C.I.E. The closure was postponed and it was decided to modernise the roIling stock by dieselisation. This took place between the years 1952-1955. First to appear were 4 diesel rail-cars which resembled buses on railway wheels, and these were augmented by 3 diesel locomotive for goods haul. Thus, the West Clare was the only narrow-gauge railway in Britain or Ireland to be fully under diesel power.” [10:p32-33]

“I remember going for a trial run on the first railcar that was delivered. The railcar was driven by an engineer from Dublin, a Mr Curran whom Dad thought was going to derail the “blasted” thing it was going so fast. It handled very well and did not derail. About the age of ten or twelve, I often  stood in the cab of the goods engine when the fireman, Joe Carmody was shunting and I remember the driver, John Hartney taking a break for his cup of tea. On the railway line down to Clonbony river having passed the distant signal, I would turn the wheel for reverse, ease the regulator gently forward to open and so begin shunting. Of course I threw the few shovels of coal into the firebox as well as helping to take on water, for they were all thirsty “old ladies” as locomotives were called.

I “worked” with Micko Conway and his gang of permanent way men, picking weeds and general cleaning up for a period of a few months after school in the evenings. Every Friday, I queued with the men for my wages. Dad had my name pencilled into the wages book, and paid me the wage of 6d a week, for which I was very grateful. I honestly believed I would not get any “wages” if I did not put in my stint with the men.

Generally the trains ran on time but from time to time the odd cow straying onto the line delayed us. It was deemed necessary to monitor wind speed in areas exposed to Atlantic gales. An anemometer was erected at Quilty for the purpose of measuring the wind velocity. If it exceeded 60 miles an hour, only stock that was ballasted could run. If winds were over 80 miles per hour, the trains were stopped. Ballasting took the form of large concrete slabs placed under the seats to weigh down the carriages. A gale of 112 mph was reportedly recorded here in January 1927.” [10:p33]

One evening, the 5.30 p.m. train approached the spot now occupied by the Rinseen Ambush Monument, a carriage door opened and a baby left on the floor near the door tumbled out. The distraught mother had to endure the next five minutes until the halt of the train on its arrival at Miltown station, where she reported the accident, was comforted by fellow passengers as she waited in agony for Dad and his search party to return. An hour elapsed and the party returned with the baby. As luck would have it, the baby, having fallen into a clump of bushes, luckily escaped with only minor superficial scratches and was re-united to the loving arms of its mother, no doubt to be minded and cosseted for the rest of its life after such a scare.” [10:p33-34]

“Amongst the droves of boys who went to “The Brothers” by train in Ennistymon for their daily dose of education, admittedly there were some adventurers in the bunch. I recall Eugene who could change carriages by walking on the running board outside the carriage while the train was in motion. Invariably this would happen on leaving the station at Ennistymon before the train had time to pick up speed. To the best of my memory none of the school-going boys had an accident except Paddy Griffin whom I previously mentioned.

One day I had the desire to be as good as the big boys and try my hand at smoking. I bought ten Woodbines to smoke on the way home on the train. Knowing I had about half an hour to experience the joy of being grown up, like the big boys, but there was one snag, I had to have them all smoked before I got home. In the process I got violently sick having almost “eaten the packet.” That experience cured me of the desire to smoke and thankfully I have never smoked since.

Dad was well liked by the travelling public and went out of his way to accommodate everybody especially those with sparse means. One old lady who travelled to Ennistymon to visit the dispensary and collect her pension used to sleep in one of the waiting rooms overnight because she was afraid of missing the train. A breakfast of tea and bread was often provided for her by Dad.

The senior schoolboys when they got good jobs on leaving school, were often canvassed later by Dad for private insurance. I remember being told after landing my first job to take out life cover but not to stretch myself. That I did, taking out a policy for £300 over a period of 30 years, a princely sum no doubt. The insurance inspectors who came from the Norwich Union Head Office in Galway were always remarking on Dad’s knowledge of the whereabouts of every man, woman and child and even the animals. They would jokingly say, that if he did not know where two bonhams (baby pigs) came from, he knew what creel they came from.” [10: p34]

“Michael Tynan, father of Maureen Ryan (nee Tynan), Ennis, and my father both worked in the Limerick Goods Department of G.S.R. and both applied for the position of Station Master in Miltown. My father got the position, but shortly after Michael Tynan was appointed to Kilkee.” [10: p34-35]

“Miltown Station, in common with all other stations on the West Flare did not have a telephone line to the outside world. Telephone communication only existed between stations, and only very important calls were made to Kingsbridge as this entailed making a trip to the local post office, which was run by Mrs Hynes.” [10: p35]

Gabriel Vaughan concludes:

“On January 31st 1961 the last train returned to Ennis, driven by Paddy Hanrahan whom at the time was I think one of the younger drivers on the line and so ended a history of 76 years. It was a very sad day for all Clare people and is looked back on with great regret. The much loved West Clare had a very short life and was mourned by many. It served its people well and I, like many others, retain many happy and much cherished memories of the West Clare. What a tourist attraction even a section of the restored line would be today!. Full marks to the Moyasta group headed up by Joe Taylor who intends restoring a section of the line.

It was sad indeed to come back from Switzerland in January 1961 to witness the end of an era – the closure of The West Clare Railway after 76 years.” [10: p35]

In reality, all of these rural lines had no long-term future once the motor-car and larger road-going vehicles began to hold sway. Co. Clare was still losing population and emigration was increasing. There was just not enough traffic and the line was eventually and inevitably closed on January 31st, 1961. [18]

Locomotives and Rolling Stock

The original estimated cost of the West Clare Railway was £176,000 which included £23,000 for rolling stock and repair shops. The Grand Jury allocated £170,000 and the Board of Works reduced the element for rolling stock and repair shops to £21,000. At ratepayers insistence the Privy Council then reduced the overall budget to £163,500.

The original estimate for the South Clare Railway was £127,300 which included £10,000 for rolling stock and repair shops. The Grand Jury and then the Privy Council whittled the principal sum down to £120,000. [1]

The net effect of this pairing back of the budget was the need for the board of the company to cut back investment on the infrastructure and rolling stock.

The issue was further exacerbated by some of the financial constraints placed on the operating company by the legislation under which the lines were built. The two companies ” were not allowed to issue fresh capital or to borrow money not form a reserve fund and carry forward from one half year to another. If a profit was made in one half year and a loss in the second half of the year they were not allowed to put profit of one against loss on the other. Expenditure incurred in increase to rolling stock, renewals or improved facilities at stations had to be charged to working expenses of the half year in which they were effected. This finally led to such an absurd position that the Treasury saw the force of objections to it and they agreed to a certain sum being put aside each year towards renewals. A further provision and the one that caused the most controversy was that each year was divided into two portions and returns had to be made for the half years ending on 30th April and 31st October and the profits, if any, divided equally between the Treasury and the Company. If, however, there was a loss in any half year’s working although there may have been a profit in the other half year, the Treasury was not liable for their share of the loss and unfortunately for both railways there was what was termed a fat half year and a lean half year.” [1]

When assessed by the Railway Commission (1906-10), net receipts since the opening of the line were about £24,200, net expenses were about £20,300. A balance of around £3,900 should have gone to the relief of the guarantee, but owing to the provisions above, the Treasury receive a figure of £12,000 and the County Council carried a debt of £8,000. [1]

These factors meant that the amount of rolling stock needed for the effective operation of the line had to be significantly reduced. The planned repair depot had to be abandoned and repairs had to be undertaken elsewhere. The result was a 25% increase in repair costs and a much longer period of downtime associated with each repair. The effect of all this was an over use of stock and reduced life-spans for locos and rolling stock. [4]

It was originally intended to purchase totals of rolling stock across the two companies of:

18 third class coaches
8 composite coaches
3 first class coaches
6 brake vans
2 horse boxes
28 open wagons
43 covered goods
40 cattle wagons
17 ballast wagons
3 timber wagons

This level of provision was not actually reached until 1913. [5]

Until then, wagons were in short supply which led to a loss of revenue in the conveyance of turf, slates, kelp and livestock. There were also disputes with various individuals over the deterioration of goods left too long awaiting transport. [5]

Carriages were also in short supply particularly for excursion traffic in the summer months.

Passenger traffic in the first year of operation of the South Clare Railway, across the two companies was about 177,800. Five years later it was 201,000 and by the turn of the century it was around 211,000. The gradual increase in traffic volumes continued to a peak in 1908 of close to 236,300. After the war traffic levels were much lower averaging around 100,000. Numbers declined significantly in the GSR era and only saw an increase when the CIE adopted diesel working in 1952. [5]

In the year immediately prior to the introduction of diesel traction only 41,000 people were carried. By 1960, this has risen to around 120,000. [6]

Goods and minerals traffic reached its peak in the 5 years before the Great War, averaging, in those years, around 45,000 tons. Livestock carried peaked in the first 10 years of the 20th century at an average of over 40,000 tons. [7]

Steam Locomotives: There were a total of nineteen steam locomotives which worked on the West and South Flare Railways between 1886 and 1956. “Twelve were purchased by the West Clare Railway, four by the South Clare Railway, two came under CIE auspices from the Tralee & Dingle section, and one was a contractor’s engine.” [12] Loco 3C, Ennistymon, ex-Works. [19]

When writing in 1994, Patrick Taylor continued: “The average age of the steam locomotives when withdrawn was 40 years, but one had a very short life of only 13 years, and another lasted only one year longer. Two were still working after 64 years, when the system changed over to diesel. All were six-coupled tank engines, and with but two exceptions, originally carried both number and name. One has been preserved at Ennis.” [12] It remained at Ennis until 1996.Above, locomotive Slieve Callan on a plinth at Ennis Station. In 1996, in dramatic circumstances, the 40-tonne Slieve Callan was lifted off this plinth at Ennis railway station despite the efforts of protesters and taken to Moyasta in West Clare. [16][17]

Adjacent, locomotive No. 2C at Ennistymon in 1940. [20]

It appears that a contractor’s engine was not a six-coupled but a four-coupled engine. ‘Sponden’ was owned by Murphy’s contractors. It was built in 1878 at the Hunslet works in Leeds. Its original owners were Benton & Woodrow Contractors of Audenshaw, Manchester. This is a local connection for me, writing as I am at the moment in Ashton-under-Lyne. This loco arrived as deck cargo at Kilrush on 26 the April 1891, to assist on the construction of the South Clare line. previously, Murphy had been using one of the West Clare Bagnalls and continued to do so occasionally throughout the construction of the South Clare. [14]

Chapter 7 of Taylor’s book on the West Clare Railway [13] describes the locomotives on the West Clare in great detail. It would not be appropriate to reproduce that detailed work here, the book is easily purchased secondhand via a variety of sources.

Diesel and Other Traction: It has been suggested that the “West Clare had a self-propelled inspection car. However, the Great Southern Railway introduced one in 1925, and followed this with two passenger carrying railcars in 1927.” [12] It was the early 1950s which saw a major change in traction on the West Clare – three diesel locomotives and four diesel railcars were purchased by the CIE. These were:

3386 diesel railcar by Walkers of Wigan 1952.

3387 diesel railcar by Walkers of Wigan 1952.

3388 diesel railcar by Walkers of Wigan 1952.

3389 diesel railcar by Walkers of Wigan 1952.

F501 Bo-Bo diesel locomotive by Walkers of Wigan 1955.

F502 Bo-Bo diesel locomotive by Walkers of Wigan 1955.

F503 Bo-Bo diesel locomotive by Walkers of Wigan 1955. [3]

Before focussing on diesel traction it is worth giving some thought to petrol! Proposals were considered in West Clare days to make use of ‘motors’. These came to nothing, although late in January 1907 estimates were obtained for a motor and parcels van. In 1927 the GSR authorised the purchaseof two petrol cars for the West Clare section. They initially intended these to be 25-30hp but this was increased after advice from their builder to 40-45hp because of the gradients on the line. The cars were ordered from the Drewery Car Company Limited (Order No. 2800 of 20th April 1927), but were made by Baguley Engineers Limited of Burton-on-Trent, through a working agreement between the two Companies. These four-wheel cars were numbered 395 and 396. [15]The Drury Petrol Railcars (above) entered service for the GSR in October 1927 and ran the Kilkee branch services on the West Clare section until they were both withdrawn in 1936. They were transferred to the GSR works at Inchicore in 1939 and scrapped in 1943. [21] No. 396 is shown above at Kilkee in around 1930. The crew are Frank O’Brien and M. Jinan © A.W. Croughton, Real Photographs. [28]  The adjacent image shows the excellent model made by Dirk Shrapnel for the Trawbreaga Bay Light Railway. [21]

The Walker Bo-Bo Diesel locos: These locos became the standard motive power for goods trains in the last years of the West Clare Railway and could also be seen at the head of mixed/passenger services. “These Córas Iompair Éireann (CIE) 501 Class locomotives were built in 1955 by Walker Brothers Limited of Wigan, Lancashire for use on the narrow gauge (3 ft or 914 mm) lines on the West Clare section of CIÉ. They were small diesel mechanical locomotives, of 0-4-0+0-4-0 wheel arrangement. Controlled from a central cab the locomotives had two Gardner engines of 224 hp (167 kW), one under each end casing, driving through a fluid coupling and Wilson gear box the inner axle of the opposite bogie, through a spiral-bevel-reverse and reduction gear box. Unusually the locomotives were driven from a seat mounted sideways to the direction of travel giving a clear field of vision both ways by a mere turn of the head. The locomotives were fitted with vacuum brakes, emergency braking coming from a “deadman’s” pedal, one at the driving position and two others, one mounted on each side of the cab. When used on freight services their maximum speed was 40 kilometres per hour (25 mph), but with an overdrive fitted, released by a key, this was raised to 51 kilometres per hour (32 mph) for passenger trains.” [22]The F501-503 Bo-Bo series built by Walker Bros of Wigan. The drawing was undertaken by Ian Beattie and first produced in the Railway Modeller Magazine, (c) Peco Publications Ltd. [30]

“They were originally numbered C31-C33 in the West Clare steam locomotive series, but were subsequently renumbered into the diesel locomotive series as F501-F503. They were withdrawn in 1961 when the West Clare lines were closed and stored at Inchicore Works for seven years. The Isle of Man Railway made an offer for the locomotives which was rejected by CIÉ who subsequently made less money by selling them for scrap in 1968.” [22]Above, F502 at Ennis in 1962. [22]

Adjacent, F503 (c) Colour-Rail. [23]

Below right, all three locos F501 to F503 at Inchicore in 1966. They were broken up in 1968. (c )Peter Excell.[24]

J. Scarisbrick Walker and Brothers of Pagefield Ironworks, Wigan were iron-founders and general engineers. The company was founded by J.S. Walker in the 1870s and later joined with his two brothers, T.A. & E.R. Walker to form Walker Bros. (Wigan) Ltd in 1880.

About twenty steam locomotives were built. The company subsequently manufactured diesel railcars. [26]4mm model of Walker Diesel as used on the West Clare Railway built from a Worsley Works NG kit by Robin Winter. [8]A similar model of F501. [23]

The “three diesel locomotives were put into service to haul goods,turf, beet and livestock trains, and finally eliminate working. When passenger traffic was heavy, as on Fair days for example, they were also employed on passenger and excursion trains, and a small fleet of locomotive hauled coaches were retained for this purpose.” [31]

Walker Railcars: The four railcars in use on the West Clare were designed and built by Walker Bros (Wigan) Ltd. The same company supplied railcars/railmotors in a variety of gauges around the world. These included 40 railmotors supplied to Victorian Railways in Australia. [27]On 24th June 1959, two diesel railcars sit at the junction station at Moyasta. The one on the left has travelled from Kilrush, that on the right from Kilkee [11] Railcar 3389 at Moyasta in 1960 (c) Roger Joanes. [24]

The railcars were powered by “a Gardner 6LW diesel engine, driving through a ‘Don-Flex’ plate clutch, four speed Meadows gearbox, and thence through a Hardy-Spicer propeller shaft, to a Meadows worm gear final drive gearbox, on the rear axle of the bogie, the two pairs of wheels being coupled by conventional coupling rods. The bogies had inside frames.” [29]

“Each car had a maximum speed of 38.5 mph in top, 23.8 in third, 14.2 in second and 8.3 in first gear, the engines developing 107 bhp at 1700 rpm. Except at very slow speed (7 mph), the cars would work forwards only.” [29] New turntables had to be installed to turn the railcars. “Heating was from the engine cooling system, and this was the first time West Clare passengers had anything better than simple footwarmers. The cars weighed 11 tons in working order, and were capable of hauling, when necessary, a standard passenger coach, and a lightly constructed four wheel luggage car.” [29]Walker diesel railcar No. 286 – renumbered 3386 before entering service. The picture was taken during the final preparations for the railcar to be shipped from Inchicore to Ennis (c) Patrick Taylor. [29]

Carriages: for the opening of the West Clare Railway, “thirteen … coaching stock vehicles were purchased from the Bristol wagon & Carriage Works Company of Lawrence Hill, Bristol oder, which in its entirety was left in the hands of William Martin Murphy, as had been the case with the locomotives, consisted of three composites, six thirds and four brake vans. The original passenger carrying  coaches were six-wheelers, 30ft long and of James Cleminson’s patient, with the three sets of wheels and axles mounted on separate trucks, the central one of which was given considerable side play, being mounted slides. This truck was connected to its outer sisters by radius rods, themselves being pivoted about their centre. … There were only three other narrow gauge railways in Ireland that used the principle, the Ballycastle, West Donegal and the Londonderry & Lough Swilly, and only the latter continued to purchase such vehicles after the West Clare; doing so as late as 1899. After 1894, although continuing the use of six-wheelers, the West Clare abandoned building on the ‘Cleminson’ principle.” [32]

“The livery of the coach sides was green and the roofs white, the West Clare heraldic device being displayed in gold leaf on the second and fifth doors of the thirds, and the second and fourth of the composites, and on each door the class was clearly denoted. On the panelling between the roof, and the doors and windows, immediately under the cant rail, the words West Clare Railway appeared.” [32]

Of the four brake vans, two were 30ft long with an under-carriage to match the six-wheel coaches, and two were four-wheelers.

As the latter years of the 19th century unfolded, it became clear that the passenger stock needed to be augmented. Eight additional items were ordered. Five arrived before the South Clare was opened, three after. The first five consisted of two thirds, one composite and two brake vans. The remaining three were two composite coaches and one third.

For the South Clare, six more carriages were purchased. All coaches came from the Bristol company and apart from their lettering were almost identical to those built for the West Clare.

About the turn of the century, around the time Grand Juries gave way to County Councils, there were complaints about inadequate provision for excursion traffic. The Metropolitan Carriage & Wagon Company were commissioned to build two coaches. These were the last ordered from outside contractors.

In 1904, the Company workshops in Ennis were commissioned to build a brake-third and one third class coach. In 1905, a further three coaches, two thirds and a first, were commissioned. Ennis completed all five coaches in a little under 15 months. [33]

In 1909, Ennis built another six-wheel brake van, this time for use on ballast trains. In 1910, two more brake-third were built. “In addition, … two service vehicles were built at Ennis. … In 1905, four wheeled brake van No. 12 was rebuilt as a cattle wagon, taking a new number, No. 93, in the wagon list. A new No. 12 in the coaching stock list was built at Ennis. … In 1908, the other four wheeled brake van No. 2, was rebuilt as another wagon, and took the No. 143 in the wagon list. The new No. 2, also a four wheeler, … was a Directors Inspection Saloon.” [34]

“For the remainder of it independent existence, the railway had 38 coaching stock vehicles, but it was common practice at times of heavy demand, race meetings and the like, to provide additional seating in the brake compartments, and sets of forms were kept for this purpose.” [35]

When the Tralee and Dingle closed to passenger traffic in 1939, the GSR moved 12 bogie coaches to the West Clare. They were number 39C to 50C respectively. The bulk were third class coaches.

In 1951, when CIE introduced diesel railcars, three coaches, Nos 46C, 47C and 48C were converted at Inchicore into railcar trailers. They were given old omnibus bodies and had electric lighting fed from a 12V battery. Three four wheel light weight luggage vans were also built for use with the railcars. These were given Nos 187C, 188C and 190C. [35]

In 1953, the Tralee & Dingle closed completely and two brakevans arrived on the West Clare from the Tralee & Dingle. In 1954, two West Clare coaches were transferred to the Cavan and Leitrim (Nos. 42C and 52C. In 1957, 18 vehicles were withdrawn. In 1958 brake vans Nos 38C and 41C were withdrawn. In 1959, three four wheel vehicles and brake No. 36C were withdrawn. Further minor changes occurred before full closure of the West Clare in 1961, specifically including the transfer of two coaches from the Cavan & Leitrim (one of which was 42C). [36]6-wheel tourist coach No. 35 [9]1:22.5 model of West Clare Railway Brake Van 17c. [2]1:22.5 model of West Clare Railway Bogie- Coach No. 42c. [2]

Wagons: The wagon stock for the opening of the line was also ordered by Murphy and supplied by the Bristol Company. [36] 65 wagons were ordered (15 low side open, 25 covered, 10 covered cattle, 12 ballast and 3 flats). Ten wagons were ‘convertible’ which meant that they had an open centre-portion to the roof which could be covered by canvas.

For the opening of the South Clare in 1892, the Bristol Company supplied a further 21 wagons (6 convertible and 15 cattle). [36]

The next increase in stock came in 1899, when 10 covered wagons were supplied by the Bristol Company. With the opening of the workshops at Ennis, wagon construction started. The first wagons were built in 1902 (6 large open wagons suitable for cattle and turf. In 1904, a further 17 wagons  were built for the cattle traffic. Then, one covered cattle wagon in 1905 and two large open wagons in 1907. In 1908, six luggage vans were built for passenger trains and a further cattle wagon was provided. In 1911, another six covered goods wagons were built. Then six open coal wagons in 1912 and a further 5 covered wagons. In 1913, the last batch of wagons was built while the Company was independent – 10 covered cattle wagons.  [37]At Ennistymon on 28 July 1952, locomotive No 9C is on the 9:58 am goods from Kilrush with a typical rake of wagons. The loco is taking water. Driver Tom Reidy is on the engine, (c) C.L. Fry. [38] 1:22.5 model of West Clare Horsebox No.28c. [2] 1:22.5 model of West Clare Railway open Wagon 134c. [2]1:22.5 model of West Clare Railway open Cattle Wagon 79c. [2]

The GSR closed the Ennis workshops soon after it took over the West Clare. Between 1925 and 1929, 46 wagons were withdrawn (15 covered, 10 cattle, 19 open, 1 flat and 1 timber). 50 new wagons commissioned from Inchicore started to arrive on the West Clare in April 1929. These were 17 covered, 15 cattle and 18 open wagons. After the closure of the Cork & Muskerry in 1934 13 open goods wagons were transferred to the West Clare – the first foreigners! These had non-standard couplings and so were semi-permanently coupled in rakes. [39]

On closure of the Cavan & Leitrim in 1959, 25 wagons arrived on the West Clare, 18 open and 7 covered. All surviving wagons were scrapped on closure of the West Clare, with the exception of a few sold to Bord na Mona. [39]


  1. Patrick Taylor; The West Clare Railway; Plateway Press, 1994, p53.
  2., accessed on 10th July 2019.
  3., accessed on 10th July 2019.
  4. Patrick Taylor; op.cit., p55
  5. Ibid., p57.
  6. Ibid., p58
  7. Ibid., p59.
  8., accessed on 10th July 2019.
  9., accessed on 10th July 2019.
  10. Gabriel Vaughan; My Affair with Malbay; ColourBooks Ltd, 2000.
  11., accessed on 10th July 2019.
  12. Patrick Taylor; op.cit., p77.
  13. Ibid., p77-122.
  14. Ibid., p107.
  15. Ibid., p111.
  16., accessed on 12th July 2019.
  17. (2nd July 2009), accessed on 12th July 2019.
  18., accessed on 12th July 2019.
  19., accessed on 12th July 2019.
  20., accessed on 13th July 2019.
  21., accessed on 16th July 2019.
  22., accessed on 16th July 2019.
  23., accessed on 16th July 2019.
  24., accessed on 5th May 2019.
  25., accessed on 16th July 2019.
  26., accessed on 16th July 2019.
  27., accessed on 16th July 2019.
  28. Taylor: op.cit., p111.
  29. Ibid., p124.
  30. Ibid., p119.
  31. Ibid., p117.
  32. Ibid., p123.
  33. Ibid., p128.
  34. Ibid., p132.
  35. Ibid., p134.
  36. Ibid., p139.
  37. Ibid., p143.
  38. Ibid., p60.
  39. Ibid., p148.

British Standard Steam Locomotives

I have been reading though copies of 1950 and 1951 editions of The Railway Magazine. This has given me the opportunity to read some really interesting articles. Most of the ones that I have chosen to reflect on have been about narrow gauge lines. Just occasionally I have strayed onto the standard gauge.

This post is perhaps the exception that proves that rule. 1951 was the year of the new Standard Types of Locomotive which the newly formed British Railways sought to develop. The Railway Magazine carried an article based on a paper by Mr E.S. Cox, Executive Officer (Design), Railway Executive, read before the Institution of Locomotive Engineers on 21st March 1951. [6]

We start this post with a copy of that article. [1]British Railways came into being in 1948 and a decision was taken at the time to construct a range of “standard” steam locomotives. Cecil Allan states that “in the interests of economy standardisation of new types for the whole country obviously was desirable with dimensions and weight so planned as to give each new type the widest possible range of action”. The principal progenitors of the locomotives were:

  • R.A. Riddles – Railway Executive member for mechanical engineering
  • E.S. Cox – locomotive design
  • E.S. Bond – building and maintenance

The parent design office was Derby but, as in the case of other B.R. standard locomotives, all the Regional drawing offices contributed to various sections of the design.

The decision to build steam locomotives of a new design still causes controversy to this day. There are at least 3 different arguments

  • The new build could have been from existing steam locomotive designs.
  • As prototype diesels were being built, full scale dieselisation should have been the choice. The counter argument was that diesel engineering in the UK was still at an early stage and the importing of American technology was politically undesirable. Later events in the 1950s with the introduction of diesels would prove that this was an option to avoid in the late 40s.
  • Electrification. This was Riddles’ long term choice but the technology was still evolving in 1948. The Woodhead line electrification proceeded after the Second World War but this used 1500V DC. A decision to adopt 25kV AC electrification as standard was adopted in 1956. Proceeding with full scale electrification in 1948 would have chosen the wrong technology.

A series of trials was held in 1948 to ascertain the qualities of the existing locomotive stock. Unfortunately the scope and purpose of the trials were not clearly defined to the loco crews and there were widely differing results. [3]

E.S. Cox, the author of the paper reported in The Railway Magazine, was the author of an historic Ian Allan publication which received its latest reprint in 1973 in paperback – “British Railways Standard Steam Locomotives.”

BR’s attempt to harmonise its locomotive designs was a very significant project. E.S. Cox was at the very heart of the project in his role as Executive Officer for Design on the former Railways Executive, who worked with two other former LMS (London Midland Scottish) men – Robert Riddles and Roland C. Bond to bring about standardisation.

E.S. Cox was the lead design engineer in the team that headed British Railways in the 1950s. The war years had left the railways in a poor state and many new locomotives were required. That team, says R. Holt, “drew on the best features from the Big Four Railway companies that preceded nationalisation, and built a complete set of locomotives that covered every requirement for freight and passenger, local and long distance, and light and heavy work. … The result was a set of locomotives that were strong, efficient, economical and easy to maintain. The names of Cox, Riddles and Bond are not perhaps as well known as the like of Stanier, Churchward, Gresley and Bulleid, yet they contributed the final chapter of British Steam power.” [4]

In his preliminary discussion of the pros and cons of locomotive standardisation, the author describes a number of previous exercises in this field prior to 1948.

The main part of his book relates the inception, development and design of this final range of British steam engines. It follows closely the lives of those locomotives through construction, testing and performance on the line. The book also covers such matters as maintenance, teething troubles and costs.

In dealing with these locomotives, Cox sheds light on the last days of steam, and makes many interesting comparisons with the final designs of the LMS, LNER, GWR and SR with which the BR engines had to compete. “Cox … is … honest and quite critical of things that they did wrong, and yet obviously proud of what they achieved in such a short time.” [5]

The book ends with some original thoughts on what trends design might have followed had nationalisation never taken place, or had the triumph of the diesel been delayed for another decade or more.

It has been commented that, “The designers of the standard locomotives under Riddles are unfairly castigated these days for sticking to steam rather than pursuing diesel and electric traction. Actually, all they were guilty of was not having the benefit of hindsight that we now have! We can sit in our armchairs now and look back and know exactly what should have been done. … This is … unfair, and … Cox goes a long way in this book to explain the reasons behind the decisions taken, along with their instruction from government and higher bodies. He is a good writer, … the development of these locomotives [was] … the pinnacle of steam development in this country, and it’s a great pity that a change of government stopped the plan mid-way, and set in motion the half baked modernisation plan that was to result in the mad rush to dieselisation that virtually bankrupted BR.” [5]

In parallel with this standardisation process there was a significant programme of scrappage. This, perhaps at least in part, might explain the lack of confidence in existing standard designs from the pre-BR companies. Most had been thrashed and not that well maintained during the Second World War.

Professor Alan Earnshaw states: “After the resumption of peace the railways were in a terrible state, the locomotive situation being one of the worse aspects. By the end of the 1940s some engines were still in use when, had it not been for the war, they would have been scrapped a decade earlier. The situation was initially alleviated by the arrival of the Riddles 2-8-0/2-10-0s and the Stanier 8F 2-8-0s, which had finally been released to the newly formed British Railways by the War Department. The British Railways Modernisation Plan, which included … 999 new steam locomotives … finally seemed to provide the answer to BR’s chronic lack of motive power. As these new machines became available, the faithful worn-out servants of the pre-Grouping era slid quietly into the back roads and thus into oblivion. They were soon to be followed by the old standard types of the Grouped companies.” [7]

The poor state of these older locomotives and their resultant performance figures was combined with a sense, manifest across the whole of society, that new, bigger, bolder and perhaps even brash was better than maintaining and improving of the old. This was after-all an era when many excellent railway buildings were destroyed to be replaced by what, with hindsight we can see, were considerable poorer structures. In the late 1950s and the 1960s, new was better and almost always associated without question with progress.



  1. The Railway Magazine No. 604, July 1951, p438-445 & p449.
  2. E.S. Cox; British Railways Standard Steam Locomotives; Ian Allan, 1973.
  3., accessed on 25th April 2019.
  4. R. Holt; Book Review;, accessed on 25th April 2019.
  5. Capelbond; Book Review;
  6. E.S. Cox; British Standard Locomotives; Journal of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers, Paper No. 502, Volume: 41 issue: 221, May 1951, p287-403.
  7. Professor Alan Earnshaw; Down in the Dumps: A prelude to the Scrapping of British Steam; in BackTrack Volume 11 No. 1, Atlantic Publishers, 1997, p45.


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:

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.


  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., accessed on 2nd July 2019.
  8. Lenihan, op.cit., p238.
  9. Ibid., p241.
  10. Ibid., p245.
  11., accessed on 4th July 2019.
  12., 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., accessed on 5th July 2019.
  20. Lenihan, op.cit., p258.
  21. Taylor, op.cit., p52.

The Cavan and Leitrim Railway – A Miscellany.

The Cavan and Leitrim Railway – A Miscellany.

A. ‘The Cavan and Leitrim Railway’ at Dromod:   is the preservation society hoping to create a line between Mohill and Dromod along the C&L’s old route. Over the years, that society has seen some great successes. Most recently, the bringing back to steam of the locomotive ‘Nancy’. The preservation society asked me to include the adjacent pictures in this post.

The first view shows the station in the late 1950s, (c) J.P. O’Dea. [4]

The second is taken  after the station buildings had been renovated in the early 1990s, (c) C&L 1992. [5]

That below shows the station from the West, (c) Jonathon Clinton 2019. [5]One early success, alongside the renovation of the station building, was the rescue of the engine shed and water tower. This picture shows …….. (c) Philip Bedford March 28th 2019. [5]‘Nancy’ beside the water tower, (c) D. Connolly. [5]‘Nancy’ at Dromod Station platform, (c) Jonathon Clinton 2019. [5]

Wikipedia says: “The privately owned Cavan & Leitrim Railway is based in the former Dromod Station, in Co. Leitrim. There is a transport museum, with narrow-gauge trains of several gauges, buses, planes, fire engines and artillery guns from World War I and World War II. …….. With the help of volunteers trains are run on a short section of line. The Avonside steam locomotive “Nancy” was rebuilt at Alan Keef in Wales where it first steamed on 23 March 2019 after twenty years of restoration work. [6] The locomotive was shipped to Dromod where it now resides.” [7]

Best contact details:   

Address:      Clooncolry, Drumod, Co. Leitrim

Tel:                071 963 8599




B. Belturbet Heritage Railway:  the heritage centre in Belturbet sits at what was an interchange between the Cavan and Leitrim Narrow Gauge Railway (3ft) and the Great Northern Railway which was Irish standard gauge (5ft 3ins). The Great Northern (GNR) branch connected to Ballyhaise on the Clones to Cavan line. The Cavan and Leitrim (C&L), at Dromod, connected to the Midland Great Western Railway (MGWR) mainline from Dublin to Sligo. The line was extended to Arigna in 1920 in the form of a roadside tramway. [3]

The centre was once Belturbet Station and shared by the C&L and the GNR. It has been significantly refurbished from an overgrown and dilapidated state in the 1990s to a modern well equipped centre in the 2010s.[3]

The station buildings lay derelict for almost 40 years until the Belturbet Community Development Association purchased the entire 10 acre site in 1995. The buildings had during that time served as farmyard buildings and had been subjected to the effects of weather, fire and theft. They were subsequently refurbished to the original state with great attention to detail gained by reference to original plans drawn on silk. [3]

The original/restored Station Buildings include:

  • Main Station Building and Station Master’s House
  • Platform (Roof totally replaced)
  • Great Northern Railway Goods Shed (Extension added to the original building. Attempts had been made to remove part of the original building for safety reasons prior to restoration)
  • Cavan and Leitrim Railway Goods Shed (Effectively no restoration needed)
  • Engine Shed
  • Water Tower
  • Transhipment Shed

The Main Station Building contains a museum hosting an interesting collection of railway memorabilia and audiovisual footage of the Cavan and Leitrim railway and the restoration of the station itself. [3]The Great Northern Railway Goods Shed serves as a 120 person capacity conference hall and is used for business, social, sport, leisure and educational/training purposes. The Goods Store/Visitor Centre has  meeting & conference room facilities for rent. [3]The refurbished Station-house is on the right. The main GNR station building is directly ahead of the camera. [8]

Contact Details:     

Address:    Railway Road, Belturbet, County Cavan

Tel:      086 069 9749



C. Locomotives

An order was placed with Robert Stephenson & Sons of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1886 for 6 railway engines. The order was later extended to 8 locomotives. Four of these engines were fitted with condensing apparatus and modified for working on the tramway. The original order valued the locos at £1,100 each. The modifications cost £38 per engine. [1: p81]

“The first of the eight was delivered at Belturbet specially early, in May 1887, for the use of the contractor. With the exception of the second engine (which came to Dromod in June) all the engines reached the C&L via the GNR, the deliveries continuing until early in 1888.” [1: p81]

All the engines were 4-4-0Ts with stovepipe chimneys. The firebox crown sloped down towards the back of the engine to avoid the danger of uncovering on steep banks. The cabs had round front spectacles and rectangular ones at the back. The back also had an opening door to a height of 2ft 11ins which was used for coaling. Cowcatchers were provided and each engine carried as large headlamp. Probably all originally had a sloping cover below the smokebox door (as retained by No 3 till 1925) which was removed early on to make room for jacks and tool-boxes. [1: p82-83]

All the engines had the same dimensions. They weighed in excess of 25 tons and had makers’ numbers 2612-2619 in order. The last four were intended for use on the tramway and were externally quite different. Skirts were fitted over the wheels to 4in above rail height and extending the full length oif the frame. The back weather boards on the cxab were cut away arvthge csides and the forward facing spectacles could be opened. [1: p83]

Unusually, the tramway engines had a set of duplicate driving gear. This meantvthat the driver had full control of the engine while always being able to watch the road ahead. Flanagan says that “this provision of two sets of controls was unique, on Irish railways at any rate. As supplied, the tramway engines had the cowcatcher and the head-lamp at the back end and when the makers chose to photograph one of these as a mainline engine the catcher and the lamp were reversed and the U-pipe and exhaust-vent of the condensing gear, as well as the skirts, were removed. All engines ran in conflict with the 1884 Order in Council which specified a maximum axle-loading of eight tons.” [1: p83]The two different incarnations of the tramway engines. In the first picture we see the manufacturers photograph of No. 5, ‘Gertrude’ fitted as a mainline engine in 1887. It was then converted back so as to be supplied to work on the tramway. The tramway version is shown in the second picture above and has the cowcatcher and headlamp fitted behind, or in effect in front of, the cab. These engines were designed to be driven cab first. [1: between p100 & p101]Loco No. 8, Queen Victoria) heads an up coal special past Drumcong Post Office in 1957. A very photogenic location! [1: between p100 & p101]No. 3, Lady Edith in 1903. [1: in between p100 & p101]

The engines were named after the company directors’ daughters with the exception of one engine which was named for Queen Victoria. A variety of modifications were made to these engines over the years. These are all detailed by Flanagan [1: p84-89] and those details do not need to be repeated here. Nonetheless, despite modification,these engines struggled to cope with the heaviest livestock and excursion traffic of the early 1900s and by January 1904 the C&L was looking for a more powerful loco. The specification called for an 0-6-4T locomotive. Robert Stephenson and Sons tendered the lowest price of £1750 and promised delivery within 18 weeks. They were given the work. The order was placed on 7th July and the engine was tried on the line in steam on 28th October of the same year. [1: p89]

As soon as No. 9,’King Edward’, arrived it became the pride of the C&L fleet. It was considerably more powerful than the rest of the fleet, being able to take 24 wagons of cattle to market. However, it became a ‘white-elephant’ because its long rigid wheel-base tended to spread the running rails. A variety of different things were tried to address this but the ‘King’ continued to spread rails on tight curves. Eventually, it came to only be used in exceptional circumstances. “in December 1922, the board decided to offer it for sale. However, it was reported in 1923 that nobody was interested, and after that the ‘big engine’ spent most of its time at Ballinamore, leaving only for a very occasional jaunt on the main line. ” [1: p91]0-6-4T locomotive No. 9, ‘King Edward’ in ex-shop condition in 1904. [1: between p100 & p101]

The company considered buying other locos but it was some time before other engines were employed on the network. “The next ones to run on the line were ‘foreigners’ the tow hired by the Ministry of Transport in April 1920 for use in the conrtuction and working of the Arigna Valley Railway. Transferred temporarily to the C&L, they were originally Nos. 1 and 2 of the Ballymena, Cushendall & Red Bay Railway. Built at Black Hawthorn in 1874 and 1875 respectively, they were renumbered on various occasions, becoming 101A and 102A of the Northern Counties Committee in February 1920. … These little engines were very popular on the C&L and were amazingly sturdy machines. Probably as a result of excessive use on the C&L, their condition in June 1921 was poor and it was ordered that they be returned to the NCC at the end of Control. They returned north in November 1921 and were not used again. ” [1: p94-95]One of the two foreigners , No. 101A from the NCC was originally a Ballymena, Cushendall and Red Bay Railway engine. [1: between p100 & p101]

By the summer of 1924, No. 8 was no longer Queen Victoria. The name had become synonymous with colonial rule and after one false start the name plate was removed and destroyed. [1: p97]No. 8, Queen Victoria without her nameplates, pictured in 1924. [1: between p100 & p101]

Engine Livery: the basic C&L livery was dark green with lining consisting of “a three-quarter inch band with a much thinner line inside. The band was generally red and the line white but, depending on the taste of the locomotive superintendent or the painter, there were variations. For example, No. 7 had a red band but a black line, while the band on No.8 was yellow and the line light blue. Lined parts of the engine were the front and side of the tanks, the cab panels and back, and the sides of the cylinders. The smoke-box and the cover over the cylinders were in variably black.” [1: p97-98]No. 2, Kathleen in 1933 prior to its regular use on the Arigna Tramway. Flanagan says: “The engine has the flat Hunslett dome cover and is fitted with smoke-box lubricators.” [1: between p100 & p101] Two views of a model of No. 2, Kathleen in 00n3. This model was produced from a kit from Backwoods Miniatures which has been modified including a scratch-built rear cab sheet as the one in the kit was for the era prior to Kathleen being fitted out to run on the Arigna tramway. The original loco still exists at Cultra. These pictures were found on the website of Chester Model Railway Club. [16]A typical Arigna Coal train modelled in 00n3 with Kathleen at the head, also . [16]No. 4, Violet in 1932. Flanagan says: “The step on the [front of] the side tanks was a feature of this engine for a long time.” [1: between p100 & p101]This image of No. 1, Isobel is taken in 1931 at Dromod MPD and mirrors pictures above from the preservation era. [1: between p100 & p101]

At the amalgamation heavy excursion traffic was a thing of the past and the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland  was depleting the cattle traffic. However, the Arigna Coal traffic was substantial and growing steadily. Modifications were first made to the remaining members of the existing fleet of locomotive (1925). Heavy repairs were undertaken at Ballinamore until around 1932, after which such repairs were undertaken at Inchicore Works. Regular repairs kept 4 of the original 8 locos in use but their overall condition was deteriorating gradually and by 1951 no further havey repairs were undertaken. Flanagan says that “At the closure, the four remaining C&L engines were very run down. As the line was lifted, No. 8 was cut up in the shops in Ballinamore. The lifting of the Dromod line was done with Nos. 2 & 4, and in February 1960, No. 4 was cut up at Dromod. After a long wait, No. 2 was brought by road to the Belfast Transport Museum, where it no rests. The remaining engine, No. 3, was shipped to America by the Lady Edith Society.” [1: p116-117]No. 2, Kathleen at the Ulster Transport Museum, (c) Skimann . [9] Three shots, video stills of Lady Edith on shed at Pine Creek Railroad, New Jersey in 2017. [10]

The Lady Edith Society was a consortium of New York area railroad enthusiasts–Edgar T. Mead, Jr., Oliver Jensen and Roger E.M. “Frimbo” Whitaker. They pooled their money and in 1959 shipped to the U.S. the Lady Edith, a second locomotive, a passenger carriage from the Cavan and Leitrim, and later they were joined by a goods van and a brake van from the West Claire Railway. First displayed at Pleasure Island Amusement Park in Boston, Massachusetts, the equipment was moved to Freehold, NJ, then to Allaire in 1965. Lady Edith first steamed on 16th June 1966. It was serviceable up until around the millenium when it became apparent that the front flue sheet was too thin for safe operation. An $11,000 repair was put on hold when New Jersey adopted new regulations. [11]

The second locomotive was the former Cavan & Leitrim, ex-Great Southern Railway, nee-Tralee & Dingle 2-6-2T No. 5, which was brought over in 1959 to go to Edaville. Instead, it went to the Steamtown collection in 1961. It remained part of the Steamtown collection until 1986. In that year, it was purchased from the Steamtown Foundation and repatriated to Ireland by the Great Southern Railway Preservation Society, Ltd. It currently operates today on a restored section of the T&D between Tralee and Blennerville. [11]Above, Loco No. 5T is at Creagh on the afternoon Arigna train. [1: between p100 & p101].

In the adjacent image, which was frequently seen on postcards, No. 3T sits at Creagh on another Arigna bound train. [3]

Locomotives from Down South!

The Cork, Blackrock & Passage Railway (CBPR) closed in 1932. Four of its engines, built in 1900 by Neilson and Company, were 2-4-2T locos. They had maker’s numbers 5561-5564 and CBPR Nos. 4-7. By the middle of 1934 all four engines had been repaired either at Cork or Inchicore. The locos were renumbered Nos. 10L – 13L respectively and  arrived at the C&L in August and September of 1934. No. 11L did not last long and was scrapped in 1939 at Inchicore. After experimentation it was determined that these locos were not suited to the Arigna Extension. No. 13L was laid up at Inchicore in 1951 and scrapped in 1954. The two remaining CBPR locos lasted until the end of the C&L and were cut up in 1959. [1: p117-119]

The GSR considered supplementing C&L motive power with locomotives from  the Tralee & Dingle Line, the West Clare Line and the Schull & Skibbereen Line. All would have been within the loading gauge and turntable lengths. The most suitable proved to be those from the Tralee & Dingle Line. Four engines were sent from the Tralee & Dingle Railway (T&D) to the C&L. They came in numerical order over a period of 16 years.

“The first to come were Nos 3T and 4T in late 1941. The former was a Hunslett 2-6-0T of 1889 (maker’s number 479) and was one of the original T&D engines, having been delivered early to Robert Worthington for use in construction work. … This endine (and all other T&D engines except No. 4) was fitted with Walschaert’s valve gear. … The second engine to come in 1941, No. 4T, was … built by Kerr, Stuart & Company (No. 836) in 1903. it was a 2-6-0T to a standard maker’s design and resembled other engines supplied to various overseas railways. … It was not until 1949 that No. 5T went to Inchicore Works, … en-route to the C&L. On 10th November the following year, it was sent to Ballinamore to begin a nine-year spell of heavy duty. … Generally similar to No. 3T, it was a larger engine – a 2-6-2T – with longer boiler and firebox. Made by Hunslet in 1892, its number was 555. … No. 5T has a cow-catcher but this gradually worked loose and had a tendency to stick on the points. When this … happened one day in Drumshanbo yard the catcher was … removed for good. … The last of the Dingle engines, No. 6T, was identical with No. 3T in everything except age. However, as built (in 1898, Hunslet No. 677) it had no tramway fittings. … No. 6T … came to Inchicore and was condemned in March 1957 but was immediately reprieved  for the C&L coal traffic and went into service shortly afterwards. It ran the greatest mileage of all on coal specials, 1,312 miles in four weeks of April-Mat 1958.” [1: p120-122]

“On closure of the C&L, Nos 3T and 4T (with 10L) were used on the Belturbet lifting and were cut up on completion of the task; 6T (and 12L) went to the Dromod end and were also scrapped. 5T alone survived, being shipped to America.” [1: p122]

6T was the last steam locomotive in steam on the original C&L. 6T went on to haul lifting trains into 1960 and was scrapped in March. It seems as though 5T did operate at Blennerville in the States but is currently in pieces having not steamed in 10 years. [28]

D. Rolling Stock

Carriages: In 1886 the Company instructed the engineer to prepare specifications 8 composite, four third-class carriages and 6 brake vans. The carriages were to be long bogie vehicles. Automatic vacuum brakes were to be used.

In January 1887 the tender from the Metropolitan Carriage & Wagon Company in the sum of £10,554 was accepted and the chosen carriages were 40ft in length by 7ft in width and ran on two four-wheel bogies with 2ft diameter wheels.

The seating arrangement was “longitudinal, slatted, wooden seats in all third-class sections, and similar, black, leather-upholstered seats in the small central smoking first-class sections of the composites. The non-smoking firsts had swivel armchairs on one side and fixed armchairs on the other, dark blue upholstery being used. The accommodation was fifty in the thirds, thirty-four third class and fourteen first-class (six smoking) in the composites. The carriages weighed 7 tons 12cwt.” [1:p148-149]

Externally, “the overall painting was red-brown and there was a fine red line around the windows and panelling. Midway along the waist panel there was a gold transfer of the letters ‘C.L.& R.Ry’ and below was the number. They had open platforms at the ends, though the roof extended the full length of the frame. Protection was afforded by railings. … Lighting was by oil, with four lamps in each third and five in each composite, and the windows were fitted with blinds. No permanent form of heating was provided and in December 1887 two-dozen copper foot warmers were ordered. … In the early days … the foot-warmers were filled from large iron kettles … purchased by the traffic manager in January 1888.” [1: p149]C&L Loco. No. 5 on a board inspection train at Belturbet in the early 1900s. I guess that the bogie coach at the rear of the train would at least have had some first class accommodation! [1: between p100 & p101]

“The first coach, a composite, was delivered in July 1887. … The chief complaint made was that rain had freely found its way inside the coach and the locomotive superintendent was instructed to make a thorough inspection. He reported that the workmanship might have been a bit better in some respects but that, on the whole, the coach was fairly satisfactory. ” [1: p149]

Steam heating of the coaches was considered on a number of occasions but was not fitted. Internal alterations saw the removal of swivel chairs and their replacement with longitudinal bench seating in 1903. It was soon realised that the original coaches had a surfeit of first-class accommodation. It was decided in 1891 to convert two composites to thirds, however the work was not carried out until mid-1899. A third conversion was made in 1907. The possibility of adding a lavatory to No. 11, which was then being modified, was considered and rejected because the cost of £35 6s 6d was considered to be far too high.

“As traffic built up over the years, the carriage stock proved insufficient for the heavy demands made on it. Things came to a head in 1909 and it was then proposed that two new carriages be bought, but the plan had to be withdrawn  in the face of opposition from the council directors.” [1: p150] Further please were made at intervals for an increase in the number of carriages, but to no avail. The C&L made no further additions to is carriage stock.

“Very shortly after the formation of the GSR, plans were drawn up for a standard coach for all the acquired narrow-gauge lines. It would have been 40 ft long and 6ft 11 ins wide with longitudinal seating for 34 third-class passengers. There were to be two four-seater first-class compartments, the central one for smokers. Electric light was planned and entrance would be gained from inward-opening side doors at each end.” [1:p151] These plans came to nothing.

After an attempt at re-panelling of two C&L coaches both deteriorated rapidly, one was scrapped, the other was return with a replacement body made up of “two ‘N’-class single-decker bus bodies joined together in the middle, the original bus entrances being kept and new, similar ones provided opposite. … In appearance, the bus-coach was quite smart at first but it had some very distinct disadvantages. The roof leaked badly, there was no heating, … and although battery lighting was provided it was necessary to send the batteries to the Broadstone to for recharging.” [1: p152]Coach No. 7 of the C&L was re-bodied with a pair of bus bodies shunted together. [14]

Of the remaining two untouched coaches, the first was allowed to rot away until closure, the other, “a composite, was hauled into Ballinamore shops in 1958 and given a completely new body. It was second-class only and extended the full length of the frame, the familiar end platforms disappearing and inward-opening doors being provided instead. The edns were blocked off and there was no access from the next vehicle.” [1: p152]

“In 1954, the CIE made an effort to relieve the situation by giving the line its first ‘foreign’ coaches – two from the West Clare, though originally of Tralee & Dingle origin.” [1: p152]

Flanagan provides a full list of all the C&L carriages: [1:p153-154]

No I Composite: Derelict in GSR livery in Ballinamore to 1958. Then rebuilt in C&L shops as all-second. Transferred to West Clare in June 1959 and used in traffic and later as P.W. sleeping-car on lifting train. Body sold to Bord na Mona in Bellacorick, Co Mayo.

No 2 Composite: Converted to third 1900-07; written off 1950.

No 3 Composite: Converted to third 1900-07; written off 1950.

No 4 Composite: Sent by GSR to Inchicore for repairs; came back with ‘cardboard’ sides. Very little used on return. Frame again sent to Inchicore 1951 but scrapped there.

No 5 Composite: Converted to brake-composite 1945-6 and painted green. Panelling later covered with painted sheet aluminium. On closure sent to Dromod and later brought to Belfast Transport Museum.

No 6 Composite: Converted to brake-composite 1950. Little used at end (No 5 was regular tramway carriage). Body sold to Gaelic Athletic Association 1959 and now in use as changing-room at sports-field in Ballinamore.

No 7 Composite: Sent to Inchicore with No 4 by GSR. Also little used on return. Frame also sent to Inchicore 1951 for new body. Returned December 1953 as `bus-coach’. New body all-second. On closure, sent to Dromod and fittings removed. Sold to Bord na Mona in Lanesboro’, Co Longford.

No 8 Composite: Converted to third 1899; written off 1943.

No 9 Third: Written off 1943.

No 10 Third: Written off 1950.

No 11 Third: Lasted till closure (then scrapped) but, although used in 1949-50 period on tramway, had been derelict for years.

No 12 Third: Written off 1943.

Coach No. 12 was a third class coach. It is shown here newly repainted in 1931. [1: between p100 & p101]

In 2019, Flanagan’s list needs to be reviewed in the light of 50 years of further developments ….

Coach No. 1: Flanagan says that this was on the West Clare Railway for a short while. I have not been able to follow up on the subsequent history and demise of the coach. Worsley Works makes a kit of this coach and carry a picture of it circa 1959 in West Clare colours.Model of Coach No. 1, kit by Worsley Works, built by Simon Starr. [15]

Coach No. 5 (‘6’):  is shown in this early postcard from what was the Belfast Transport Museum. The card was part of a restoration appeal in the early 1960s. Have they got the number wrong? Or did Flanagan?cl-belfast-transport-museum-appeal-pcIn the days before the new Irish Transport Galleries were built at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum in Cultra, the collection was housed in a cramped old warehouse in Witham Street, Belfast. The carriage featured in this early 1960s card of Witham Street has since been fully restored and is on show at Cultra. [12] Further investigation suggests that the correct designation for the coach under renovation in Belfast was No. ‘5’. The Ulster Folk & Transport Museum now lists it as such. [13]Model of Coach No. 5, kit by Worsley Works, built by Simon Starr. [15]This image shows either Coach No. 5 or Coach No. 6 after conversion to a brake-composite. [1]The image above shows either Coach No. 5 or Coach No. 6 after conversion to a brake-composite, at Ballinamore. [17]

The adjacent image shows Coach No. 5 at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum and was found on the Chester Model Railway Club website. [18]

Below, there are two images of the interior of Coach No. 5, also sourced from the Chester Model Railway Club website. [18]

The first shows the interior of the 1st Class compartment. The second shows the interior of the 3rd Class compartment. Despite being more plush, the 1st Class compartment was no warmer than the 3rd Class compartment – neither had steam heating! [18]

Coach No. 6:  Was used as a changing room at Ballinamore. I have been unable to verify its life at Ballinamore after the closure of the C&L, nor have I found details of its demise.

Coach No. 7: Flanagan indicates that this coach was passed to the Bord na Mona Railways in Lanesboro’, Co Longford. This picture shows Coach 7L dumped at BnM Mountdillon Works near Lanesborough in 1970, © A. Wilson. [29]The carriage was purchased as a chassis minus it’s body by the Irish Steam Preservation Society in 1972 and moved to Stradbally where it was shortened and the bogie centres relocated to shorted it to 20ft and allow it negotiate the curves of the line, © Ernie Shepherd. [29]7L in 2018 at Stradbally Railway Works it’s 1973 body still going strong and 1887 underframe and bogies with CL&RR axleboxes retained. [29]

Other Coaching Stock: The C&L had 6 brake vans which measured 15ft 6ins in length and 7ft in width. Panelling on the brake vans originally matched that on the coaching stock. As built they had a birdcage lookout at one side. Once refurbished the birdcage lookout was lost and the sides were panelled in Aluminium.Brake Van no 17L after cladding with aluminium, also at Ballinamore. [17]

There were just two horse boxes and high were numbered 19 and 20. They carried a dark blue livery with white lettering.The two horse boxes were number 19 and 20. This is No. 20. The picture was taken in 1949. [1: between p100 & p101]

The C&L had two milk vans to cater for creamery traffic. They were also in dark blue livery but we’re also fitted as brake vans and could often be seen acting in that capacity.This image shows a model in 00n3 of one of the milk vans in its later livery with CIE. The image comes from the Chester Model railway Club website. [16]

Timber trucks were provided, just 2, which also were designated as coaching stock.

“At its peak, the C&L coaching stock comprised twenty-five vehicles, if which half were carriages.” [1: p155]

Foreign Coaches: vehicles were transferred from the Tralee & Single. There were two, numbered 21L and 22L. The former was a 30ft. composite coach, the latter was originally a brake third but converted to a van in 1940. 21L was renovated internally on arrival at Ballinamore and again in 1959, when it was sent to the West Clare for further use. [1: p155]This picture comes from the Chester Model Railway Club website [16] and shows, to the right, vehicle 22L referred to above, modelled in 00n3 scale. In addition, the picture includes two wagons used on the C&L which are referred to below.

Wagons: The C&L first considered wagons in October 1886. The order which was finally placed with Metropolitan [20] was for “forty open, forty covered and twenty cattle wagons. In addition, two timber trucks were obtained. Of the covered wagons, half were close-roofed and the rest were ‘convertibles’, that is, they had an open centre portion in the roof and could be used for cattle. When used formgoods, tarpaulin covers were employed. The original numbers were  1-40 open; 41-80 goods; 81-100 cattle; 101-102, timber.” [1: p156]Convertible Wagons at Dromod. [19]

Later, in 1888, six ballast wagons were purchased from the Bristol Carriage & Wagon Co. [22] This number was insufficient. The traffic manager asked for 20 more. The board decided on seven, which were purchased in 1889 from Metropolitan. [20] By 1893, the traffic manager was again asking for an increase in allocated stock. The board chose to take no action. It was not until the C&L began building it’s own wagons at Ballinamore that the stock was increased. The first wagon out-shopped from Ballinamore was an open wagon which was in use by 1899. This was followed by two convertibles. [1: p156]

In 1903, an order for a further 20 convertibles was placed with R & Y Pickering of Glasgow. [24] This was followed, in 1911, by a further order for 10 open and 10 covered wagons from the same supplier. (The traffic manager had requested 50 of each type!) This was the last significant sized order to placed outside the company and indeed the only new wagons after this date are listed by Flanagan as: “one open wagon, … built in 1913, a second in 1917, and two timber trucks (to supplement the original pair for the Dromod-Bawnboy timber traffic) in 1918; all were built at Ballinamore.” [1: p157]

Flanagan also provides general details of all of the wagon types and of various re-numberings which took place. The wagon livery was grey with black ironwork. Lettering and numbering were in white. The ballast wagons were the only exceptions, having a special yellow livery of their own; lettering was in black.” [1: p158] All wagons were 15ft 6ins long and 7ft wide. They had a 7ft wheelbase with 2ft diameter wheels.

As the years progressed a series of ‘foreign’ wagons arrived at the C&L. twenty were borrowed from the NCC by the Ministry of Transport, arriving in 1920. In 1934, thirty-eight open wagons were transferred to the C&L, all but six came from the Passage line. The remaining six appear to have been built new at Inchicore, although it is actually more likely that they were new bodies on old Cork & Muskerry wagons. With the wagons came two goods brake vans of Passage origin.

In 1942, a further 12 wagons came to the C&L from the Clogher Valley Railway, 8 open and 4 covered. No further wagons were added until 1953 when the Tralee & Dingle closed and three ballast wagons were transferred to the C&L. Finally, in 1957, a total of 10 wagons (8 Muskerry and 2 Clogher Valley) were sent to Ballinamore from the West Clare. Many of the wagons transferred in the latter years of the C&L saw little use as they had coupling problems and/or were in poor condition. [1: p159-162]

Other Stock: The C&L had two locomotive department service vehicles – a hand operated accident crane (ex Cowan & Sheldon) [25] which arrived in 1887 and a wooden four-wheeled bogie which was used for moving equipment around the Ballinamore yard and for moving coal to Corgar. [1: p163]


  1. Patrick J. Flanagan; The Cavan & Leitrim Railway; Pan Books, London, 1972.
  2.×4-Black-White-photo-prints-/292954701892, accessed on 5th June 2019.
  3., accessed on 7th June 2019.
  4., accessed on 8th June 2019.
  5. The series of images was sent to me by Darragh Connolly of the C&L. Those not credited to others are C&L copyright.
  6.  “Industrial Notes and News”. Bulletin. 1031. – Industrial Railway Society. accessed in May 2019. p. 13.
  7., accessed on 5th June 2019.
  8., accessed on 6th June 2019.
  9.”KATHLEEN”.jpg, accessed on 22nd June 2019.
  10., accessed on 22nd June 2019 and shown beneath these references.
  11., accessed on 22nd June 2019.
  12., accessed on 25th June 2019.
  13., accessed on 25th June 2019.
  14., accessed on 25th June 2019.
  15., accessed on 25th June 2019.
  16., accessed on 26th June 2019.
  17., accessed on 26th June 2019.
  18., accessed on 26th June 2019.
  19., accessed on 26th June 2019.
  20. The Metropolitan Railway Carriage and Wagon Co. of Saltley Works, Birmingham was registered in 1862 by Joseph Wright and Sons with a nominal capital of £100,000. In 1864, that share capital was increased to £200,000. In 1902, it was incorporated into the Metropolitan Amalgamated Railway Carriage and Wagon Co. Eventually, in 1929 the next successor company, Metropolitan Carriage, Wagon and Finance Co was merged with the railway business of Cammell, Laird and Co to form Metropolitan Cammell Carriage, Wagon and Finance Co better known as Metro Cammell. [21]
  21., accessed on 30th June 2019.
  22. The name “Bristol Wagon & Carriage Company”  was applied to a company on Lawrence Hill, Bristol. Prior to 1889 its name was the Bristol Wagon Works Co. By 1905 the company was also producing road vehicles. It produced a stationary internal combustion engine – ‘The Victoria Engine’ – from 1906 to around 1920. During that time around 3,500 were built. By 1915, it was one of 15 established companies involved in manufacture and hiring-out of railway rolling stock. It was acquired in 1920 by the Leeds Forge Co. [23]
  23., accessed on 30th June 2019.
  24. R. Y. Pickering and Co. of Wishaw were manufacturers of railway carriages, wagons and rails and were established in 1864. Around 1900 they produced a few steam railcars but by 1911 they were primarily a manufacturer of Carriages and Wagons for the Railways. Later they diversified and then refocussed so that by 1961 they were general engineers and fabricators, producing welded marine engine fabrications, ship and barge hatch covers, ships welded sternframes and rudders; welded tanks; machine tool fabrications; screening equipment; foundry plant; winches; oil drilling masts and substructures; forgings and drop stampings; sheet metal work and had 600 employees. [26]
  25. Cowans, Sheldon and Co, crane makers, of Carlisle began in a small way at Woodbank near Upperby. John Cowans and Edward Pattinson Sheldon had been apprentices to Robert Stephenson & Co. on Tyneside. There they had been friendly with a William Bouch from Thursby, and it was his younger brother, Thomas, who eventually found the premises at Woodbank, which had been a calico works. In 1866, the company built their first railway recovery crane. They made cranes for the railways, heavy lifting gear which could be used to return locomotives that had gone off the rails to the right track. Cowans Sheldon’s fate was tied to the fate of the railways and the British engineering industry. Britain stopped being the workshop of the world. The postwar years saw increased competition. In 1961, the 450 employees found themselves working for the Glasgow firm of Clyde Crane and Booth and in 1982 the firm became Cowans-Boyd. Five years later, manufacturing ceased and only the design office team was retained in Carlisle. The giant sheds were demolished and beefburgers are now fried where once some of the world’s greatest cranes were made. [27]
  26., accessed on 1st July 2019.
  27.,_Sheldon_and_Co., accessed on 1st July 2019.
  28. Helpful comments made by Darragh Connolly of the C&L at Dromod on 4th July 2019.
  29. Sean Cain,, accessed on 5th July 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.
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  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.
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  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.