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Railways October 15, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Nice piece here in the IT by Hugh Oram on the railways in Donegal. Sadly these were another victim of post WWII “rationalisations” saw rail networks closed down both in the UK and the Republic. I’m not sure I’d agree with Oram’s analysis in the following:

But as happened everywhere else with the railways, motor cars and lorries provided unbeatable competition. The station at Carndonagh shut in 1935 after a mere 34 years in service. The line to Burtonport clung on, as far as Gweedore, until 1947, while the lines to Buncrana and Letterkenny closed down in 1953. By 1960, the last of the Donegal system had been obliterated. The Swilly company, which became bus-only for passengers, managed to last until two years ago.

It seems to me that too much store was placed in road transport at the time and after (and of course there were political aspects as well, cross border links, such as railways were problematic to some – it’s telling to me that it was in the aftermath of WWII that so many links North/South were curtailed or removed). The history of GNR, as noted previously is fascinating with it being nationalised by both governments on the island in 1953 and run jointly by them until 1958 when CIE and the UTA took over the respective components. Wiki notes:

The Northern Ireland Government, which had a very anti-rail policy, rapidly closed most of the GNRI lines in Northern Ireland.[2] Exceptions were the Belfast–Dundalk and Portadown–Derry main lines and the Newry–Warrenpoint and Lisburn–Antrim branches. It made the Lisburn–Antrim branch freight-only from 1960 and closed the Portadown–Derry and Newry–Warrenpoint lines to all traffic in 1965.[3] The Republic of Ireland government tried briefly to maintain services on lines closed at the border by the Northern Ireland government, but this was impractical, and the Republic had to follow suit in closing most GNRI lines south of the border. Since 1960 the Drogheda–Navan branch has survived for freight traffic only.

To me this concretisation of partition was a disaster cutting hinterlands off from their centres, reducing and eliminating links that had existed for decades and more.

That said it’s amazing how much is left – or at least the echo of it. You can walk down the path of the old railway at Dungloe for miles. One thinks of the journeys that must have started and ended there.


1. An Cathaoirleach - October 15, 2016

The International travel group, Belmond have this year added an Irish train to their list of luxury five star train journeys. http://www.belmond.com/grand-hibernian-train/. I gather it is the longest train in Ireland at over 250 metres. It is on its last journey of the season next week. I gather it is almost completely booked up for 2018 season.

The company has invested a substantial amount of money, renovating old carriages purchased from CIÉ & a CIÉ locomotive pulls it.

Unfortunately the train is unable at present to use some lines, but hopefully these line will be improved in due course. This type of leisure travel has rejuvenated train lines in parts of rural Japan.


WorldbyStorm - October 15, 2016

Interesting and in a way impressive that there’d be such demand. That said anywhere I go I’m always happy to visit anything to do with trains. Over the Summer went to the west Cork Model Railway Village which was actually more interesting for the old station house.


2. sonofstan - October 15, 2016

I spent some of my childhood in letterkenny, a much smaller town then, and Derry was our metropolis. Both sides of the border in the NW are marked by their abandonment by their respective governments since partition.


WorldbyStorm - October 15, 2016

Absolutely agree. It was a dual dynamic.


3. roddy - October 15, 2016

The Derry to Belfast railway line is a relic of orange rule in the North.It takes a meandering route via Coleraine and Ballymena whilst the direct way would be via “Fenian” Dungiven, Maghera and Toome.


sonofstan - October 15, 2016

TBF now, aren’t Coleraine and Ballymena bigger towns. Looking at this

It would seem that it was the only route between Belfast and Derry even way back. There was, however, if I’m reading it right, a line that went Dundalk -Portadown – Dungannon -Omagh, -Strabane – Derry. That would be fierce useful


Dr.Nightdub - October 16, 2016

The War of Independence may have had an impact too. I look at the Co. Antrim section of that map and see a whole load of stations that my granda arranged to be burnt to the ground in early 1921.


sonofstan - October 16, 2016


fascinating map all the same.


4. roddy - October 15, 2016

Travel the Derry Belfast road any day and witness packed Ulsterbus “goldliners” and private hire Donegal coaches heading for Belfast, the two airports and Larne and Belfast docks.


5. An Sionnach Fionn - October 16, 2016

This 1906 map is astonishing in terms of the amount of the country served by the then rail network. A devastating loss.


sonofstan - October 16, 2016

Progress eh? As bad here in England.


WorldbyStorm - October 16, 2016

Utterly bizarre what happened. Completely agree, near enough a comprehensive railway service across the island.


An Sionnach Fionn - October 17, 2016

Many of the smaller or more awkwardly positioned branch lines are interesting because they usually indicate the former private estates of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy.

Woodlawn in Co. Galway is probably the best known example. Baron Ashtown caused a bit of a kerfuffle in the 1850s by insisting that the Dublin-Galway railway line be moved so he could have the station near his Galway estates. Part of the Co. Fermanagh branch line was pretty much a “Big House” service for several aristocratic residences along the northern edge of Lough Erne.

I’m trying to remember another example where a railway route was moved (or a light rail constructed) so the local aristos could go grouse shooting in the autumn without getting their boots muddy. Perhaps someone else can remember the case?

The Station House Hotel out in County Meath is a good example of the remaining physical infrastructure of the smaller branch lines.

In an ironic way some of the more selfish examples of the Ascendancy looking after their own needs coincidentally served the local communities around them.


Dr. X - October 17, 2016

To this day, the Dublin – Westport line stops at Manulla Junction so that people can get the connection north to Foxford.

The only reason Manulla Junction exists is because during the Land War, the local landlord imported scab labour from some Orange part of the north, to replace the locals who were boycotting him.


Gewerkschaftler - October 17, 2016

Great map that – thanks for the link.

Liked by 1 person

6. Gewerkschaftler - October 17, 2016

There are few things sadder than walking along former railway tracks – I’m familiar with the one that used to run between Enniskillen and Collooney. And from there south to Castlebar, if I remember correctly.

The lobby power of the auto manufacturers lurk in the background to all of this. Now they are going ‘green’ to force the electric car upon us, rather than public transport and adequate cycle infrastructure. The energy input to build an electric car is comparable with that of its fossil fuel predecessor.

Nothing particularly sustainable there – move along please.

In Germany the lobby power of the big electricity manufacturers has essentially slowed the roll-out of renewable energy to a crawl. The techiques were a sustained campaign based on the (largely falsified) price of renewable energy and Nimbyism regarding the building of the necessary long-distance electricity lines between North/East (where most of the wind energy is produces) and South/West, where most of it is consumed.

Liked by 1 person

Gewerkschaftler - October 17, 2016

I meant Collooney – Claremorris – Athenry. Strange to think towns like that were once transport hubs.


7. irishelectionliterature - October 17, 2016

Visited Pearses Cottage in Rosmuc recently, I was chatting to the guide and asked how Pearse managed to get there given it is in the middle of nowhere.
He got there by Train and then either walked or cycled the last few miles to the cottage.


8. fergal - October 17, 2016

Railways ,railways, railways…victims of centralisation, all railroads lead to Dublin and Belfast- with devastating consequences for rural populations, the local economy and society- unemployment in Donegal is twice the national average.
Let’s look at Switzerland which has the densest railway network in Europe- thanks to federalism. When train stations were being built in the 19th century- people in the Alps and more isolated areas were able to say- weel, if you’re building a fancy train station in Zurich, we want one for our littel village otherwise we’ll keep our tax revenue for ourselves. It worked- Zurich got its station but so did places in the middle of nowhere- with huge benefits for the local economy and society. Skiing of course but also a host of craft industries- what do you do in a mountainy area that’s snowed in four six months of the year?- you make things-wooden furniture, cheese, wooden toys,chessboards etc and thanks to a ownderful rail system you can ‘export’ them to Geneva, Zurich or Berne, so locals have a vibrant local industry and the population hasn’t collapsed
Contrast this with France- all railroads head to Paris- likewise Britain and London..
Here’s a map of the Swiss rail network which is as clear as mud!!


sonofstan - October 17, 2016

“likewise Britain and London”

absolutely. In the unlikely event I’d want to go to Reading – 20 miles away – It would take me 90 minutes and two changes of train. And Reading, dull as it is, is the biggest city in this neck fo the woods. As to getting to Milton Keynes….


9. Dr. X - October 17, 2016

The Canadian provinces only signed up to Federation in 1867 because they were promised a railway line from coast to coast.


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