Downpatrick and County Down Railway
|Downpatrick & County Down Railway|
The DCDR crest, based on the crest design of many Irish railway companies
|Name||Belfast & County Down Railway|
|Built by||Belfast & County Down Railway|
|Original gauge||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) Irish Gauge|
|Operated by||Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway|
|Length||4 miles (6.4 km)|
|Preserved gauge||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) Irish Gauge|
|1985||Work Starts On Preserved Railway|
|1987||First Public Trains Run|
|1995||South Line extended To Magnus' Grave|
|2005||North Line extended to Inch Abbey|
|2014||Carriage Gallery officially opened|
|Downpatrick and |
County Down Railway
The railway, which has a triangular layout, connects two local tourist attractions, Inch Abbey to the north, and a locally famous Viking site ('King Magnus' Grave') to the south. An aspiration exists to reach an 18th-century corn mill to the West near the Ballydugan Lake.
Belfast & County Down Railway
The railway first arrived in Downpatrick on 23 March 1859, with the completion of the Belfast and County Down Railway's mainline from Belfast Queen's Quay railway station. The line originally terminated at Downpatrick, but in 1869 a separate company- the Downpatrick, Dundrum & Newcastle Railway- built an extension to the seaside town of Newcastle. The BCDR took over the DDNR in 1881, though this unforeseen extension had created an inconvenience wherein trains running between Belfast and Newcastle had to run around at Downpatrick to continue their journey in a fashion similar to Kilkenny railway station on the Great Southern and Western Railway. The opportunity arose in 1892 to end this cumbersome practice with the opening of the Downpatrick, Killough and Ardglass Railway and, with it, Downpatrick Loop Platform. The DKAR was built and operated by the BCDR, and branched off from their mainline about half a kilometer from the new Loop Platform. In conjunction with this, a 'Loop Line' was constructed which enabled trains to bypass the main Downpatrick Station, calling instead at the Loop Platform where passengers intending for Downpatrick could switch to a local train and carrying on without having to run around.
Following the 1945 Ballymacarrett rail crash and the resultant £80,000 (The equivalent to £3,376,000 in 2018) it had to pay in compensation, the Belfast and County Down Railway was financially ruined. This was a deciding factor in the nationalisation of the company as part of the Ulster Transport Authority in 1948. The UTA closed all BCDR lines except the Bangor branch a mere two years after taking them over, and so on Sunday 15 January 1950, all the railways around Downpatrick were closed. The tracks were lifted in 1953 and Downpatrick station was handed over to the UTA's bus division, becoming Ulsterbus in 1968. Ulsterbus moved out of the station in 1975 and it was demolished shortly after, erasing the last trace of the railway in Downpatrick town.
Local architect Gerry Cochrane M.B.E. was inspired to start the scheme after taking a walk along the route of the line, and by 1982 had gained support to rebuild part of the line as a heritage steam railway from the local council. Lord Dunleath, whose father had purchased the railway trackbed adjacent to his estate after the closure of the BCDR in Downpatrick, gave the newly formed society a package of land on which to build the line and station for a peppercorn rent. This was on the approaches to the old Downpatrick station, which had been demolished in the 1970s. Work started on rebuilding the railway in 1985, with public trains finally running in the town again in Friday 4 December 1987, making it the first Irish gauge heritage railway in Ireland to carry passengers over its own track. Track has been relaid on nearly 6 km (4 mi) of Belfast and County Down Railway trackbed, and a 1.6 km (1 mi) extension south to the hamlet of Ballydugan is planned.
The railway began life as the Downpatrick & Ardglass Railway, as the original intention was to extend the railway to this fishing port on the south coast of County Down. This name was dropped in 1996 following the abandonment of this proposal and the railway was renamed the Downpatrick Railway Museum until 2005 when the new name, Downpatrick & County Down Railway was adopted following the opening of the Inch Abbey extension.
Approximately 5 km (3 mi) of 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) Irish standard gauge track are open as of 2016[update], along which a steam locomotive, currently O&K No. 1, and 1950s-60s era diesel locomotives are run, drawing preserved rolling stock. Passenger trains are usually operated with brake/generator standard class coach 3223, which was built in 1954 by Córas Iompair Éierann, and brake/standard class coach 728, which was built in 1951 by the Ulster Transport Authority. Stock is added to or withdrawn from the 'running set' as maintenance allows. Older carriages built by the Great Southern and Western Railway and Belfast and County Down Railway were operated on the line, but as 1950s/1960s stock became available the DCDR moved these vintage carriages inside for overhaul and display. It is planned that the vintage coaches will be used on a select few special running days as they are too historically important for everyday wear and tear.
In 2009, the Carriage Gallery was completed, which has created an interactive museum in which the public can enjoy the railway's collection of carriages in varying states for repair from immaculately restored to ex-hen house condition. The Carriage Gallery was officially opened by the Earl Of Wessex in 2014.
The railway also aims to have an at least partially operational mechanical signalling system, using the preserved King's Bog and Bundoran Junction signal cabins along with multiple semaphores that are on the site. Related to this is the Double Track Project, which will allow simultaneous operation on the North and South lines.
Every year, the DCDR operates the following trains:
- Saint Patrick's Day Specials, which are held on Saint Patrick's Day and operate to Inch Abbey.
- Easter Specials, which take place over a couple of days around the Easter Period, and operate to Inch Abbey.
- May Day Specials, which take place on May Day and operate to Inch Abbey.
- Summer Specials, which take place every weekend during summer and operate to Inch Abbey. One of these days is typically reserved for diesel haulage.
- EHOD Days, which run in conjunction with the last Summer Specials weekend. These offer visitors free cab rides in a diesel as well as behind-the-scenes tours.
- Halloween Specials, which take place on the weekend prior to, and on, Halloween night, and operate to Magnus' Grave.
- Santa Specials, which take place on the weekend prior to Christmas, and operate to the Loop Platform.
- Mince Pie Specials, which take place on either the last or last weekend of the year, and operate to Magnus' Grave or Inch Abbey - these are usually diesel-hauled.
Bank Holidays, private charters and film contracts make for extra trains throughout the year too.
On operating days, visitors have access to the BCDR Museum which is housed upstairs in Downpatrick railway station, the Downpatrick East signal cabin, a model railway room, the workshop viewing area (Where carriages can be seen undergoing restoration) and the Carriage Gallery.
Stations & Buildings
- Downpatrick Station is the principal station on the DCDR network, where all passenger trains originate from. It has two platforms, though one of these is currently out of use. The original BCDR station was sited on Market Street, but was demolished and replaced by a supermarket before the DCDR was established.
- Downpatrick Loop Platform has no road access, which helped it to escape demolition in the 1950s. It serves as the interchange point between the DCDR's South and Back lines. Downpatrick Loop has two platforms.
- King Magnus' Halt is the current terminus of the South Line. It has one platform and serves the grave of Viking King Magnus Barefoot, a site previously inaccessible before the arrival of the railway. Magnus Halt was not an original BCDR station, though it is located at the site of the BCDR's Ardglass Junction.
- Inch Abbey Halt is the current terminus of the North Line. It has two platforms and serves the ruins of Inch Abbey. The station was not part of the BCDR, as it is located on a short deviation away from the original trackbed.
Buildings & Structures
- Downpatrick Station Building was originally the town's Gas Manager's House, sited across the road from the DCDR and moved over brick-by-brick.
- Downpatrick Signal Cabin, a BNCR structure, was moved brick-by-brick from Kingsbog Junction on the Belfast–Derry line.
- Downpatrick East Signal Cabin, a GNR structure, was originally Bundoran Junction's North Cabin. It was moved to DCDR in 2011 and opened to the public in 2017.
- Downpatrick Locomotive Shed, a BNCR structure, was moved stone-by-stone from Maghera where it was originally the goods shed.
- Downpatrick Station Canopy was originally attached to the Maghera Shed.
- Downpatrick Water Tower was moved from Antrim station.
- Bridges 163 & 164 are original BCDR bridges, and carry the Back and South lines respectively across a narrow stream.
- Downpatrick Loop Platform and Canopy are the only BCDR buildings left in Downpatrick.
- The Cutting is just beyond the limit of passenger operations on the South Line. It carries trains up a slight gradient, with vertical retaining walls on either side.
- The Quoile Bridge is the longest bridge on the DCDR. It carries the North Line over the River Quoile, and though the spans are newly fabricated, the concrete centre pier is original.
The railway hosts three steam locomotives, eight diesel locomotives, seven diesel railcar sets., twenty-three carriages, thirty-four wagons and three permanent way vehicles, making for a total of seventy-eight railway vehicles- Or, if the railcar constituent vehicles are considered as separate, eighty-two total vehicles.
At present O&K No. 1 is the operational steam locomotive, with a second O&K under restoration. 1875-built 0-6-0 tank engine, GSWR No.90, which was delivered to Downpatrick on Sunday 30 September 2007 after overhaul at the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland's workshops in Whitehead, Co Antrim, is Ireland's oldest operational steam engine. Two E Class diesels, No.'s E421 and E432, were acquired in 1986, with E421 working the Society's first passenger trains. However, the E Class could not start from cold and to this end, three G Class diesels arrived at the railway to facilitate shunting and works trains- One of which was donated to the society after a member purchased it from Westrail, and two of which are on long-term loan from the Irish Traction Group (ITG). The ITG also loans three mainline diesels to the railway- These are CIÉ A class No.A39R (Moved to the railway on Sunday 22 November 2009), 141 class No. 146 (Arrived on 27 November 2010) and 201 Class No. C231. (Which arrived on 7 June 2014). 
There are two main rakes of carriages. The passenger set is used on all running days, and consists of CIÉ 3223, UTA 728 and, if extra capacity is needed, GSWR 836. The buffet set is parked in a platform on running days but publicly accessible, and consists of CIÉ carriages 3189, 2419, 1918 and 2978. The carriage fleet is considerably varied, with a mix of six-wheeled and bogie carriages, and representatives from virtually every time period and Irish gauge railway company- Including the BCDR (The DCDR owns 5 of the 6 extant BCDR carriages), GNR, GSWR, GSR, UTA, NIR, CIÉ, and most significantly, the Ulster Railway, which is represented by No. 33, the sole surviving UR vehicle and Ulster's oldest carriage. Other notable carriages are BCDR Railmotor No. 72 and Royal Saloon No. 153, both of Ireland's extant Travelling Post Offices and the last AEC railcar. Two carriages, GSWR No.'s 1097 and 1287, are on loan to the railway from RPSI.
The DCDR also has a large selection of wagons, goods vans and underframes. Ex-NCC brake van No. 33 was the railway's first passenger-carrying vehicle. Included in the railway's wagon fleet is the most powerful steam crane in Ireland, NCC No. 3084.
The railway has also been donated several items of stock by Iarnród Éireann, such as Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway Railcar B, built in 1947. This railcar arrived in poor condition and it will be some time before the DCDR can return it to operational condition. Prototype BR-Leyland Railbuses, RB3, which was modified in the early 1980s to run on Irish metals and was used for a period by Northern Ireland Railways, was acquired by DCDR in 2001, with the hope of using it to run midweek trains as it did not require as large a crew as locomotive-hauled trains. However, due to several faults inherent with the prototype Railbus' design, this did not come to fruition. Three more ex-NIR railcars are owned by DCDR, encompassing the last 450 Class, 458 ''Antrim Castle'', which arrived in 2014 and will be converted to a buffet train enabling the current buffet carriages to come out of service for overhaul, and two 80 class railcars which arrived in 2018. A small fleet of permanent way vehicles, all acquired from NIR, and some road/rail on-track plant, are used by the railway's Permanent Way department.
|Number||Wheel Arrangement||Build Date||Original Operator||Arrived At DCDR||Current Status||Photo||Notes|
|1||0-4-0T+WT||1934||Irish Sugar Company||1987||In Service||Overhauled at Whitehead between 2004 and 2012.|
|3||0-4-0T+WT||1935||Irish Sugar Company||1987||Operational, being returned to service||Steam tested 19 May 2018.|
|90||0-6-0T||1875||Castleisland Railway/GSWR||2007||On display in Carriage Gallery - Awaiting Overhaul||On loan to DCDR from Irish Rail. Originally built as a railmotor.|
|Number||Class||Build Date||Original Operator||Arrived At DCDR||Current Status||Photo||Notes|
|E421||E421 Class||1962||CIÉ||1986||Inside Carriage Gallery, awaiting Overhaul||Named W.F. Gillispie OBE|
|E432||E421 Class||1963||CIÉ||1986||Awaiting Overhaul||Out of traffic|
|G611||G611 Class||1961||CIÉ||1996||Stopped Awaiting Attention||Owned by the Irish Traction Group|
|G613||G611 Class||1961||CIÉ||1986||Undergoing Overhaul||Privately Owned|
|G617||G611 Class||1962||CIÉ||1996||Operational||Owned by the Irish Traction Group|
|A39R||A (001) Class||1955||CIÉ||2009||Operational||Owned by the Irish Traction Group|
|146||B (141) Class||1962||CIÉ||2010||Operational||Owned by the Irish Traction Group|
|C231||C (201) Class||1956||CIÉ||2014||Operational||Owned by the Irish Traction Group|
|Railcar B||-||1947||SLNCR||2006||Awaiting Overhaul||Last passenger-carrying SLNCR vehicle|
|RB3||-||1980||BR||2001||Stopped||Experimental Railbus - built by BREL/Leyland for use on British Rail, came to NIR 1981|
|458||458||450 Class||1987||NIR||2014||Undergoing conversion to Buffet/Grotto train.||3-Car set. Named Antrim Castle.||Power car|
|69||80 Class||1978||NIR||2018||Operational, being returned to service.||2-Car set.||Power Car|
|90||80 Class||1978||NIR||2018||Mechanically operational, but stored as strategic reserve.||2-Car set.||Power Car|
|712||-||1962||CIÉ||1998||Awaiting Overhaul||ITG-Owned Wickham Railcar.|
|713||-||1962||CIÉ||1999||Undergoing Overhaul||Wickham Railcar, Nicknamed Rosie|
|Number||Type||Original Operator||Arrived At DCDR||Current Status||Photo||Notes|
|39||Six-Wheeler||BCDR||1987||In Carriage Gallery, awaiting overhaul||Third Brake - on temporary underframe|
|72||Bogie||BCDR||1985||On display in Carriage Gallery||Originally railmotor; later converted to autocoach|
|148||Bogie||BCDR||1987||On display in Carriage Gallery||Includes half of carriage BCDR No. 152|
|153||Bogie||BCDR||1987||In Carriage Gallery, Awaiting Overhaul||Royal Saloon: carried at least 3 British Monarchs; on temporary underframe.
Acquired 1984 before DCDR had its own land- Stored at RAF Bishopscourt until 1987.
|154||Six-Wheeler||BCDR||1984||In Carriage Gallery, Awaiting Overhaul||Second - on temporary underframe|
|1918||Bogie||CIÉ||1988||Part of Buffet Set||Laminate Brake|
|1944||Bogie||CIÉ||1995||Undergoing Overhaul||Park Royal|
|2419||Bogie||CIÉ||1988||Part of Buffet Set||Buffet Carriage|
|2977||Bogie||CIÉ||2017||Undergoing restoration inside the Carriage Gallery||Travelling Post Office, owned by An Post.|
|2978||Bogie||CIÉ||1995||Used as Grotto Carriage at Halloween & Christmas||Travelling Post Office owned by An Post|
|3223||Bogie||CIÉ||1988||Operational||Laminate - Brake Generator Second|
|6111||Bogie||CIÉ||2015||Awaiting Overhaul||Former AEC railcar 2624, converted to push-pull driving trailer in 1974.|
|Unknown||Six-Wheeler||GNR||1993||Awaiting Overhaul||Third - on temporary underframe|
|33||Unknown||Ulster Railway||1986||In Carriage Gallery, Awaiting Overhaul||Only surviving stock from UR; on temporary underframe. Third oldest carriage in Ireland (built 1862).|
|25||Six-Wheeler||MGWR||2006||In Carriage Gallery, Awaiting Overhaul||-|
|53||Six-Wheeler||MGWR||2006||In Workshops, awaiting overhaul||-|
|69||Six-Wheeler||GSWR||1992||Undergoing Overhaul||Converted from Full Brake to Brake First Saloon; Privately Owned|
|836||Bogie||GSWR||1986||On display in Carriage Gallery||-|
|1097||Bogie||GSWR||2005||Stored||On loan from RPSI|
|1287||Bogie||GSWR||2004||In use as a 'Tarry' (mess van)||On loan from RPSI|
|728||Bogie||UTA||1991||Operational||Ex-MPD driving trailer; later 70 Class Intermediate|
|8918||Bogie||BR||2014||Undergoing minor maintenance||Ex-BR DBSO 9712, later came to NIR but was never used in service.|
|3189||Bogie||BR||2007||Part of Buffet Set||Ex-BR MK I Brake Third - Converted by CIÉ to Generator Coach|
|Number||Type||Original Operator||Arrived At DCDR||Current Status||Photo||Notes|
|1536||Tanker||Private Owner||1999||Not In Use||-|
|18885||Goods Van||CIÉ||Used for storage||Contains Generator - known as Roaring Meg|
|27756||Container Flat||CIÉ||2017||In use||Carries a spare English Electric 4SRKT engine|
|8452||Plough/Brake Van||GSWR||1990||Used for storage||-|
|8314||Ballast Hopper||GSWR||1986||Used for Ballast Trains||-|
|8411||Ballast Hopper||GSWR||1986||Used for Ballast Trains||-|
|C496||Ballast Hopper||NIR||Used for Ballast Trains||-|
|Unknown||Goods Van||BCDR||2013||Awaiting Overhaul||Body Only|
|Unknown||Cement Van||GNR||1998||Stored||-||Disassembled, in 'kit' form|
||In Use||Former 70 Class Driving Trailer; body destroyed by arson in 2002|
|C604||Container Flat||NCC||In Use||Brown Van underframe; Carries BCDR Van|
|Unknown||Bridge Wagon||BCDR||Awaiting Overhaul||1 of 3 Bridge Wagons|
|Unknown||Bridge Wagon||BCDR||Awaiting Overhaul||1 of 3 Bridge Wagons|
|Unknown||Bridge Wagon||BCDR||Awaiting Overhaul||1 of 3 Bridge Wagons|
|C378||Open Wagon||Courtaulds||1987||Not In Use||-|
|33||Brake Van||NCC||1987||Not In Use||Used in the lifting of the Portadown - Derry/Londonderry line|
|619||Underframe||GNR||1987||In Use||Carries BCDR Royal Saloon No. 153.|
|Unknown||Underframe||GSWR||In Use||Carries UR No. 33. Former horsebox.|
|C???||Container Flat||NCC||Not In Use||Brown Van underframe one of 599-608 series|
|3084||Steam Crane||NCC||1994||Not In Use||Consists of Crane, Water Wagon & Jib Wagon; built 1931. Originally self-propelled; now the largest in Ireland (capable of lifting 36t).|
|667||Goods Van||NCC||1987||Not In Use||Brown Van|
|674||Goods Van||NCC||1987||Not In Use||Brown Van|
|687||Goods Van||NCC||1987||Not In Use||Brown Van|
|688||Goods Van||NCC||1987||Not In Use||Brown Van|
|Unknown||Underframe||BNM||1999||PW Use||Regauged 4w underframe. Named ''Pink Panther''|
|Unknown||Underframe||BNM||1999||In use||Carries the detached conveyor belt from NIR Ballast Regulator No. 315 (See below)|
|C32||Open Wagon||UTA||1985||Not In Use||Pyramid ends|
|935||Underframe||WLWR||In Use||Carries BCDR No. 154|
|Unknown||Underframe||GSWR||In Use||Carries BCDR No. 39|
|1110||Underframe||GSWR||2000||In Use||Carries BCDR No. 148|
|13M||Underframe||MGWR||In Use||Carries GNR 6w (unknown number)|
|Number||Original Operator||Arrived At DCDR||Current Status||Photo||Notes|
|HC1||NIR||Not In Use||Former Tamper, Converted By NIR Into a Hedgecutter|
|7 (7007)||NIR||2008||Operational||Type 7 Tamper|
|315||NIR||Operational||USP3000C Ballast Regulator|
|Type||Arrived At DCDR||Current Status||Notes|
|Atlas Excavator||2010||In Use; Permanent Way||Road-Rail Equipped|
|Dumper||2011||Nicknamed Daisy. Road-Rail Equipped.|
|Dumper Trailer||2008||Road-Rail Equipped|
|Bruff Recovery Vehicle||2015||Stored||From NIR November 2015. Road-Rail Equipped.|
|Tar Boiler||2017||On Display In Carriage Gallery||Built for McCreath Taylor in 1926.|
|Number||Type||Arrived At DCDR||Left DCDR||Fate||Reason||Notes|
|3BG||Steam Locomotive||1989||2001||Returned to Whitehead||Loan expired||Loaned to DCDR from RPSI|
|3||Steam Locomotive||2005||2012||Returned to Whitehead||Loan expired||Loaned to DCDR from RPSI|
|Daewoo||Road-Rail Excavator||2008||2013||Sold to Pakistan||Surplus to requirements||-|
|47M||Six-Wheeled Carriage||Unknown||2007||Scrapped||Roof collapse||-|
|713||70 Class Driving Trailer||1991||2002||Destroyed||Arson||Underframe survives as a flat wagon- See above table|
|448||GNR Carriage||Unknown||2006||Scrapped||Beyond repair||Only half of the coach body|
|2053||GNR Brake Van||Unknown||2002||Destroyed||Arson||-|
|Unknown||GNR Goods Van||Unknown||2015||Destroyed||Destroyed by a storm||Grounded body|
|Unknown||Flat Wagon||Unknown||N/a||Cut into sections||Re-use of materials||Sections stored in Downpatrick yard|
- Ian Allan Railway Heritage Award (First Class): Received in 1992 in recognition of Downpatrick Station Building.
- Northern Ireland Tourist Board Award: Received in 1999.
- Down District Council Tourism Heroes Award: Received in 2008.
- Co-operation Ireland Pride Of Place Award: Received in 2012.
- Heritage Railway Association Small Groups Award: Received in 2015 in recognition of the Carriage Gallery.
- TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence: Received in 2016.
Television & Film Appearances
- Children in Need Quiet Man Spoof (BBC One NI, 2001)
- Puckoon (2002)
- Flight to Freedom (BBC One NI, 2005)
- Rain (2005)
- A Potted History of Armagh (BBC One NI, 2006)
- Raising Steam, a 40-minute documentary of which the DCDR was the subject (BBC One NI, 2008)
- Our Wee World (BBC One NI/Barking Films, 2010)
- Christopher and His Kind, starring Matt Smith (BBC2/Mammoth Screen, 2011)
- Walk the Line (Barra Best, BBC NI, 2014)
- The Lost City of Z, starring Robert Pattinson and Tom Holland (2015)
- The Woman in White (BBC, 2017)
- The Last Letter (BBC NI, 2018)
- Mrs Wilson (BBC, 2018)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Downpatrick and County Down Railway.|
- Cochrane, Gerry (2009). Back in Steam: the Downpatrick and County Down Railway from 1982. Newtownards: Colourpoint. ISBN 978-1-906578-29-9.
- "American Baby Boomer adopted by Downpatrick Railway". Latest News. Downpatrick & County Down Railway. 2010-11-29. Retrieved 2012-07-23.