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  • John Woodman

More Irish flavour

Both Northern Ireland and the Republic have strong transport heritage displayed at various venues. Northern Ireland's main transport display is at Cultra with a highly condensed assembly of road, rail, tram, and one trolleybus on view. The North of course had a particularly important role in the early development of electric trams. The hydro-electric powered Giants Causeway line being the first such operation in Ireland (as it was then) and the UK. Its closure in 1949 was a permanent loss still felt amid vibrant tourism on the northern coastline. Remnants from the original fleet are

recalled through exhibits both in the Howth Castle Museum near Dublin and at Cultra.

Bessbrook & Newry was another early pioneering electric line in County Down linking two communities with a side power rail method of current collection and some very unusual trams. Belfast of course developed very much along British municipal transport department lines ending up with fifty 'McCreary' two axle modern cars in the 1930s - originating with English Electric in Preston. Belfast also had the only trolley- bus system on the island of Ireland with a substantial fleet of double deck vehicles introduced naturally to replace trams from the late 1930s onwards. One unique aspect of the Belfast tram system was the interrunning of trams into not one but two mainline railway terminals, allowing platform interchange from tram to train. Blackpool eat your heart out!

Elsewhere side road running light railways such as the Clogher Valley line added to the mix and charm of railway history in Ireland. Adjoining Ulster is County Donegal which being geographically removed from the new Republic in 1922 had developed its own narrow gauge railway system. Here railcars of an early design had been introduced in the 1930s to make more economic use of lightly patronised lines traversing the rugged features of the northwestern County. Two examples would go on to an extended second life on the Isle of Man where they still operate. A very short remnant of the CDR (County Donegal Railway) still runs during summer months in the very heart of that county - isolated from any linking system but nonetheless offering the chance for visitors to actually ride on winding trackage in a period UK built railcar. The group also acquired three former Charleroi town system trailers via Lord O'Neill's private railway in neighbouring Northern Ireland some time back. Sadly I believe they are no more although I managed to inspect two units on a visit to Donegal a few years ago. An excellent museum of the CDR system is to be found in the county's principal town with ongoing recovery and restoration of still extant remains and artifacts. I strongly recommend a visit to those with railway and light railway heritage interest.

Below : A former Charleroi (town system) trailer in CDR colours in Donegal, Ireland. and a Walker railcar operating on a revived stretch of track.

The CDR is justly famous in railway circles not just in Ireland. Examples of its rolling stock can be found in Cultra, Howth, Donegal and also in Londonderry (or Derry to give the correct nomenclature for many). The latter museum has an impressive display of rolling stock at a former railway station on the western edge of the River Foyle which divides the city. And there are of course two main railway operators with services in or into Northern Ireland - with Northern Ireland Railways providing a compact network around Belfast and joint service with Irish Railways on the cross border line to Dublin. NIR also provides a splendid service along much of the northern coastline to Londonderry with some breathtaking scenery en route.

Souvenirs from Londonderry/Derry CDR Museum. Note the highly unusual emblem for the CDR Joint Committee. Below as it appears on the operating railcar.

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