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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Howth and Dublin - Tramway Heritage

John Woodman

The Republic of Ireland still has some memorable relics of early tramway history tucked away off the tourist path. In particular at the Howth end of the Dublin area commuter line and the former Dalkey terminus of Dublin's last tramway operation. In the grounds of Howth castle a short walk away from the railway station is the Republic's only official transport museum akin to the working collection at Carlton Colville. Here a compressed collection of vehicles of all types are at least preserved under cover if not in accessible fashion. Buses, fire engines, municipal utility vehicles, trams and even a Belfast trolleybus are kept in safe storage by a small group of volunteers.

One of the two final Hill of Howth cars stands alongside a restored (but not operational) Dublin double deck bogie car resplendent in its rich green and cream colours and ornate fleet numbers. The remains of the burnt out Dublin Directors car is just visible at the far end of a line of vehicles. This classic tram had been kept privately in a Dublin suburb after withdrawal and survived intact until it gained attention of local vandals and was set on fire. Most of the ornate interior fittings were either removed or destroyed but the shell of the bodywork and truck are at least retained for future long term restoration. Ireland's trams have sadly been far less fortunate than their British cousins with several succumbing to local indifference through the years. Northern Ireland on the other hand at least had official recognition of the importance of retained 'relics' and an organised body taking up the job of conservation and display. The excellent transport museum at Cultra, outside Belfast, has a marvellous display of railway and tramway exhibits - mostly in fully restored condition.

The very upmarket community at Dalkey with its historic building also has managed to hold on to the former tram depot which is fortunate in retaining its external track fan (to Dublin's wide gauge). An impromptu informal visit with permission of contractors at work on this privately owned structure allowed internal inspection of the main depot building which had seen various tenants and uses since closure in 1949. Now bereft of tenants it stands remarkably intact and offering the logical home for the collection (or a good part of it) presently in an industrial building in the grounds of Howth Castle (above). Whether this eventualises however is questionable given the cursory attention given to transport heritage by public bodies in the Republic. This however is made up for the considerable investment in the light rail system in Dublin and a recent announcement of funding for a new light rail operation in Cork (2020).

Dalkey Tram Depot with external impressions by its last tenant. :

Trackwork from the original Dublin United Tramways company.


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