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Downpatrick and County Down Railway

INFORMATION FOR THE VISITOR

RCD’s Overview

This heritage railway operates from the town of Downpatrick (22 miles south of Belfast) in County Down, Northern Ireland. It runs on part of the long-closed Belfast to Newcastle line. The railway operates on the standard gauge used throughout Ireland, five-foot, three-inch (1,600 mm). It operates both steam and diesel locomotives, diesel railcars, and vintage carriages. The railway has about three miles of track although it usually operates on a two mile stretch from Downpatrick to Inch Abbey. At Downpatrick there is a museum of railway artefacts and rolling stock originating from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland dating from the 1860s to the 1980s. Downpatrick station is close to Down Cathedral and next to the Saint Patrick Centre, both major tourist attractions.

 

Key Facts (where and when)

Extent of Railway (where to where):

Downpatrick to Inch Abbey (also limited service to King Magnus’ Halt)

Principal Visitor Centre:

Downpatrick Station

Period of Operation*

- April to mid-September (Weekends)

- November and December (Special event trains)

 [* This is a summary. Please go to the railway’s website for definitive operating days] 

 

Key Facts (what you’ll see)

Services usually steam or diesel?

Both steam and diesel are used (check railway for any given day)

Type of Steam / Diesel Locomotives Used:

Small steam locos. Diesel locomotive and diesel multiple unit

Length of Line:

2 miles (3 miles including King Magnus’ Halt)

Time taken for a round trip:

30 minutes

Number of trains per day:

5 in each direction (operates during afternoons)

Number of Stations:

4 stations

Prices:

Adult Rover: £9. Senior/Student: £8. Child Rover: £7

Time to allow for Visit:

1 to 2 hours

Museum:

Yes, small museum upstairs at Downpatrick station

Shop/Cafe:

Yes/Yes

Picnic/Play areas:

Yes

Preservation Established:

1987

Car Park Facilities:

Free at Downpatrick station.

 

Key Facts (Galas/Events/Dining)

Dining Trains:

- None currently advertised                                                                               

Event Trains:

- Lapland Express: Late November and December                               

Principal Galas:

- None currently advertised 

Experiences:

- Footplate experience

 

Contacts

Email:                                                                 info@downrail.co.uk

Telephone:                                                          028 4461 5779

Website:                                                              www.downrail.co.uk

Social Media:                                                      www.facebook.com/downrail

                                                                             Also on Twitter/ Instagram/ YouTube


INFORMATION FOR THE ENTHUSIAST

Brief History of the Railway and its Preservation  

The railway from Belfast to Downpatrick was opened in 1859, built by the Belfast and County Down Railway to the Irish gauge. In 1869 a separate company (the Downpatrick, Dundrum and Newcastle Railway), built an extension from Downpatrick to the seaside town of Newcastle. Downpatrick however remained a terminus station, with trains running into it and reversing out to continue their journey. In 1892 a further branch was built from Downpatrick to Ardglass at which time a loop line enabling the Downpatrick terminus station to be by-passed was built.  By 1945 the Belfast and County Down Railway was bankrupt and then nationalised becoming part of the Ulster Transport Authority in 1948. With much of the railways of Northern Ireland is financial difficulty, the devolved government established a tribunal to determine which rail services to continue and which to close. In 1949 the Tribunal determined to close most of the former BCDR lines including the entire Belfast - Newcastle line including Downpatrick, which closed in January 1950. The track bed in the Downpatrick area was sold to a local titled landowner, and was left largely undisturbed. In the early 1980s, a local architect led a scheme to restore aspects of the railway at Downpatrick, and by 1982 had gained support from the local council to rebuild the station and line around Downpatrick as a heritage railway. Restoration work began in 1985 and passenger trains commenced running in December 1987.

 

Steam Operational Locomotives:

(1) Orenstein & Koppel 0-4-0 - CSET No. 1

(2) Orenstein & Koppel 0-4-0 - CSET No. 3

 

Diesel Operational Locomotives/DMU:

 (1) General Motors locomotive - CIÉ 146

(2) Metropolitan Vickers C locomotive - IÉ A39R

(3)  Deutz (Shunter) - CIÉ G617

(4) Shunter - CIÉ G617

(5) Heritage DMU - NIR 458 “Antrim Castle”

 

Diesel Locomotives/Railcars Under Overhaul:

(1) Locomotive CIÉ C231

(2) Shunter CIÉ G613

(3) Heritage DMU - NIR 69 and 749

 

On Display at Museum

(1) GSWR (Inchicore Works) 0-4-0 - No. 90

(2) Shunter - CIÉ E421 ‘W. F. Gillespie OBE’

 

Stored/ Under Restoration/ Out of Service:

- CIÉ G611

- CIÉ E432

- NIR 90 and 752

- SLNCR Railcar B

- NIR Railbus RB3

 

INFORMATION ON THE SUPPORT GROUP

Name of Support Group:

Downpatrick & County Down Railway Society

Annual membership fee:

Adult: £34.50. Senior/ Junior/ Unwaged: £23.50. Family: £78.50

Benefits of membership:

Contact the railway as to current benefits of membership

 

How to Join:                                Go to www.downrail.co.uk/get-involved/become-a-member

 

What They Say About Volunteering:

Our railway is maintained and operated entirely by a team of committed volunteers. If you’d like to join in, we’ll make you very welcome. Whatever your background, age, or skills there’s a role for you, whether you’re a railway enthusiast or not. You just need to be 18 years of age or older. You don’t need to have any experience on the railways or any trade, so whether you’re in full-time work, or are a student, unemployed, retired or simply have a few free hours in the week that you can spare for us, you’re guaranteed a warm welcome and we’ll put you to work.

 

How to Volunteer:                                            Go to www.downrail.co.uk/get-involved/volunteer

 

How to Donate:                                                Go to www.downrail.co.uk/donate

 

WHY JOIN: To help the railway financially and/or by volunteering


INFORMATION ON OTHER SOCIETIES WITH RELATED INTEREST

Those interested in this railway may also be interested in the following railway societies also listed on this

website:

 

Traditional Railway Societies:

- Irish Railway Record Society

 

Model Railway Clubs:

- Belfast-City Model Railway Club

- Ulster Model Railway Club

- First Bangor Model Railway Club

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