Island of Ireland III Day 1
Thursday 3rd May 2018
Report by Will Davies
Our four day 'long weekend' opened with some 33 members on a coach heading out of a very wet Belfast to Peatlands Park (MR p26) which has had 3ft gauge railways since 1901, originally to transport cut turf from the bog. The current two mile long line was opened in 1989 as a visitor attraction in a new Country Park established at the worked-out bog. Members enjoyed two circuits of the track (laid on part of the original track bed) in open passenger vehicles drawn by an AK40 diesel engine built in Herefordshire.
Thanks to the driver, who established a safe method of working and access, the party also managed to see inside the depot building. This was at the end of an exceptionally lengthy shed branch (longer than many railways!) off a headshunt (for ECS to reverse in) near the passenger station.
From here it was back to a rather drier Belfast Central (where its future new name 'Lanyon Place' was noted to be prominent in the area) to join the 12.35 loco powered Enterprise service from P2 towards Dublin. It is the intention to ultimately divert these services to the rebuilt and extended Great Victoria Street (GVS) station when City Jn to Central Jn (avoiding GVS station) will become 'rare'. The party alighted at Drogheda to take a stopping DMU to Dublin from bay P3 which is much sought after track. Unfortunately (particularly so as the train was at the stop blocks), the lifts to this island platform were out of use and so the train was ECS shunted to P1 to allow a passenger who could not use the stairs to join. So P3 will have to await another visit. The Up line was regained via the south trailing crossover.
After a short break at Dublin Connolly the party 'Darted' off via Pearse Down Loop before stepping back at Salthill & Monkstown to reach the end of Dun Laoghaire bay P3. Then it was off via Connolly and a DMU terminating at Balbriggan P2. This gave Balbriggan trailing crossover on the return which was followed by a sequence of moves involving Connolly, Tara Street and Pearse for extra crossovers and track between the three stations. Leaving Pearse station, a diminishing group of members made its way on foot to St Stephens Green stop for the new Luas Green Line extension (under construction during our 2017 visit). First the unidirectional curve from O'Connell Upper to Parnell was scored and then the extension to Broombridge and back. There was evidence in the form of old bridges that part of the extension runs on the former line to Broadstone station (itself an impressive building). An island platform and a water tower survive at the former Liffey Junction station. It was quite easy to do both Broombridge Luas new platforms. The call of sustenance (of both kinds) and hotels was strong as was the need to be back at Connolly by 07.45 for Day 2. An excellent start to the four days.