Island of Ireland III - Day 4; The Fairview Fáilte (Welcome)
Sunday 6th May 2018
Report by Angus McDougall
This was the first BLS tour of main lines in the Republic of Ireland in our 63 year history and pleasingly raised £5,500 for Railway Children. Our train, a three car Iarnród Éireann unit, number 22255, started from through (suburban) platform 6 at Dublin Connolly and first went south on the City of Dublin Junction line through Dublin Pearse, where a weave was taken on the right hand (Up) track before reaching the now centre terminal bay (until recently through platform 2) at Grand Canal Dock, which station opened 23 January 2001.
After reversal here we did the opposite weave at Pearse (via the Down line) and passed through Connolly again to take the curve from platform 7 to Newcomen Jn, an 'unusual' route and one much desired by many participants. Then it was the Midland Great Western Railway main line through Clonsilla to Maynooth, passing the new LUAS depot and Green Line terminus at Broombridge on the left. Reversal took us back to Clonsilla, and from there onto the branch to M3 Parkway, reopened in September 2010 and wanted by many (including your reporter). We reversed in the normal platform (2) at the terminus and ran back into the bay platform 3 provided for the branch trains at Clonsilla. A further run up the branch followed, but this time into the unusual platform 1 and beyond to the buffer stops of the lengthy headshunt (on the course of the former line to Navan). The Iarnród Éireann staff advised that it was the first passenger carrying train beyond M3 Parkway since the line had reopened.
The next target was Docklands. Here we ran into platform 2, less used by service trains. Then it was out again for a quick reversal to take us into platform 1. We noted here the course of the line towards Church Road was now lifted, and the fact that Docklands station was completely closed (no train services run at weekends), there apparently being no possible way off railway premises.
Our schedule took us back to Glasnevin Jn for another reversal, but in fact we only went to Newcomen Jn, there taking the curve we had used previously back to Connolly. Here there was a brief pause to reload the refreshment trolley which had been much in demand. Onwards via Pearse Down Loop, was to the terminal platform (3) at Dun Laoghaire, outside the main part of the station.
A double reversal took us south via platform 2. There seemed to be nothing to be seen of the Carlisle Pier branch closed in 1980. At Bray we took the centre road to reverse south of the station and into the south facing bay once used by Bray/Greystones shuttles before extension of DART electrification.
Our unit then went south of the station once more and then via platform 2 back all the way to Connolly, crossing beyond there to the Great Northern Railway (Ireland) - on which bus substitution was in operation to the north - to enter Fairview New Carriage Siding 3 on the right, where we stopped at the end of the line. They are numbered 1 to 4 from the main line east. Return was via the Wash Road (but no washing) after East Wall Jn then into the terminal side of Connolly (platform 2). We left via Drumcondra and Glasnevin Jn through Cabra (a line reopened again for regular passenger traffic in 2016) to pass through Dublin Heuston platform 10, provided during a period of rebuilding the main station (which is some distance away) and join the Great Southern & Western Railway main line at Islandbridge Jn, there reversing to go via the first Carriage Siding into Heuston platform 5.
A main line run followed along the relief line and then past the IÉ works at Inchicore (and the amazing former signal cabin built in a sort of castellated style). We took the Down slow to Hazelhatch, and then on to the Sallins & Naas Loop, Kildare Up platform 2 Loop and Portarlington Down Loop to Portlaoise. There we passed the extensive permanent way depot and into the Traincare Depot Loop. Arriving at Ballybrophy, we experienced our first (and only) disappointment. The intention was to shunt across to the terminal platform (3) used by the Nenagh line trains from Limerick, but unfortunately the Limerick driver required to act as conductor was ill, so we could only reverse in platform 4 and return via the other Portlaoise Traincare Loop and the Portlaoise Station Loop. Then came the Portarlington Up loop and the Up fast on the section quadrupled in 2016 to Dublin Heuston, where the tour ended. We are most grateful to all those from Irish Rail, and our BLS organiser and helpers for an enjoyable good day.