Author Topic: Downpatrick and Co. Down Railway  (Read 3919 times)


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Downpatrick and Co. Down Railway
« on: May 14, 2007, 03:01:39 PM »
The Downpatrick and Co. Down Railway is Northern Ireland's only standard gauge (i.e. full size) heritage railway and is based in the county town of Down. The railway was founded in 1985 with the intention of rebuilding the entire former Belfast and County Down Railway branch line to Ardglass. However, it soon became apparent that this was an unrealistic goal and instead the railway is being rebuilt to Inch Abbey and Ballydugan - both of which are on the former BCDR Belfast to Newcastle main line.


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Re: Downpatrick and Co. Down Railway
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2008, 09:28:06 PM »
The message below is from Robert Gardiner, one of the volunteers with the Downpatrick & County Down Railway.

A BBC1 Northern Ireland documentary on the DCDR called "Raising Steam" will be broadcast on Monday 14th January at 10.35. For those of you not in Northern Ireland - if you've got Sky you can watch it on Channel 973.  The documentary commemorates 20 years since the DCDR first ran a passenger train, and 60 years since the nationalisation of the majority of the railways in Northern Ireland.
It interviews the key players who set up the DCDR all those years ago, and those who keep the place evolving and growing to this day.  It also looks back at the original railway, the Belfast & County Down Railway and includes interviews with some of the few surviving veterans of that railway, their memories and experiences working for it, and how they felt at the closure of the line.  "Raising Steam" took former fireman Adam Hamilton back to his old engine, No. 30, at Cultra, and former signaller Tommy McMullan to the signal cabin at Saintfield – much the same as his old haunt at Crossgar, now long gone.  And old friends James Magill and Willie Watterson go back to their old station at Tullymurry.
Rare archive footage of the BCDR shot in 1950, recently rediscovered, shows Tommy as a young man at Crossgar as a train arrives.   Other footage shows American troops travelling on the BCDR during World War 2, giving people who may only have seen the BCDR in still photographs, or had never seen it at all, a unique chance to see the railway in its heyday, and the reasons why it closed.

"Raising Steam" then, again through the use of home video shot by the railway's founder Gerry Cochrane, illustrates the scene 30 years later, and the struggle to get the railway off the ground.  Many DCDR stalwarts are interviewed during the 40 minutes, including Gerry Cochrane, Michael Collins, Raymond Dougan, George Legge and Ian Davis – even getting into their houses!

Although the bulk of the programme was filmed over Easter 2007, it was shot over several months, starting with the Santa Trains in December 2006, St. Patrick’s Day and May Day.

If you have digital, the BBC will also be screening the 1956 documentary "The End of the Line" about the crisis facing NI's railways at that time - via the red button service after "Raising Steam" is over.

The DCDR team hope you can all tune in and enjoy both programmes - if you can!  It will provide a fascinating insight into the DCDR, and those who keep it running.  And you never know, if you're not already a member or volunteer maybe it will give you that little bit of encouragement...?

Here's the BBC press release:

More than 30 years after the line closed, the first train rolled into Downpatrick station again on December 04, 1987.

The return of the engine to a ramshackle temporary platform was the culmination of years of work by a group of enthusiastic volunteers. Today, the fully restored engines and rolling stock attract hundreds of visitors to one of the finest examples of its kind in Northern Ireland and the only example of a full-size heritage railway here.

A new BBC One Northern Ireland documentary, "Raising Steam", on Monday, January 14 at 10.35pm tells the story of the Downpatrick and Co Down Railway Society’s ambitions to restore what was once a wasteland into an area of vibrant living history.

For more than a century, the railway network served as a vital link for the communities in County Down stretching from Queen’s Quay in Belfast to Newcastle, Ardglass and Castlewellan before the closure of much of the line from 1950 onwards.

"Raising Steam" hears the stories of some of those who used to work on the original railway including Willy Watterson who remembers the last train leaving Tullymurry station in January 1950.

The programme also uses archive and never before broadcast archive and home footage to recall the golden age of railways in Co Down. It also shows how the volunteers have beautifully and faithfully carried out the painstaking restoration work as well as the retrieval of the discarded rolling stock from farmers’ fields including the coach built for the royal visit of the Duke and Duchess of York in 1897.

Many of the volunteers are also interviewed about their work on the railway including Gerry Cochrane the founder of the Society, Heather Taylor, John Beaumont and Michael Collins, Chairman of the Society. The programme follows the volunteers as their work continues to develop even more of the track and restore more of the rolling stock to keep alive the history of the era.

"Raising Steam" hears from those past and present for whom the railway played an important part in their lives with 2008 also marking the 60th anniversary of the nationalisation of the railways in Northern Ireland.

"Raising Steam" is on BBC One Northern Ireland on Monday, January 14 at 10.35pm.
Robert Gardiner