Irish Railway Record Society
BEAUMONT REMEMBERS – 1
on the GNR(I) main line between Dublin and Belfast are given a great view of the
countryside when crossing the Craigmore Viaduct, just north of Newry station,
formerly known as Bessbrook.
At the Dublin end, they can also see an attractive rural footpath snaking
its way far beneath.
is the trackbed of the Bessbrook & Newry Tramway which was built to convey
passenger and goods, mainly from the Bessbrook Mill, to Newry, a distance of
some three miles.
having one terminus in a large and easily accessible centre of population, this
pioneering electric line, which opened on 1 October 1885 and survived until
1948, was little known, even to railway enthusiasts, and seldom visited and
One of those who did travel over it was our member Henry Beaumont, who
has contributed a brief memoir and some photographs, not previously published.
tramway was 3’0” gauge and had a number of unusual features.
The single track was made up of no fewer than five rails.
In addition to the normal running rails for the flanged wheels of railway
rolling stock, there were two additional rails which were located outside the
running rails and set at a slightly lower level.
These served to support the goods vans and wagons, the wheels of which
were flangeless and were guided by the outer sides of the running rails in the
manner of a plateway.
The wheelset at one end of these goods vehicles was mounted on a pivot
arrangement, so that the vans and wagons could function as road vehicles in the
GNR(I) goods yard at Newry and around the mill premises at Bessbrook.
Surprisingly, photographs show a van of this kind marshalled between a
motor car and a passenger trailer.
array of rails was completed by a centre live rail formed from a steel channel
section mounted on insulators and supplied at a nominal 245 v DC, but this rail
was interrupted across the lengthy level crossing at Millvale, where power was
supplied by a catenary-hung overhead line, for which the electric power cars
were equipped with a rudimentary but effective overhead current collector as
well as shoes for the third rail.
motor cars were single-ended and turning circles were provided at Newry and
Bessbrook, the only such arrangement on any Irish electric tramway.
Henry Beaumont recalls that the seating was longitudinal and that the
speed of the trams was very slow – approximating during his visit to a brisk
the Summer of 1947, the fledgling Irish Railway Record Society organised an
outing to the B&NT, but sadly, only a few months later, this remarkable link
with the early days of electric traction, only the third electric line to have
opened in the United Kingdom, saw its last train on Saturday, 10 January 1948,
just over 60 years ago.
However, with a remarkable degree of foresight, the builders in 1885 of
Motor No. 2, Mather & Platt, re-purchased the car, and after a further
series of moves, it can be seen today in the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
line is described in Oakwood Locomotion Papers No. 115 by the late Alan T.
The booklet contains an interesting selection of pictures by H. Fayle and
W.A. Camwell, among others.
Copyright © 2008 by Irish
Railway Record Society Limited