Irish Railway Record Society



It is now more than thirty years since the good citizens of Cork were distracted by the passage of goods trains trundling through the streets of their city. A hand-bell might be ringing from the locomotive footplate; at the many road intersections there would be the man in front with the red flag. Doubtless many of our more senior members will recall this spectacle.

There were many abortive schemes in the latter part of the nineteenth century to connect by rail the main stations in the city, and a horse-drawn tramway (5’ 3’’ gauge), for passenger traffic, existed from 1872 to 1875. But it was not until the year 1911 that the Cork City Railways were constructed to connect the Glanmire Road station of the GS&WR with the Albert Quay terminus of the Cork, Bandon & South Coast Railway. Half of the total capital of £150,000 was subscribed by the Great Western Railway, which company had five years previously supported the Fishguard-Rosslare route to Cork and the south of Ireland. The opening date was 1 January 1912, the single line between the two controlling signal cabins worked under the ETS (Electric Train Staff) regulations, an overall speed limit of 5mph was imposed.

            A passenger service over the line was begun in June 1914. To employ the word ‘service’ may be misleading, as the workings may have been just a through carriage off Dublin-Cork trains, thus affording passengers an easy transfer onto CB&SC services at Albert Quay. A through carriage right across Ireland from Kingstown Pier to Bantry Pier, or even from Rosslare Harbour to Bantry Pier? Now that is pure speculation! Notwithstanding the possibilities of such connections, the through passenger workings must have proved one of the least successful and shortest-lived services in Ireland, as they were withdrawn in the autumn of the same year.

The best historical account of the Cork City Railways (with several photographs) appears in Cork, Bandon & South Coast Railway by Ernie Shepherd (Midland Publishing, 2005), pages 69 to 72, to which readers of these brief notes are directed for more detail than can be presented here.

The ‘main line’ of the Cork City Railways left the GS&WR yard from the goods avoiding lines near the Dublin end of Glanmire Road passenger station and assumed street running straight away. The word tramway was seldom used. The single track crossed Railway Street and ran along the north side of Alfred Street to a point opposite St Patrick’s church (Corinthian columns), before bearing left on a long curve between buildings – the so-called ‘Clyde Cutting’ (Clyde Shipping Company’s Stores) – then traversing Brian Boru Street, to the point on the north side of the northern channel of the River Lee, where St. Patrick’s Quay gave way to Penrose Quay. Onto the latter there was a long branch, of which only 3 chains was Cork City Railways’ ownership, as shown on the accompanying Railway Clearing House Junction Diagram of 1913.

Over the two channels of the River Lee, there were Scherzer rolling lift bridges capable of being opened for the passage of craft on the river. These were constructed by Sir William Arroll & Co. Dalmarnock Works, Glasgow. They retained their very period wooden superstructure mounted over the road and railway on steel girders, until both were rebuilt as fixed bridges in 1980 – after the closure of the Cork City Railways.

After crossing the first, the Brian Boru Bridge, the line crossed Merchants’ Quay/Anderson’s Quay – another quayside branch on the downstream side – then passed near the bus station, continuing via a short portion of Deane Street to take up a position more-or-less in the centre of Clontarf Street, to reach its second crossing of the Lee by Lapp’s Quay, onto which there was a short siding.

These three branches, which in fact extended along the quaysides beyond the 3 chains of Cork City Railways’ ownership, afforded the facility of overside discharge into railway wagons from ships moored in the port, thus avoiding the need for road transfer. The second longest of the three, onto Anderson’s Quay, was the only one (in 1935) provided with a subsidiary ETS instrument, contained in a locked cabinet on the kerbside adjacent to the branch points. A train could thus be ‘locked in’ on this line, but not on the other two branches.

The second crossing of the Lee, named Clontarf Bridge, gave access to Albert Quay, where our track crossed at right angles the double-line tramway of the Cork Electric Tramways & Lighting Co Ltd, (1898 to 1931). The unusual tramway gauge of 2’ 11½’’ was employed to allow through working of 3-foot gauge rolling stock of the Cork, Blackrock & Passage Railway and the Cork & Muskerry Light Railway, a plan never realised.

            After passing the gates at the entrance to CB&SCR property, our line became double track to run along the western side of the Albert Quay terminus, connecting with the main running lines just outside the station.

A final longer branch – 45 chains of City Railways’ ownership-led out from the north-eastern corner of the CB&SCR goods yard area to turn along the Victoria Quay. Just outside the CB&SC gates, the line made a diagonal crossing of the Ballintemple and Blackrock line of the electric tramway, the latter still double at this point. There was a siding off our Victoria Quay branch to the Cork Milling Company, the line finally terminating near the Ford Motor Factory (which had its own rooftop railway in the 1930s and 40s). Movements from the CB&SC yard were propelled, as noted in the Great Southern Railways Appendix entry (1935), here reproduced.  For most of its length on the quayside, the line ran parallel to the site of the original line of the Cork, Blackrock & Passage Railway into Victoria Road terminus (1850 to 1873). The two never existed together.

The line along the Victoria Quays was extended to the automotive works of Henry Ford & Sons when the factory opened in 1919. Inwards traffic included coal for the boilers and cars were despatched for shipment from the Cork Quays or transported by rail to destinations in Ireland, a traffic continuing intermittently to the 1960s. 0-6-0T No. 90 (now famous as the only steam locomotive associated with the CB&SCR to have survived into preservation) was reported working the car traffic along the quays in 1952, for instance.

When the factory was first connected, an old CB&SCR 4-4-0T locomotive No. 15A was used by Fords as a stationary boiler, before going for scrap in 1921. This engine had started its life on the (Broad gauge) Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railway as 0-6-0T No. 5 St Columb (Sharp Stewart 2836 of 1879). When the L&LSR became narrow gauge in 1885, she was purchased by the Cork & Bandon, rebuilt as a 4-4-0T in 1898 and laid aside after 1910, when replaced by Beyer Peacock 4-6-0T No. 15.

I am indebted to Andrew Waldron, of Bolton, for facts concerning Ford’s use of the CB&SCR 4-4-0T.

Apart from dockside traffic and ordinary goods passing to and from the CB&SC and Cork & Macroom sections, we should also mention the very substantial forwardings of sugar beet from all parts of the West Cork system, to the Beet Factory at Mallow. These were catered for by many additional timetabled workings during the Beet Campaign from October to January each year, five trains each way per 24 hours at peak times.

In later years – 1940 onwards – little use was made of the section of line serving Lapp’s Quay and Penrose Quay, and their effective closure date may be gained from an application by CIE to Cork Corporation dated 24 April 1951 to remove the connection to these sidings.

The Anderson’s Quay line continued in use, however. In December 1954, we find that an AEC Matador lorry was being used to haul wagons on and off the siding, presumably owing to the track curvature near the junction with the Cork City Railways ‘mainline’ being too severe to permit the steam locomotive to negotiate the siding. These movements were often made after dark, to minimise interference with the city road traffic.

In GSR and early CIE days, a wide variety of motive power would work the goods transfer trips over the City Railways, including 4-4-2Ts of classes C4 and C7 (former GS&WR) and C5 (former WL&WR), 2-4-2Ts of class F6, and various 0-6-0T’s, the J11 (former GS&WR) predominating. The latter were amongst the most powerful tank engines on the GSR. In later days, the J11s seemed to be the favourites, Nos. 201 and 217 being employed into the early 1960s, but J26 class (former MGWR) No. 552 was also used in the last days of steam working.

The Rocksavage locomotive depot, south of Albert Quay station, was well known to railway enthusiasts visiting in the 1950s for its wide variety of locomotive types, and many unique small specimens were to be found lying there in the open. There was no proper shed, though some protection was afforded by the Hibernian Road over-bridge. Many of these venerable ‘last of class’ engines would at some time have worked across the City Railways.

The only reference I have come across to tender engines visiting Albert Quay or Rocksavage appears in Railway World Annual – 1985, where Ian L. Wright mentions GS&WR 4-4-0s Nos. 55 (class D17) and 340 (class D4) as being at Rocksavage. There appears to be no record of the otherwise ubiquitous J15 0-6-0 at Albert Quay; perhaps the class was restricted on the grounds of clearance or curvature on parts of the City Railways. The famous ‘Bandon Tanks’ – former CB&SCR 4-6-0Ts Nos. 463 to 470 – had a  short fixed wheelbase, and were regularly employed.

It might be stating the obvious to add that all locomotives and rolling stock – goods and passenger – being transferred to and from the CB&SCR section (and the Cork & Macroom section from 1925 to 1953), would have to traverse the City Railways. The spectacle of a CIE 3-car diesel unit (AEC) passing through the streets was (from 1954) not an unusual one.

There was apparently one test of an A class diesel over the CB&SCR line from Cork to Skibbereen in June 1958, further trials to Bantry and Clonakilty in September 1959 and over the City Railways to and from Albert Quay (perhaps to test the lift bridges) in August 1960. No photographs of these tests have come to light.

The only revenue earning train over the City Railways with an A-class diesel that appears to have been recorded and photographed was that for Bertram Mills Circus, arriving at Albert Quay on 11 September 1961. The circus site was in Marina Park, and the whole workforce, equipment and animals were handled at Albert Quay station and yard, 0-6-0T No. 217 being employed in addition to the A-class.

One rare type of motive power to traverse the Cork City Railways’ metals was CIE AEC railbus No. 2508, from the Thurles-Clonmel line, en route for repair at the former CB&SCR workshops at Rocksavage in November 1954.

Many of the foregoing observations of traffic over the line have been derived from The Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway – Volume 3: 1951 –1961 – 1976 by the late Colm Creedon, published in 1991.

After the closure of the CB&SCR main line from Cork Albert Quay to Bantry and branches, with effect from 1 April 1961, there was less transfer traffic across the Cork City Railways. However, the line continued to function for another 15 years, just serving the Albert Quay yards and connections to Victoria Quay on the south side of the river.

After the end of the steam era in 1963, C-class diesels worked the trips, plus the B141 and B181 classes in the late 1960s, with some shunting at Albert Quay performed by members of the E class (Maybachs), E410 and E417 being examples.

Clearly to the relief of many road users and occupiers of premises adjacent to the line of the Cork City Railways, final closure took place at the end of September 1976, when all remaining rail traffic at Albert Quay was concentrated on the yards adjacent to Glanmire Road station.

The remainder of this article appears in IRRS Journal number 166, published June 2008.

Copyright © 2008 by Irish Railway Record Society Limited
Revised: March 04, 2010 .