Irish Railway Record Society

Home Up Infrastructure LUAS Operations Rolling Stock News NIR MinorNews



Whitehead: In a press release dated 5 October 2016, Robin Morton, RPSI Events, advised that a ceremony had taken place at the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland in Whitehead to mark the successful completion of the construction phase of a new £3.1m railway museum. MSM Contracts from Portadown finished work on the 12-month construction contract at the start of September and the new buildings have now officially been handed over to the RPSI. The next stage will be to fit out the new museum and the RPSI’s target is to open the new tourist attraction to the public in April 2017. While work progresses, the site is closed to visitors. The construction phase has involved the installation of a 60ft locomotive turntable along with a period-style signal cabin, the construction of new sheds and the extension of the existing facilities. Denis Grimshaw, RPSI chairman, said the Society’s base had been transformed thanks to the £2m construction contract.

 “This is a pivotal point in terms of the development. We will now commence fitting out the museum with multimedia displays, educational facilities and audio links, plus a café, all of which will be key to creating this significant new tourist attraction.

 “An exciting element of the museum will be the opportunity for visitors to walk through historic carriages, examine mainline steam engines at close quarters and see the engineering works in action.

 “We aim to attract at least 15,000 visitors in the museum’s first full year of operation. We will complement other tourist attractions in the area, such as the Gobbins Cliff Path and Black Head lighthouse."

Funding for the project has been provided by Heritage Lottery Fund and Tourism Northern Ireland (part financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland and administered by Tourism Northern Ireland), with additional support from Mid and East Antrim Council and Ulster Garden Villages. As well as creating a major educational and interpretation centre for visitors to what is now the sole surviving traditional railway workshop in Northern Ireland, improved engineering and staff facilities will be provided, to facilitate more extensive restoration work on our historic railway locomotives and carriages. The development project comprises extensions to the locomotive workshop, locomotive sheds and carriage shed, construction of a carriage workshop, provision of a 60ft turntable, conversion of the former stables building to an education centre, substantial upgrading of staff and volunteer facilities, and upgraded material storage premises.

The project features the development of a visitors’ audio guide for tours of the centre and enhanced education and interpretation opportunities created by the displays in our buildings and workshops, as well as the development of On-Train Apps to provide information for passengers.

The capital works will include:

A portal frame extension to the Carriage Shed including Workshops;

A portal frame extension to the Locomotive Shed including Workshops;

A turntable and signal box;

An education room in a converted Stables Building;

Concrete hard standing and pathways;

Landscaping, seating and play areas;

Bunkers, concrete retaining walls, brick walls, fencing and gates.

Significantly, there is a separate budget allocation for interpretation, with HLF funding three years of activity costs including some restoration works and salaries.

Wooden Bodied Heritage Stock: The RPSI Heritage stock made a move from Inchicore works to Heuston Valet Plant (VP) on Saturday 3 December 2016. Completed in two moves of 4 carriages each (1463, 1419, 2421 and 1383 and 1335, 88, 1949 and 1916), the movement allows the stock to be under cover for the first time in many years and as such should provide a good start for restoration. Both movements were powered by 071-class locomotive 072. The first movement went straight into the VP, but the second was via Heuston Platform 5, then propelled into the VP.

Santa Specials: The last main running of the year, and the busiest period, for the RPSI was the Santa Specials. No. 85 and the Northern rake of MkIIs did runs between Whitehead and Belfast Central on 3, 4, 10, 17 and 18 December, with Portadown – Lisburn runs on 11 December. The trips were 11:30 and 14:30 departures from Belfast on Saturdays, with 10:00, 13:00 and 16:00 from Belfast on Sundays. The Portadown services departed at 12:45 and 14:45. These appeared to run well, with the customary good loadings.

The Dublin Operations trips, however, encounted an unusually high rate of issues. The first Saturday (3 December) ran well, with both Nos. 4 and 461 performing (and Irish Rail GM 075 working the diesel section). However, on the Sunday (4 December), No. 461 failed with low steam pressure at various points of the return leg of the second trip, with the train terminating at Grand Canal Dock. Passengers were transferred to an IE 29000 railcar for the remainder of the trip.

On Saturday 10 December, No. 4 performed the first run as expected, then was failed at Connolly shed with a partially collapsed brick arch. No. 461 was also failed with leaking tubes. This resulted in IE GM 080 covering the rest of the weekend

The third and final weekend went well, however, with Nos. 4 and 461 performing as expected (although 461 failed on Sunday due to leaking tubes). 072 performed the Diesel special and transfer movements>

Gatwick Stock: The former NIR “Gatwick” MkIIs that are stored at Lisburn (8911, 8945, 8946, 8947 and 8948) were booked to move on the evening of Thursday 8 December, but the move was cancelled at short notice due to crewing issues. They lare moved on Sunday 8 January 2017, with GM 112 used for the main transfer and 233 used for shunting.

This was followed by the movement of 8946+8948 to Whitehead on 15 January, with 112 performing the main line movement and B142 shunting in Whitehead


Operation: The last full tour started on Tuesday 11 October 2016, with the final tour starting on 22 October being the shorter ‘Legends and Loughs” tour (Belfast, Waterford).

Staff Tour: Belmond operated a 11:50 Heuston – Thurles and return trip for Irish Rail staff and CIÉ board members, as a thank you for the year so far. The full 10-car rake was used  for the trip.

After the end of the operating season, the Belmond Mark MkIIIs were stabled at the Cork end of the Inchicore yard.

Stock Transfer and Storage: On 6 October 2016, retro-liveried 071 hauled orange MkIII 7122 from North Wall to Inchicore. This MkIII had been stored in North Wall for over a year pending a decision as to how to use it.


Procurement: Bórd na Móna advertised for a locomotive multiple working system earlier this year. The tender calls for around 50 locomotives to be fitted, all being the refurbished locomotives from 2014/5. The request for tenders is quite strict in what it requires, including: remote wireless top and tail, using a stationary loco as a master to an unmanned loco, remote control and automatic safeguards should the signal be lost at any time. The system has to be able to cope with two or more locomotives, each hauling between 12 and 20 wagons, and also account for the loose-coupled nature of the BnM system.

Turmec Engineering won a tender to produce 30 new peat wagons.

Edenderry Power Station: Bórd na Móna have been granted permission from An Bord Pleanála to carry on using peat to fuel the Edenderry Power Station until 2023. This is 7 years short of what Bórd na Móna requested, but ensures the continuation of the bog railways until then.



15 October 2016 was the formal culmination of around two years hard graft by the volunteers under the umbrella of the Irish Steam Preservation Society. Funding for the project was secured from the Society’s own resources as well as large sponsorship from Laois Partnership Company. LPC strive to help develop the county in areas such as improving community life, and supporting local businesses and enterprise. Representatives from the Cavan and Leitrim Railway and Waterford and Suir Valley Railway were also in attendance.

€180,000, two thirds of the total project cost, was sponsored by Laois Partnership. The plans for a two-road depot adjacent to the existing platform were approved by the County Council and work began in earnest at close of the 2014 season.

The ribbon cutting ceremony was performed in front of the-invited guests with Laois Partnership CEO Ann Goodwin holding the scissors. She was joined by Cllr Tom Mulhall of Laois County Council and the Irish Steam Preservation Society Chairman Ken Graham. After the obligatory speeches, the ceremony moved in to the shed itself. The railway’s entire diesel locomotive fleet were on display on road 1 while ex Bord na Móna steam loco No. 2 simmered patiently at the platform outside.

Following another set of speeches from Railway Manager Seán Cain and long serving volunteer Richard Brennan, a cake was wheeled to the fore of the crowd where Chairperson Graham, Ms. Goodwin and Mr. Cain posed for photos before the cutting began.

At the end of the ceremony, No. 2 gave round trips on the length of the line for the guests for a few hours. Eventually the crowd dwindled away and the dozen or so volunteers present since early morning set about shutting up shop for the evening. Some shunting of the diesel fleet returned them to their normal spot on road 2 while the steam engine and her train bedded up once again on road 1 [Glen Murphy].

Locomotives: Deutz LM191 and Ruston 40DL LM55 arrived here in mid-October 2016. Both are in a heavily stripped state and were acquired as a source of spare parts for the current fleet.


The railway closed for the winter following the last Santa Special working on 23 December. All of the specials run (on 3, 4, 8, 10, 11, 17, 18, 22 and 23 December, with six trains per day) were fully booked.

Greenway: The greenway that runs alongside the railway is on track for a March opening, with the official opening due to be on the anniversary of date of the last train between Waterford and Cork.

The remainder of this article appears in IRRS Journal number 192, published February 2017

Copyright © 2017 by Irish Railway Record Society Ltd.
Revised: August 20, 2017 .