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Sroughmore Siding

MICHAEL J WALSH

BACKGROUND

Receipt of Norman Campion’s paper on St. John’s Siding sparked the thought of linking it with an account of the Sroughmore Siding, of which little is known; not surprising as it went out of use around 150 years ago! But research through mining and industrial archaeology reports and old maps, as well as inspection on the ground, turned up some interesting information and suggested an alternative location for this siding from that generally quoted.

RAILWAY HISTORY REFERENCES

In his invaluable series of papers in what the Irish railways were doing 100 years earlier, GR Mahon provided the following references to Sroughmore Siding:

“At Shroughmore [sic], south of Rathdrum, a siding was installed for the Connorree Mining Co.’s mineral traffic to Kingstown.”[1]

“The Connorree Mining Co. siding near Avoca was ordered to be taken up and this was duly done.”[2]

“The Connorree Mining Company asked for the restoration of its siding, about 2½ miles north of Ovoca, which had cost about £450 to lay; the request was refused as ‘unadviseable’.”[3]

Shepherd and Beesley provide the following details:

“In June 1865, an estimate for €419.2s.2d was submitted by Cotton & Flemyng for a short branch to the Connorree Mining Company; this was provided but was short-lived, being taken out in 1869 due to non-payment of charges.”[4]

 “A short branch was installed at Sroughmore for the use of the Connorree Mining Company in 1865, being removed four years later due to non-payment of carriage charges.”[5]

“On the down side, a mile beyond Rathdrum, sidings were installed in 1901 for the Balleece Quarry Company.  Two miles further on, there was a siding at Connorree which was in operation between 1864 and 1869 in connection with the adjoining mines. Cronebane or Tigroney siding, a little over a mile beyond Connooree, had a somewhat longer and more successful existence.”[6]

Shepherd and Beesley also provide the following distance data for the Rathdrum-Avoca section:[7]

m. ch.                   location

37.24                    Rathdrum

38.17                    Balleece Siding

40.20                    Connorree Siding

41.30                    Cronebane Siding

42.66                    Ovoca (Avoca from 1912)

Johnson[8] has exactly the same distances, suggesting that his data is from the same source. The distance given between “Connorree” Siding and Avoca is thus 2½ miles, as per Mahon.

MINING REPORT REFERENCES

An account[9] of the Connarree [sic] Mine from 1869 describes the main shaft as at the summit of the hill and being about 85 fathoms deep. Copper had formerly been recovered, but the mine was then being worked for sulphur ore.

A further Memoir of 1888 reports that the Connary [sic] Mine is now abandoned, but that “Some few years ago an endless wire rope was put up, to be worked by a turbine erected near Sroughmore old glebe house, the wire rope running on pulleys to Connary engine shaft, a distance of over a mile. This mode of pumping water from the mine has been quite a failure, and the works, as already stated, are now abandoned”.[10]

Remarkably two of the towers than carried this rope survive, and a third is located in a tipped-over condition at the Connary mine site.[11]

The 1888 Memoir also incidentally notes that “The remains of a tramway to Arklow is still in existence as far as Newbridge”.[12]

A third (and final for the present study) “Memoir” published in 1922 describes provides an overview of the history of Connary (aka Connaree, Connery, Connarree and Connoree, but not apparently Connorree as per Mahon, and Shepherd and Beesley.[13] However, a section of “Connorree” was deposited in 1876 in the Home Office as that of an abandoned mine. In the 1869 Memoir, the Company is sometimes called the Connary Mining Company, but its official name seems always to have been the Connorree Mining Company. The 1869 Memoir also has Sroughmore in the text, but Shroughmore in its Index! Production of copper at Connary was 3,682 tons of ore in 1863, but only 79 tons in 1865. The final record of any kind of output from the mine was in 1885 (98 tons of “bluestone”).[14]

MAP REFERENCES

The extract from a one-inch map of the early 1900s (Fig. 1), with mileposts marked, shows that if the Connorree Company’s Siding was indeed 2½ miles north of Avoca, then it would have been between the crossing of the Avonmore River just south of MP40 and the “Lion’s Bridge”, just north of the “Meeting of the Waters”. The railway is, in this section, on a low embankment. There is no indication on the larger scale maps from this period of any likely site for a siding, or indeed any obvious road access to the lineside. Also the railway here runs through the “Meetings” townland, the Sroughmore townland being some 1½ miles to the north.[15]

So where was the siding? Going back to George Mahon’s first mention of it, it would seem that the Sroughmore townland is likely to be the best place to look. Fig. 2 is derived from the incomparably useful and informative Ordnance Survey Ireland public viewer website[16], which allows inspection of historic 25” maps from the 1900-10 period, along with earlier 6” maps and aerial photographic data from 1995-2005.

Fig. 2 shows most of the Sroughmore townland and to its south, part of Connary Upper. The Connary mine site extends over parts of both townlands. The line of the endless rope drive is also marked on the map, as well as the locations of the towers which carried it, all of which are indicated on the 25” maps as then in situ. The two towers surviving as of 2014 are specifically identified. The north end of the rope drives allows the likely location of the turbine to be pinpointed.

Fig. 3 is an enlargement of the area in the vicinity of the turbine, and is of exceptional historical interest. We can see what appears to heve been the head race to the site of the turbine, commencing at the Rathdrum No. 2 Tunnel alongside the railway, passing under the railway by way of a bridge, which still exists, as well as the tail race leading back to the Avonmore River, at right angles to the head race.

The Sroughmore “old glebe house” and the roadway leading to it are not clearly indicated in the 25” map, but information from the pre-railway 6” map has been added, as indicated. It appears that by the 1900-10 period, the old glebe house was no longer in use as a residence, the roadway to it no longer being shown as such.

Most interesting from the railway point of view is the roadway curving away from the railway, immediately south of the Rathdrum No. 3 Tunnel, directly at the Sroughmore townland boundary. After a gentle initial curve away from the railway, it crosses over a small stream by way of a bridge or culvert, and then runs in a straight line, with a relatively wide alignment, to a location beyond the end of the head race, where it becomes an unfenced and more winding track. The portion running from the railway has a fence on its eastern side, but is marked as mostly unfenced on the western side.

The stream bridged by this alignment seems to pass over the turbine head race, but it may be that by the time of the 1900-10 survey, the head and tail races may have been largely dry. There also appears to be small bridge over this stream, possibly a footbridge, at the railway underbridge. There are some buildings on the river side of the railway near the No. 3 Tunnel, which were possibly accessed on foot by way of this bridge and through the rail underbridge.

The present diagrammatic maps have been prepared to illustrate those features relevant to the possible site of the siding, but the material on the OSI website contains a wealth of additional detail. Reference to the web material is strongly recommended.

So have we found the true location of the Sroughmore siding? The gentle diverging curve followed by the longer straight section fits the bill. Also at the point of divergence from the line, the embankment height in the eastern side of the line is quite low, as the railway leaves the mouth of the No. 3 Tunnel, but could have been built up sufficiently at the time the siding was connected, if this was indeed its location.

So what does the site look like today? Through the miracles of Google Earth, we can now inspect this site by way of a satellite image, Fig. 4. The information from this is quite astonishing. The lines of the sometime headrace and tailrace can be clearly seen in the field between the suggested siding alignment and the railway. The curve between the suggested siding location towards the railway is very evident. There is a hint of the culvert under this roadway, at the field boundary.

Also apparent is a more recent deviation by which the current roadway on this suggested siding alignment climbs onto the hillside above the No. 3 Tunnel. This development appears to be quite recent, because there is no roadway on the this alignment in the 2005 ortho view (aerial photograph) on the OSI website.

Fig. 5 is a photograph taken from the public road southeast of the site. The underbridge on the railway can be clearly seen, while the suggested alignment of the siding can be seen as now in use as a farm road.

SROUGHMORE SIDING?

Have we located Sroughmore Siding? Possibly, but a cautious verdict would be “not proven”. Some press reports of AGMs of the Connorree Mining Company for the early 1860s suggest a thriving business, but the collapse in output for 1865 paints another picture. Did the Company make a final effort to retrieve the fortunes of its failing business? We don’t currently know when the endless rope and turbine were installed, but if this dated from the mid-1860s, then, for the new DW&WR, opened in 1863, the possibility of inward traffic to the Connorree Company for the building of this venture would surely have been attractive? Possibly sufficiently attractive to construct a siding at a rather remarkable location, immediately at the end of a short tunnel and on a steep hillside above the Avonmore River.

The Cronebane Siding, installed in 1884, was also located at a constrained location, and while the rails of this siding were still visible into the 1960s, the mines which it was to serve had been largely abandoned even by the time of the 1888 Memoir already adverted to, so it didn’t have much more success than Sroughmore.

It seems likely that further press reports of the acitivities at Connary may exist, because given the nature of the wire rope project, it must have attracted interest at the time. Also its lack of technical success would surely have been recorded in the mining or engineering press. It was essentially a largescale version of a belt drive, or a flying rope drive as used for overheard cranes. Perhaps the deficiency was in the turbine rather than the concept, because the available head to drive the turbine at the Sroughmore site can hardly have been very great.

Wire rope power transmission was used successfully in Switzerland in the 1860s[17] and one installation has survived. A similar drive was also used for the Sassi-Superga hill railway in Turin, using the Agudio system, in which a driving cable ran along the side of the track and passed around two large pulleys on each side of the drive car. The pulleys drove cog wheels that propelled a train made up of the drive car (only occupied by the driver and a brakeman) and up to three passenger cars.

All such rope drives were attempts to supply energy to points distant from where the energy was generated, but when electricity came along, most such schemes were superseded, because electricity was so much more convenient.

SROUGHMORE AND CONNARY

Apart from the location of the siding, the Sroughmore and Connary areas are of interest for their industrial archaeology. The mine site at Connary, although not accessible to the public, is an example of a largely unchanged, small 19th century mining complex.

The hamlet at Connary, some 700 feet above sea level, is attractive in its own right, with a small Church of Ireland (Anglican) church, still in use. There has been the idea for many years of developing a “mines trail” through this spectacular but little known area, which is nonetheless only a few miles from the Wexford motorway.

CONCLUSION

It is hoped that this short account may encourage researchers with special knowledge of the mining history of this area to delve further into the story of the Sroughmore site, and especially the wire rope drive. We would hope at some time to be able to complete the story of Sroughmore and its siding.


[1] George Mahon, “Irish Railways in 1865”, IRRS Journal 45 (1968): 175.

[2] George Mahon, “Irish Railways in 1869”, Journal 55 (1971): 77

[3] George Mahon, “Irish Railways in 1871”, Journal 63 (1971): 186

[4] Ernie Shepherd and Gerry Beesley, Dublin & South Eastern Railway (Midland Publishing Limited, 1998), 21.

[5] Ibid, 67.

[6] Ibid, 115.

[7] Ibid, 154.

[8] Stephen Johnson, Johnson’s Atlas & Gazetteer of the Railways of Ireland (Midland Publishing Limited, 1997), 85.

[9] JB Jukes and GV du Noyer, Memoirs of the Geological Survey (Longmans 1869), 43.  Available at http://www.geologicalmaps.net/IrishHistMapsDownload/B02071.pdf.

[10] E Hull and RJ Cruise, Memoirs of the Geological Survey (HMSO 1888), 29, 30.  Available at http://www.geologicalmaps.net/IrishHistMapsDownload/B02083.pdfDownload/B02083.pdf.

[11]Wicklow - County Geological Site Report – Avoca - Sroughmore. Available at https://www.gsi.ie/NR/rdonlyres/8F792381-38B4-45B2-9FFA-C9FABBDEE73C/0/WW005_Avoca_Sroughmore.pdf

[12] E Hull and RJ Cruise, Memoirs of the Geological Survey (HMSO 1888), 34.

[13] GAJ Cole, Memoirs of the Geological Survey (Stationery Office, Dublin, 1922), 33. Available at http://www.geologicalmaps.net/IrishHistMapsDownload/B02083.pdfDownload/B02138.pdf.

[14] Ibid, 115.

[15] https://www.townlands.ie/ provides boundary maps for many Irish townlands. For Sroughmore, see https://www.townlands.ie/wicklow/arklow/castlemacadam/cronebane/sroughmore/

[16] Access point http://maps.osi.ie/publicviewer/#V2,578432,756724,0,10

[17] http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2013/03/the-mechanical-transmission-of-power-3-wire-ropes.html

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

 
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Revised: August 22, 2017 .