Irish Railway Record Society
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
his invaluable series of papers in what the Irish railways were doing 100
years earlier, GR Mahon provided the following references to Sroughmore
Shroughmore [sic], south of Rathdrum, a siding was installed for the
Connorree Mining Co.’s mineral traffic to Kingstown.”
Connorree Mining Co. siding near Avoca was ordered to be taken up and this
was duly done.”
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’.”
and Beesley provide the following details:
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
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
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.”
and Beesley also provide the following distance data for the Rathdrum-Avoca
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.
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.
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”.
two of the towers than carried this rope survive, and a third is located in
a tipped-over condition at the Connary mine site.
1888 Memoir also incidentally notes that “The remains of a tramway to
Arklow is still in existence as far as Newbridge”.
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.
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”).
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.
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,
which allows inspection of historic 25” maps from the 1900-10 period,
along with earlier 6” maps and aerial photographic data from 1995-2005.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
rope power transmission was used successfully in Switzerland in the 1860s
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Irish Railways in 1865”, IRRS
Journal 45 (1968): 175.
“Irish Railways in 1869”, Journal 55 (1971): 77
“Irish Railways in 1871”, Journal 63 (1971): 186
Ernie Shepherd and Gerry Beesley, Dublin & South Eastern Railway (Midland Publishing Limited,
Stephen Johnson, Johnson’s
Atlas & Gazetteer of the Railways of Ireland (Midland Publishing
Limited, 1997), 85.
JB Jukes and GV du Noyer, Memoirs
of the Geological Survey (Longmans 1869), 43.
E Hull and RJ Cruise, Memoirs of
the Geological Survey (HMSO 1888), 29, 30.
- County Geological Site Report – Avoca - Sroughmore. Available at
E Hull and RJ Cruise, Memoirs of
the Geological Survey (HMSO 1888), 34.
GAJ Cole, Memoirs of the
Geological Survey (Stationery Office, Dublin, 1922), 33. Available
Access point http://maps.osi.ie/publicviewer/#V2,578432,756724,0,10
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