Irish Railway Record Society
Great Northern Railway (Ireland) at Dundalk
Osgood accomplished a Master’s with Distinction in Art History at Trinity
College Dublin in 2016. Her thesis, 'Railway Architecture: The Great Northern
Railway at Dundalk' has been nominated for the UK’s Industrial Archaeology
Association’s Dissertation Prize with an article due for publication in their
journal. She has been active in Dundalk, campaigning for the protection of the
GNRI’s engineering works’ buildings, published in local media and
interviewed on radio. Siobhan hopes to continue her analysis of the GNRI's
architecture across Ireland for her doctoral research starting in October 2018.
Siobhan is a member of the IRRS and will give a guest lecture at the Irish
Railway Record Society (IRRS) in London in December 2017.
“…the engineer has
to design and construct very many others [buildings] in connection with
railways. These will include large running-sheds for stabling working
locomotives; sheds for housing carriages; workshops for building and repairing
engines, carriages, and waggons; foundries; large stores for materials; offices;
dwelling-houses; mess-rooms, etc.; many of them involving questions of difficult
foundations, and nearly all of them requiring special strength and stability to
meet the heavy weights and vibrations to which they are subjected.”
Hemingway Mills, Railway Construction, 1898
yellow, red and black brickwork created a visual identity for the railway
architecture of the former Great Northern Railway (Ireland) (henceforth GNRI)
network across Ireland. The use of accented colours to pick out frames, bonds,
string courses and ocular pediments is repeated across a series of buildings
including engineering sheds, offices, railway stations and private residences.
These are most prominent in Dundalk, where the company had its central
engineering works at the half-way point on the Enterprise
train line between Dublin and Belfast, and where they remain standing today.
buildings were each intricately designed by the GNRI’s first chief engineer,
William Hemingway Mills, coinciding with the establishment of the GNRI in 1876.
Apprenticed under the creator of St Pancras’ awesomely functional train shed,
William Barlow, Mills was a second-generation railway engineer who merged the
roles of architect and engineer, almost dismissing the need for architects in
railway building altogether: “Engineers have brought railways to their present
state of perfection” he said, “…the engineer has to stand alone.”
However, Mills used an amalgamation of architectural designs from his earlier
career garnered during his employment at the Midland Railway in Derby,
Morayshire Railway and Great North of Scotland Railway, Andalusian Railway in
Spain, and finally the Mexican Railway Company. Mills thus created his own
‘Millsian’ style of functional eclecticism in architectural engineering
role as chief engineer for the GNRI signalled the new beginning of the company
and the establishment of its engineering works as a central hub for technology
and locomotive engineering: “The GNR usually had a stud of about 200
locomotives and 500 carriages”.
A new ‘Workmen’s Village’
was created from 1880 to the east of Dundalk town: a self-sufficient site of
engineering works included carriage shops, boiler shops, locomotive shops,
smithies, and carpentry workshops concurrent to the construction of
accommodation for its employees at Ardee and Brook Street Terraces. Each
building was fundamentally designed for its purpose but each showcased a main
body of red brick with yellow bricks used to accentuate the key features of
pediments, ocular windows, quoins, rounded arches and fanlights, and semi-curved
extant structures of the GNRI’s engineering works currently stand in a silent
state of re-use and disrepair, proudly defiant of their once raucously
industrious past. Two groups of buildings were first to be built. These were the
engine workshops and carriage workshops built between 1880 and 1881 by the
contractor, Collen Brothers, employing men from Dublin and Portadown rather than
locally for their construction. Both sets of buildings were erected at
right-angles to the track running north-south, and not directly connectable to
it. An “ingenious device” known as a Traverser was installed for running
engines along rails in between workshops. A later illustration of a similar
device can be seen in the drawing ‘View of Carriage and Wagon Shop Showing
Traverser’, dated June 1922.
engine workshops had a line of rails which passed through internal arches to the
outer yard and across into the carriage workshops. Combined in the complex of
the engine workshops were, moving from north to south, three combined buildings
of the erecting shop; fitting (later known as machine) shop; and smith shop. All
were constructed using red brick, pediments with ocular windows, and yellow
brick rounded arch windows and doorways, “lending that pleasant and familiar
identity, which articulated Great Northern Railway architecture”.
addition to the engine shops complex was the boiler shop in 1885 when “heavy
locomotive work [was centralised] at Dundalk”.
Jack McQuillan states the construction of the boiler shop signalled the
intention “to build locomotives in the works, rather than import them from
across the water”. Originally one pediment wide and built by contractors
Messrs. Martin of Belfast, the boiler shop was built using the now familiar red
brick and accented yellow hoods and was connected using another traverser system
to the erecting shop.
The boiler shop was extended at the turn of the century as shown in the
‘Proposed Addition to Boiler Shop Dundalk’, signed by Mills on 12 April
1900, and ‘Boiler Shop Alterations and Extension, New Tube Store’ (undated)
drawings. This extension demonstrates the success of locomotive construction
started five years previously.
of the engine workshops is a yard and three “large workshops for the building
and repair of carriages and wagons”. These included a saw mill and timber
sheds, adjoining carriage and wagon shop, and a larger separate shop where final
painting, fitting and upholstering took place. The latter was joined across a
yard by the traverser. Standing looking west, with the traverser in front, the
building to the right is the carriage and wagon shop, to the left is the
carriage fitting shop. The former mirrors the style of the fitting and smith
shop, whilst the latter has a slightly higher pitched roof. This is not for the
provision of fanlights but openings for “Kinnear” rolling shutters and an
internal crane. The carriage and wagon shop’s northern side repeats the arched
openings, with moulded eaves and linear orders of windows and entrance archways.
Referred to on the 1914 plan as ‘Carriage and Wagon Shop’, by 1932 its use
has changed to ‘Motor Repair Shop’,
reflecting the GNRI’s response to the ever-emerging motor cars and buses in
the early twentieth century. The carriage and wagon shop is now used as a
mechanical workshop for Bus Éireann and where the central traverser stood,
there are now two concrete sheds.
houses were those at Ardee and Brook Street Terraces; two parallel rows of
twenty terraced houses adjacent to the engineering works. Constructed
simultaneously were two larger end-of-terrace semi-detached houses overlooking
the works’ entrance, Brooklyn and Brook Ville. Plans signed by Mills dated 28
August 1880 show a proposed street layout with square outlines for the houses,
backyards and WC units; an additional row is included south of Brook Street
Terrace, but was not constructed as the land was ‘liable to flooding’ and
became the ‘scrap yard’ of the works.
Both terraces are red-brick, two-storey with flat frontages, moulded coping and
bonded window frames in yellow brick, also used on the rounded door hoods’
Brooklyn and Brook Ville correlate in feature and material to the terraces, they
are on a grander scale. With bay windows to north and south, the flat frontage
faces the entrance to the works. Quoins are pronounced in yellow brick,
mirroring those at the works’ offices opposite, and adding to their sense of
prominence. Door and window hoodings use this same brick, with the mixed use of
bonded arches and rounded hoods. The contrast between the terraces and the
semi-detached houses demonstrates the contrast between hierarchical positions
within the company: an on-going battle between “Protestant employer and
thematic Millsian brickwork continued with the construction of the new Dundalk
train station in 1892 (opened 1894), where Mills exploited GNRI brick-branding
with the striking reversal of red and yellow architectural accents: yellow
bricks formed the main structures, with red and black bricks now highlighting
the structures’ features. (Perhaps the role of the architect was not
completely obsolete from Mills’ engineering architectural designs after all).
The station does demonstrate explicitly Mills’ engineering nous; the still
operational lattice-girder footbridge’s original sketch shows an intricacy in
construction, with instructions, and a nifty piece of architectural engineering
also lies within the load-bearing pillars for the platform’s glass-roof:
rainwater gathers in the upper gutter which feeds into an internal pipe running
from the roof, down through the pillars and platform and directly onto the
tracks. This ensures the passenger remains as dry as possible when boarding and
alighting trains in Ireland’s “inclement weather”.
with the creation of the new train station, an additional row of railway
employees’ housing was erected parallel to the tracks at Demesne Terrace in
Echoing but not copying the earlier residential style, they demonstrate the
culmination of design being built of red-brick, using yellow bonded windows to
echo those seen at the station and Ardee and Brook Street Terraces. The door
hoods are not rounded like the earlier terraces, but rather arched to match the
windows of the new station. This architectural correlation is enhanced further
by similar linear string coursing.
the physical remains of the GNRI, the social impacts on the urbanisation of the
town, its population and its industrial legacy, as well as the visual and
material cultures associated with the GNRI, remain. Indeed, across the GNRI’s
now mostly closed and abandoned route, examples of Millsian design can be
discovered at Ballyhaise
amongst many others, in varying states of reappropriated use and derelict
disrepair. These seemingly randomly sporadic remains of railway architecture
provide clues to Mills’ legacy, Ireland’s railway revolution, its evolution
and its ultimate decline. The author hopes to continue to research the
architecture of the GNRI across Ireland, and in particular the legacy of William
Hemingway Mills; a Yorkshireman who became one of the forefathers of Irish
railway engineering and architectural design.
Mills, William Hemingway, Railway
Construction, first ed. Longmans, Green and Co.: London, 1898, this ed.
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform: Luxembourg, 2016, p. 300.
Mills, W. H., pp. 371-372.
Arnold, R. M., The Golden Years of the
Great Northern Railway, Blackstaff Press: Belfast, first published 1976,
this edition 1979, p. viii.
McQuillan, Jack, The Railway Town, The
Story of the Great Northern Railway Works and Dundalk, Dundalgan Press
(W. Tempest) Ltd: Dundalk, 1993. p. 25.
McQuillan, J., pp. 19-20, 40.
Patterson, Edward, Great Northern
Railway (Ireland), The Oakwood Press: Usk, first edition 1962, this
edition 2003, p. 137.
McQuillan, J., p. 25.
McQuillan, J., pp. 20-21, 102.
Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH): Bus Éireann Garage: http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=LH®no=13900711.
“Known as ‘The Bog’”: McQuillan, J., p. 21. OS map of 1938.
McQuillan, J., p. 37.
Mills, W. H., p. 281.
NIAH gives a construction date of c.1870. However, the original ‘Design
for Four Room Two-Storey Dwelling House’ was signed by Mills on 5 November
1901. The drawing also gives instructions for these houses to be constructed
at Drogheda. These can be found in two terraces of three houses to the
western end of Railway Terrace. The original buildings are not protected
structures; perhaps their significance and link to Mills and the GNRI were
NIAH: Ballyhaise Station. http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=CV®no=40401512
Accessed 02 04 2017
NIAH: Navan Station. http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=ME®no=14012079
Accessed 02 04 2017. Incorrectly attributed to ‘N. A. Mills’
Copyright © 2018 by Irish
Railway Record Society Limited