Front facade of Dublin Heuston station, viewed from the Guinness Hop Store Gravity Bar Steve Ollive
It has been nine years since many of the European touring party were in Ireland but we felt that the time was good for a re-visit. Much has changed, particularly in railway terms,
since we were last there. The LUAS tram network was still in the design stage last time, it is now fully up and running well, and being extended as we were to discover.
In Eire the oldest trains in everyday passenger use now are the 12 year old Japanese built Cl.26 ‘Arrow’ DMUs. Locomotive hauled trains are almost extinct, with the
Dublin Heuston to Cork service and Dublin Connolly to Belfast Central ‘Enterprise’ being the only passenger workings with hauled stock. The bulk of distance workings
in Eire are now in the hand of CAF built DMUs (in 3 and 6 coach formations) and similar units are also taking over in Northern Ireland. New lines have opened since
we were last there and so we took the opportunity to go and ride over them. Ireland’s economy is in a mess (not as bad as one or two other mainland European countries,
though!), and this was noticeable from the passenger loadings on peak hour journeys especially to and from Heuston, although DART and IE services from Connolly seemed
to be very well patronised. In amongst all the positive change there were a couple of negative changes which were sad to see. Perhaps most noticeable of these was a
serious attitude problem of a few of the customer facing employees of IE. Most of us had at least one run-in with a ‘jobsworth’ during the week. Very unlike Ireland
and very un-necessary especially as they need to be proactive in encouraging travellers to rail services. Perhaps a case of the few spoiling an otherwise reasonable
customer/provider relationship, and we did indeed find plenty of employees who were more friendly and customer focused. By contrast in the North where we might have
expected some caution from the railway employees we found them to be most friendly and helpful.
Arriving from well flung parts of England, by various methods, we descended on our base for the week, the Best Western Academy Plaza Hotel just off O’Connell
Street in Dublin. We ended up eating at the hotel most nights as they had a variety of eating areas all with reasonably priced food which was nicely prepared and presented. Beer wasn’t bad either!
Day one of the trip, the Sunday, was to head out towards Limerick and thence to take the newly opened western corridor route via Ennis to Galway, before returning home.
This was a relatively easy day starting with the 1000 from Heuston to Cork as far as Limerick Junction. So our first ride with a Cl.201 hauling the relatively new
CAF built hauled coaches, all painted in a pleasing silver and mid green livery with orange lettering. Leaving Heuston we found the first noticeable change in railway
architecture with much of the line now quadrupled to Newbridge which is just short of Kildare. Many new stations have been built, serviced by local trains to Kildare.
Limerick Jct. station has changed a lot since we last visited, and now sports just one bay platform at the Dublin end one long through platform with a diamond crossover
half way along, so it is possible for two trains travelling in opposite directions to occupy it – either way round. Changing onto a ‘Sparrow’ (Spanish built Arrow cl.27)
unit at Limerick Jct. we took the short trip to Limerick City, for a fairly quick change onto the Galway train formed of another Cl.27 ‘Sparrow’ DMU. The run
from Limerick City to Galway is almost two hours and passes through some of the wonderfully scenic western coastal areas of the Emerald Isle. Arriving into Galway,
where the CAF units are based for maintenance, we had just enough time to run round to the stabling area to check off those units stabled up. With impeccable weather
timing this exercise took place during a short sharp shower! Returning to the station we joined the queue for the train back to Dublin. We used to think queuing
for things was a quintessentially English trait. Not quite so now as barriers prevent folks from accessing platforms until the train is ready to board. We now
have to queue for trains in Ireland ready to make the mad dash to train with barely three minutes leeway from barrier release to train departure. Anyway all safely on board a
CAF DMU train we set off from Galway and arrived back in Heuston in time to take the tram back to O’Connell Street and a delightful meal in the Chinese restaurant
at the hotel, following this with a relaxing evening in the bar over a glass of the ‘black stuff’.
IE 22321 (3 car) leaving Dublin Heuston Keith Sykes
IE 2706/2705 and 2711/2712 at Ennis Steve Ollive
IE 2706/2705 at Galway Steve Ollive
IE 22307 stabled at Galway (last unit with set number on front) Steve Ollive
IE 221 at Dublin Heuston with a Cork train Steve Ollive
IE 079 stabled at Dublin Heuston with the Weedkilling train Steve Ollive
Our second day out, was intended to take in the new services from M3 Parkway, which, as its name suggests, is a parkway station next to the M3 motorway.
Services from here head into the Dublin docklands area. The opportunity exists to allow customers to change en route into services which head into
the city centre. Only problem is, due to late running from Connolly, the intermediate station we chose to change trains to head up to
M3 Parkway we watched the train go rushing past. To our cost we found that the M3 to Docklands trains are semi fast and miss many
of the intermediate stations, so we resumed half an hour later and changed at our originally planned interchange. The local services to the north side
of Dublin are almost all in the hands of CAF built Cl.29 4 coach units. These are all based at Drogheda on the line towards Belfast. At the
time of day we travelled (mid morning) the train to M3 had only a handful of folks on apart from us, and we had the train to ourselves all the way
back to Docklands, so it is not what one would consider a well used service. Docklands station is a 15 or so minute walk from Connolly so
we opted for that mode of transport to get us back there in order to spend a few hours observing the afternoon rush hour - and thus do some serious number crunching.
IE 8129 at Dublin Connolly with a train to Malahide Steve Ollive
IE 8606 arriving at Dublin Connolly with a train to Greystones Steve Ollive
Enterprise Driving Trailer 9002 at head of train from Belfast approaching Dublin Connolly Steve Ollive
IE 2811 at tail of train leaving Dublin Connolly for Maynooth Steve Ollive
IE 29406 for Bray and IE 8635 for Dublin Pearse at Dublin Connolly Richard Morris
IE 29408 at Dublin Connolly heading to Dublin Pearse Richard Morris
IE 4004 driving trailer at front of train from Cork arriving at Dublin Heuston Steve Ollive
IE 22140 (6-car) DMU leaving Dublin Heuston Steve Ollive
Tuesday was a quick start day as we needed to be on the 0735 Enterprise service to Belfast for a day ‘oop north’. Having bought our tickets the day before,
we were able to board the train more or less straight away. Arriving in Belfast Central in a little over 2 hours we had time to see what was about before
the next train. What we found was CAF built Cl.3000 units operating most services whilst the remainder were still in the hands of the ‘Castle’ class DMUs
with English Electric above chassis engines providing sounds very reminiscent to our own Southern Region ‘thumpers’. The ‘Castles’ are almost identical
to our Cl.455 Southern EMUs but have the end corridor connections only at one end (in the driving trailer car). It was a real joy to hear the EE ‘thumpers’ still
hard at work. Rumours spread that one 80 class unit (based on BR Mk.2 coaches) also with above chassis EE engines was still in use. We thought they’d
all gone with the introduction of the new CAF units but, as with all good fairy tales, rumour soon became fact as the unit arrived in from Whitehead.
Absolutely terrific to see the unit and hear its EE engines ‘thumping’ away. Back to reality and our train to Londonderry arrived and so we hopped on
board for the two hour run to the northern city. Opting not to hang around too long in Londonderry, we made our way back as far as Coleraine where,
after a fish and chip lunch, we jumped on a train to Portrush. A chance, then, to ride a ‘Castle’ class, as unit 8454 was operating the branch line, and
this gave us a most pleasant 20 minutes or so listening to some delightful English Electric music. Making our way then back to Belfast, our train
to Dublin left at 1810 and was well filled for most of the journey back. It was very encouraging to see the cross border services well used.
IE 227 at Belfast Central at the tail of an Enterprise Train to Dublin Richard Morris
Coleraine Signal Box viewed from the Station Steve Ollive
NIR 8454 'Galgorm Castle' at Portrush Richard Morris
A day for the ‘trammists’ on Wednesday – the target being to ride the whole LUAS system, using the 3000 and 4000 series trams on the Red Line (The Point/Connolly to Tallacht)
and, across the city centre – not yet physically connected, the Green Line (St Stephen’s Green to Brides Glen) using the newer 5000 series trams. As we
passed Red Cow depot on the red route we stopped briefly to see what was on. Using binoculars from the embankment opposite the depot it is possible to
see everything parked outside, so the only units not seen were those (probably only one actually) on maintenance inside the depot building. After
hearing of the collision between tram 3002 and a Dublin Bus Dennis Trident double decker, we did wonder what had become of the tram as it was known to
have disappeared from view. So some relief then to see it, clearly repainted, out in the yard on test. We reckon it had only been delivered back to Red Cow
earlier in the week. En route to Tallacht we spotted some catenary heading off in a direction where the ‘in service’ trams don’t go. Duty bound to investigate we discovered
this was a new extension being built from Belgard to Saggart. As the LUAS folks were busy running test trams and driver training specials over the new route we
presumed it was fairly close to being brought into use (opened on 2nd July according to the LUAS web site). Returning to Abbey St, in town, we walked up
to St Stephen’s Green in order to ride the green route. Taking the ride right out to Brides Glen, and then returning as far as Sandyford to have a look
at the green route depot, we discovered that similarly taking a walk round the outside will get the numbers of everything on the depot apart from what is buried inside.
Now exhausted after a day riding round the LUAS system we returned to town and headed up towards Heuston for a meal at an old favourite haunt, the Nancy Hands pub.
LUAS trams 3021 and 4003 at The Point Richard Morris
LUAS 5017 on Green Line at Brides Glen terminus Steve Ollive
Thursday was a ‘free’ day with nothing especially planned. Some took off on trains to places we weren’t going to this holiday, one or two hung around in the city
centre hoping to see any trams not noted earlier in the week; your scribe found a canal towpath which looked inviting for a walk. At lunchtime
a few convened to visit the Guinness Brewery. The tour here has changed since we last visited and now takes the visitor up through the complex to the ‘gravity bar’
right at the top of the building, where a refreshing pint of the black stuff is served to those who wish to partake whilst they look out
across the city as far as the eye can see. I guess the intention of naming the bar as it is, is two fold – Guinness rises from
the brew house by gravity to the bar and, after sampling what is essentially a heavy beer, visitors sink by gravity to the bottom floor where the shop
is located! In the afternoon an opportunity to sample the new Heuston commuter services was taken with a trip out to Hazelhatch.
LUAS 3012 passing the canal between Blackhorse and Drimnagh Richard Morris
Guinness 47, Planet Diesel, in the Guinness Hop Store Musuem Steve Ollive
We headed up to the North again on Friday with the intention to visit the RPSI facility at Whitehead. Taking the 0935 Enterprise service from Dublin, we
were aware that the train seemed more especially busy. The cause of this was a big county show taking place, and so a special stop was put in at Balmoral,
just on the outskirts of Belfast to allow visitors attending the show to alight. Arriving into Belfast we made our way out to Whitehead on a ‘Castle’ class
DMU, so some more English Electric music to listen to. We were met at Whitehead station by Francis Richards who manages the RPSI site, and were taken on a
most interesting tour round the facility seeing all the restoration projects. Thankfully there are enough buildings on site for the most delicate rolling
stock to be housed under cover. Francis discovered a lack of engineering training facilities in the Province, so he has teamed up with the local universities
and colleges to provide such a facility. He trains engineering students and in the process they get some hands on experience of breathing new life into
old rolling stock. Our return to Belfast proved to be probably one of the highlights of the week, as we were to have an absolutely delightful ride with
80 class ‘Thumper’ 8090+8094. We just couldn’t help but sit in the rear coach, next to the engine compartment – with the windows open..! Wow! What a perfect ending for the holiday.
IE 233 in Enterprise Livery on an Enterprise train at Belfast Central Steve Ollive
Preserved B113 at RPSI site at Whitehead on transfer from Inchicore to the Museum at Cultra Steve Ollive
Preserved B142 at RPSI Whitehead Steve Ollive
ex NIR 102 inside the RPSI workshops at Whitehead, with Richard Morris and Francis Richards in the foreground Steve Ollive
NIR 80 Class 8090 and 8094 at Whitehead with a service to Belfast Central Keith Sykes
NIR 3004 at Dublin Connolly having worked a special in conjunction with the Balmoral show Richard Morris
Our last day, Saturday 14th May, was billed as an opportunity to ride the new line from Cork to Middleton and to visit Cobh. Boarding the leading coach of the 0900 Heuston
to Cork train, we were tipped off that the air conditioning was not working in that coach. This didn’t bother us unduly as it was not a hot day. What did become
apparent, though, as we departed was that our locomotive, GM cl.201 No.231 was not exactly in the best of health. From the output of the exhaust we figured that she had
blown a piston ring. The driver and train manager had a quick conference at Portlaoise, and decided to press on, as the nearest spare locomotive was at Cork. She got us to
our destination, so many congratulations to the driver for persevering and nursing her home. It didn’t take long for the fitters at Cork to swap her out for something in
better condition. Anyway off to Middleton, newly restored to the railway map, our time there was as long as it took for the driver to swap ends, returning thus to
Glaunthorne where the Middleton line diverges from the Cobh line, and crossing via a delightful old cast iron footbridge to the other platform, picked up a train to
Cobh. Arriving there we took lunch at a delightful café in part of the old station, before having a look round the port area and some old railway artefacts also in the
old part of Cobh station. Returning then to Dublin as many as we could find of the group celebrated the end of the holiday with a dinner at our hotel.
IE 2614 and 2617 in the new livery Steve Ollive
IE 2604 and 2603 at Glaunthorne on a Cork to Cobh train Steve Ollive
And so we returned to our various homes, having thoroughly enjoyed our week away of good trains, good food, good beer and jolly good company! We ticked off
all the new lines, the number crunchers were very well satisfied with their results. Our very grateful thanks to Francis Richards at RPSI for making
our visit there so special, and as always, to Steve Ollive for organising the holiday and preparing the itinerary. We’re thinking we might try somewhere new next
year. Watch these pages for further information.
The RCTS party in front of B142 at RPSI Whitehead Steve Ollive
last updated: 17/08/11