County Donegal Railways Joint Committee

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Former CDRJC locomotive at the Foyle Valley Railway Museum

The County Donegal Railways Joint Committee operated an extensive 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railway system serving county Donegal, Ireland, from 1906 until 1960. The committee was incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1906, which authorised the joint purchase of the then Donegal Railway Company by the Great Northern Railway of Ireland and the Midland Railway Northern Counties Committee.

History of the Donegal Railways[edit]

On 1 May 1906, the Joint Committee was set up. The lines inherited by the Joint Committee totalled 106 miles (171 km) and were:

The Joint Committee opened the Strabane and Letterkenny Railway on 1 January 1909, bringing the total mileage to 121 miles (195 km). By 1912 the company owned the following assets:[1]

  • Locomotives and rolling stock: 21 locomotives; 56 passenger vehicles; 304 goods vehicles
  • Head offices and locomotive works at Stranorlar

The Strabane to Derry line was completely owned by the Midland Railway Northern Counties Committee although it was operated by the CDJRC.[2]


Surviving railcars on the Isle of Man Railway

Under the management of Henry Forbes, traffic superintendent from 1910 to 1943, the County Donegal Railways became pioneers in the use of diesel traction.[3] The first diesel railcar was built in 1930 (the first diesel railcar anywhere in the British Isles), although two further petrol-engined railcars were built before standardisation on diesel traction in 1934. Eight articulated diesel railcars were constructed by Walker Brothers of Wigan between 1934 and 1951, by which time virtually all passenger services were operated by diesel railcar. The railcars were capable of hauling trailers or freight wagons. A diesel locomotive named Phoenix (converted from a steam locomotive) was also used.


The Glenties branch closed in 1947, the Strabane-Derry line closed in 1954 and the rest of the passenger services ended on 31 December 1959. Much of the railway was closed completely on 16 February 1960.

In 1959, the two most modern diesel railcars were sold to the Isle of Man Railway.

Tourist attraction[edit]

Donegal Railway Heritage Centre in the former station building

Part of the line, which runs alongside Lough Finn near Fintown, has been re-laid as a tourist railway.[4]

The Donegal Railway Heritage Centre has been established and contains historic details and artefacts of the CDRJC.[5]

St. Connell's Museum, in Glenties has an extensive display of items from the railway.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Railway Year Book 1912 Railway Publishing Company
  2. ^ The Industrial Archaeology of Northern Ireland. William Alan McCutcheon, Northern Ireland. Dept. of the Environment, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1984
  3. ^ Britain Between the Wars: 1918-1940. Charles Loch Mowat, Taylor & Francis, 1968
  4. ^ Fintown Railway — An Mhuc Dhubh
  5. ^ Donegal Railway Heritage Centre
  6. ^ [1][dead link]

Further reading[edit]

  • Architectural Heritage of the Narrow Gauge Railways of County Donegal. County Donegal Railway Restoration Ltd. 2003. 
  • The Phoenix (County Donegal Railway Restoration Ltd.) 1–23. 1992–2005.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  • Begley, Joe. The County Donegal Railway A Visitors Guide. ISBN 1-874518-04-1. 
  • Bell, Dave (2001). County Donegal Railway Restoration Society 10 years. 
  • Flanders, Steve (1996). The County Donegal Railway An Irish Railway Pictorial. ISBN 1-85780-054-0. 
  • Crombleholme, Roger (2005). The County Donegal Railways Companion. ISBN 1-85780-205-5. 
  • Patterson, Edward M. (1969). The County Donegal Railways. ISBN 0-7153-4376-9. 
  • Donegal's Railway Heritage. 1 (South Donegal). South Donegal Railway Restoration Society. 1994. ISBN 1-874518-01-7.