Downpatrick and County Down Railway

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Coordinates: 54°19′34″N 5°43′19″W / 54.326°N 5.722°W / 54.326; -5.722

The logo of the Downpatrick & County Down Railway, inspired by traditional heraldic railway emblems, featuring a monogram based on a BCDR original and shamrock reflecting the town's connection to St. Patrick.

The Downpatrick & County Down Railway is a heritage railway in County Down, Northern Ireland. The project is based at Downpatrick, on part of the former route of the Belfast & County Down Railway.

The railway, which has a triangular layout, connects two local tourist attractions, Inch Abbey to the north, and a locally famous Viking site ('King Magnus' Grave') to the south, and will eventually reach an 18th-century corn mill to the south near Ballydugan.


Local architect Gerry Cochrane M.B.E. was inspired to start the scheme after taking a walk along the route of the line, and by 1982 had gained support to rebuild part of the line as a heritage steam railway from the local council.[1] Lord Dunleath, whose father had purchased the railway trackbed adjacent to his estate after the closure of the B&CDR in Downpatrick, gave the newly formed society a package of land on which to build the line and station for a peppercorn rent. This was on the approaches to the old Downpatrick station, which had been demolished in the 1970s. Work started on rebuilding the railway in 1985, with public trains finally running in the town again in December 1987,[1] making it the first Irish gauge heritage railway in Ireland to carry passengers over its own track. Track has been relaid on nearly 6 km (4 mi) of Belfast and County Down Railway trackbed, and a 1.6 km (1 mi) extension south to the hamlet of Ballydugan has been proposed.

The railway began life as the Downpatrick & Ardglass Railway, as the original intention was to extend the railway to this fishing port on the south coast of County Down. This name was dropped in 1996 following the abandonment of this proposal and the railway was renamed the Downpatrick Railway Museum until 2005 when the new name, Downpatrick & County Down Railway was adopted following the opening of the Inch Abbey extension.[1]

The Downpatrick & County Down Railway was the subject of a BBC1 Northern Ireland 40-minute documentary, "Raising Steam", which was broadcast on Monday 14 January 2008.[2] It has also appeared in numerous other TV productions by BBC, UTV, RTÉ and independent programme makers.

Operations and Rolling Stock[edit]

Downpatrick and County Down Railway
From Belfast
Inch Abbey
Downpatrick Loop Platform
King Magnus's Halt
Ardglass Line
To Newcastle

Approximately 5 km (3 mi) of 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) Irish standard gauge track are open as of 2005, along which one Orenstein and Koppel steam locomotive and some early 1960s era diesel locomotives (three CIÉ G611 Class and two CIÉ E421 Class) are run, drawing preserved rolling stock, including no. 836, a carriage built for the Great Southern and Western Railway in 1902. The DCDR has also introduced back into service 1897-built BCDR No 148, the first Belfast and County Down Railway coach to be restored by the railway and the oldest operational passenger carrying railway vehicle in Ireland. After withdrawal from traffic in the mid 1950s, 148 did duty as a henhouse until rescued by the DCDR in 1987.

The railway also operates one of the prototype BR-Leyland Railbuses, RB3, which was modified in the early 1980s to run on Irish metals and was used for a period by Northern Ireland Railways. The railway has also been donated several items of stock by Irish Rail, such as Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway Railcar B, built in 1947. This railcar is in poor condition and it will be some time before the DCDR can return it to operational condition. A second O&K steam locomotive is also under restoration. 1875-built 0-6-0 tank engine, GSWR No.90, which was delivered to Downpatrick in October 2007 after overhaul at the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland's workshops in Whitehead, Co Antrim, is Ireland's oldest operational steam engine. A mainline diesel locomotive, CIÉ A class No.A39, was moved to the railway in November 2009. This locomotive is on loan from the Irish Traction Group. ITG-owned 141 class locomotive No.146 joined the railway's fleet in late November 2010.[3]

Steam Locomotives At DCDR
Number Wheel Arrangement Build Date Original Operator Current Status Notes
1 0-4-0 1934 Irish Sugar Company In Service Overhauled at Whitehead by RPSI. Arrived at Downpatrick in 2012.
3 0-4-0 1935 Irish Sugar Company Awaiting Overhaul Overhauled at Whitehead by RPSI. Awaiting overhaul after No. 1 arrived in 2012.
90 0-6-0 1875 Castleisland Railway On display in Carriage Gallery On loan to DCDR from Irish Rail. Originally built as a railmotor.
Diesel Locomotives & Multiple Units/Railcars At DCDR
Number Class Build Date Original Operator Current Status Notes
E421 E421 Class 1962 CIÉ Awaiting Overhaul -
E432 E421 Class 1963 CIÉ Awaiting Overhaul -
G611 G611 Class 1961 CIÉ Operational Owned by the Irish Traction Group
G613 G611 Class 1961 CIÉ Awaiting Overhaul Privately Owned
G617 G611 Class 1961 CIÉ Operational Owned by the Irish Traction Group
A39 A (001) Class 1956 CIÉ Operational Owned by the Irish Traction Group
B146 B (141) Class 1962 CIÉ Operational Owned by the Irish Traction Group
C231 C (201) Class 1956 CIÉ Undergoing Overhaul Owned by the Irish Traction Group
Railcar B - 1947 SLNCR Awaiting Overhaul -
RB3 - 1981 NIR On display in Carriage Gallery Experimental Railbus
458 450 Class 1985 NIR Awaiting Overhaul 3-Car set. Named Antrim Castle. Arrived at DCDR 28/09/2014

Steam Locomotives[edit]

  • Orenstein and Koppel 0-4-0T No. 1 built in 1934. Operational, returned to service in 2012.
  • Orenstein and Koppel 0-4-0T No. 3 built in 1935. Not operational, withdrawn from service for overhaul in 2012
  • Great Southern and Western Railway 0-6-0T No. 90 built in 1875. Operational but on display.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Cochrane, Gerry (2009). Back in Steam: the Downpatrick and County Down Railway from 1982. Newtownards: Colourpoint. ISBN 978-1-906578-29-9. 
  2. ^ Raising Steam.
  3. ^ "American Baby Boomer adopted by Downpatrick Railway". Latest News. Downpatrick & County Down Railway. 2010-11-29. Retrieved 2012-07-23.