Giant's Causeway and Bushmills Railway

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This article is about the current steam railway. For the early electric tramway over part of whose former course it operates, see Giant's Causeway Tramway.

Coordinates: 55°12′36″N 6°32′06″W / 55.210°N 6.535°W / 55.210; -6.535

Locomotives of the railway: Shane and Tyrone

The Giant's Causeway and Bushmills Railway (GC&BR) is a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge heritage railway operating between the Giant's Causeway and Bushmills on the coast of County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The line is two miles (3.2 km) long.


The original line[edit]

The Giant's Causeway Tramway, operated by the Giant's Causeway, Portrush and Bush Valley Railway & Tramway Company Ltd, was a pioneering 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge electric railway operating between Portrush and the Giant's Causeway. 9 14 miles (14.9 km) long, it was hailed at its opening as “the first long electric tramway in the world”.[1] Promoted by W.A. Traill it was powered by hydroelectricity from an elevated third rail, although steam tram engines were also used in its earlier years, and the power supply was converted to overhead wire in 1899. It opened to Bushmills in 1883, the extension from there to the Causeway following on 1 July 1887. The line did not reopen after the end of the 1949 season on 20 September, and was subsequently dismantled.

The new line[edit]

The new railway utilises equipment originally assembled by Lord O’Neill for a tourist line at Shane's Castle, Country Antrim, which closed in 1994. The idea of using this to revive part of the Tramway was largely conceived and promoted by David Laing. The Giant’s Causeway and Bushmills Railway Company is a not-for-profit organisation with charitable status. Clearance of the trackbed commenced at the end of 1999 and the railway carried its first passengers at Easter 2002.

On Saturday 10 July 2010 the Giant’s Causeway & Bushmills Railway took delivery of a specially customised 4 coach diesel multiple unit capable of accommodating up to 90 passengers, all of which have been specially designed by the Company and by the manufacturers, Severn Lamb UK Ltd., to enhance the visitor experience to the North Antrim Coast. The Giant’s Causeway & Bushmills Railway follows the breathtaking two mile extension of the original Giant's Causeway and Bushmills Hydro Electric Tram track. The new train was designed to recreate, in so far as it be possible, the passenger experience of the original hydro electric tram providing a nostalgic journey linking the town of Bushmills to the UNESCO World Heritage site at the Giant’s Causeway. Four Oliver Transport lorries had made their way from Alcester, Warwickshire on Friday 9 July 2010, overnight on the Norfolkline Birkenhead to Belfast ferry and then onward to Bushmills. At 8.56am on Saturday 10 July 2010 the four flat bed lorries carrying the new rolling stock appeared over Ballylinney hill en route to the Giant’s Causeway station. Castle Engineering had been at the station from 07.30 setting up the 50 tonne all terrain mobile crane to lift the drive unit and 3 coaches onto the rails. PSNI had accompanied the convoy from Priestland to the Giant’s Causeway, through the town of Bushmills to ensure safe passage of the precious cargo. On arrival at the Giant’s Causeway station the four lorries circled the car park and allowed staff and friends of the railway to take photographs of these eagerly awaited items of rolling stock.

At 9.30am the crane swung into action and started the meticulous job of unloading onto the tracks at the railway. Two banksmen were on hand with the coaches lifted precariously to approximately 30 feet off the ground. Within 90 minutes all coaches and the drive unit were unloaded.

Train services were not disrupted with No 3 Shane (Andrew Barclay & Sons, 2265, 1949) taking the strain at 11am to take the first passengers of the day to Bushmills.

Commissioning of the new rolling stock by the manufacturers began on Monday 12 July with the inaugural journey expected on Thursday 15 July 2010.

The DMU is powered by a Kubota V3600-E3 engine and although the Company is intent on using this new rolling stock for most of the 2010 season and beyond, steam days will be operated occasionally throughout the season.

Giant's Causeway & Bushmills Railway2.jpg

The route[edit]

The upper station, just below the Causeway Hotel, has a single platform and passenger, locomotive and carriage facilities, all built in traditional style for the line, which departs towards Bushfoot Strand down a gradient which is sufficient to make the engines 'bark' on their return. It then follows the ancient sand dune system until it meets the River Bush where a newly installed bridge carries the line across. Just before the bridge is a passing loop, not normally used. Crossing Bushfoot Golf Course to meet Ballaghmore Road (which leads from Bushmills to Portballintrae) the line turns bringing it parallel to that road, which it follows to the lower terminus situated at the junction of the Portrush to Bushmills road. The GC&BR Bushmills station is a single platform with no buildings. Alongside the line there is both a cycle track (National Cycle Network 93) and a footpath.

Locomotives and coaches[edit]

No. Name Wheel Arr. Cylinders Builder Works No. Date Built Notes.
1 Tyrone 0-4-0T 2, OC Peckett and Sons 1026 1904 Ex-British Aluminium Co. No. 1, Larne
2 Rory 4w DH Simplex (a) 102T016 1976 Ex-Blue Circle Cement
3 Shane 0-4-0WT 2, OC Andrew Barclay & Sons Co. 2265 1949 Ex-Bord na Móna No. 3 (later No. 45), Clonast, built as turf (peat)-burner
The two locomotives Rory and Shane at Giant's Causeway railway station in 2011


  • (a) The Motor Rail & Tramcar Co.
  • OC Steam Locomotive with cylinders outside the frames.
  • WT "Well Tank", a steam locomotive with water capacity in a tank situated in the well between its frames.
  • DH Diesel Locomotive with Hydraulic Transmission.

The line has eight 4-wheel coaches

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Railway Times 22 September 1883
  • Thomas, Cliff (2002). The Narrow Gauge in Britain & Ireland. Penryn: Atlantic. ISBN 1-902827-05-8. 
  • Johnson, Stephen (1997). Johnson's Atlas & Gazetteer of the Railways of Ireland. Leicester: Midland Publishing. ISBN 1-85780-044-3.