Railway Preservation Society of Ireland
The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI) is an Irish railway preservation group operating throughout Ireland. It was founded in 1964. The society has its headquarters at Whitehead, County Antrim, and a base at Mullingar, County Westmeath. Restoration work is also carried out in the Dublin area.
The society runs mainline trains on the Irish railway network using steam traction and vintage carriages. It also owns a small fleet of vintage diesel locomotives. Its longest running and most famous train, the Portrush Flyer, takes day trippers from Belfast to Portrush during the summer. Out of Dublin, several Sea Breeze trains are operated over the scenic Rosslare line to Wexford and Rosslare Strand over the course of the summer.
Every Year, the RPSI run:
- 'Easter Shuttles': These are Easter-themed steam trains operating from Dublin
- 'Easter Eggspresses': These are Easter-themed steam trains operating from Belfast
- 'The May Weekend Railtour': A weekend Railtour visiting various parts of the island
- 'The Bangor Belle': Steam train between Whitehead and Bangor
- 'Steam & Jazz': Operating on Summer evenings, taking passengers to a mystery destination with jazz music played at stations
- 'Portrush Flyers': The RPSI's most famous and longest-running trip, to Portrush and back
- 'Sea Breeze': Steam train between Dublin and Rosslare
- 'Whitehead Summer Open Days': Open days at the RPSI's Whitehead base, including tours and mini train rides up and down the platform
- 'Steam Enterprise': Steam train between Belfast and Dublin, used to switch the RPSI's operational locomotives between the 2 cities
- 'Broomstick Belles': Halloween-themed steam train operating between Belfast and Whitehead
- 'Santa Steam Specials': Christmas-themed steam trains operating in the Belfast and Dublin areas
- 'Mince Pie Special': Steam train operating on the last or first day of the year
Each year the society organises a major weekend event, operating usually from Dublin in May and covering major routes in Ireland at a leisurely pace. Many visitors return year after year from homes as far flung as New Jersey and Berlin. The 2008 tour operated to Waterford and the 2009 tour to Westport. The May 2014 tour, the Saint Canice, is operating in the Dublin area. Also, the 50th Anniversary Grand Gala Dinner is on the weekend of the tour, 17 May.
Excursion trains run throughout the year, primarily at weekends, from both Dublin and Belfast. An operational set of vintage carriages is kept both at Whitehead and in Dublin for these purposes. These trains are frequently packed to capacity, and advance booking is recommended.
An RPSI steam locomotive has on two occasions been used for permanent way work by subcontractors for Northern Ireland Railways. In 2000, R. H. Smyth was employed to pull ballast dropping wagons on the Bleach Green to Antrim line, and in 2005 the engine performed a similar role on the Bleach Green to Whitehead route.
In 1983, the Association of Railway Preservation Societies (now known as the Heritage Railway Association) presented the RPSI with its annual award for "continuing highly successful operation...of steam excursions", and for the restoration of steam locomotive No. 4 and carriages 87, 1142 and 91.
The HRA has also presented the RPSI with the John Coiley Award for Locomotive Preservation (in 2004, for No. 186); a certificate of commendation in 2006 (for its part in the Bleach Green to Whitehead track relay) and the Wagon Award in 2009 (for the restoration of a GNR(I) brake van).
2014 is the Society's 50th Anniversary, having been set up in September 1964. A number of special events, including a DVD, have been arranged to celebrate the event.
The RPSI owns a total of nine steam and six diesel locomotives, a mixture of large main line and small industrial shunting types, all to the Irish gauge of 5 ft 3in. In addition it has had No. 85 Merlin, last of the GNR(I) Class V, on loan from the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum since the 1980s. The society also owns or cares for a large collection of carriages and wagons of varying ages.
|Number||Name||Class||Wheel Arrangement||Build Date||Original Operator||Notes|
|3||R.H. Smyth||0-6-0ST||1928||Londonderry Port & Harbour Commissioners||
Currently awaiting overhaul.
|3BG||0-4-0ST||1919||Arthur Guinness, Son & Co||Under overhaul|
|4||WT||2-6-4T||1947||LMS NCC||Under overhaul|
|Lough Erne||Lough||0-6-4T||1949||SL&NCR||UTA No.27 of class Z. In need of extensive restoration.|
|171||Slieve Gullion||S||4-4-0||1913||GNR(I)||Currently under overhaul in Shildon, Co. Durham.|
|184||101||0-6-0||1880||GS&WR||Requires heavy overhaul|
|461||K2||2-6-0||1922||DSER||Operational. Originally DSER No.15, renumbered by GSR.|
|Number||Name||Class||Wheel Arrangement||Build Date||Original Operator||Notes|
|4wDM||1955||Comlucht Siúcre Éireann Teoranta|
|4wPM||1965||UTA||'Unilok' road-rail shunter|
At present, the group has two operational mainline steam locomotives, DSER K2 class 2-6-0 No.461 (last overhaul completed 2011) and the borrowed Great Northern Railway (Ireland) V Class 4-4-0 No.85 Merlin (last overhaul completed 2014). No. 461 is the only surviving mogul locomotive to have inside cylinders in either Ireland or the UK, while No. 85 is the only operational compound railway locomotive. Normally, one locomotive is based in Dublin and one in Whitehead, with locomotives occasionally being swapped round to suit local requirements.
The RPSI has recently set up a diesel department with a view to running a few railtours a year using vintage diesel locomotives. 141 class locomotives Nos. 141 and 142 were acquired in 2010, repainted in original CIÉ black livery. It is planned to acquire another 141 class locomotive, No. 175, along with 121 class locomotive No. 134 in the near future.
As of 2014, the society has in operation three distinct rakes of carriages. One is made up of a mixture of NIR and BR Mark 2 vehicles, based at Whitehead. This locomotive is painted in the RPSI's dark green livery. In Dublin, there exists two further rakes of carriages. One, the "heritage set", is mainly made up of 1950s vintage CIÉ Park Royal and laminate stock, along with some ex-GNR(I), GSR and GSWR vehicles (including 1st corridor No. 1142). These are mostly painted in 1950s CIÉ green livery. The other is made up of ex-Iarnród Éireann Cravens coaches, along with a BR steam heating van. These are being repainted in the RPSI's own blue livery with yellow lining.
The society's founder members still perform regular maintenance tasks and undertake full engine restorations. They are joined regularly by new volunteers who assist in tasks from boiler repair to carriage painting. Volunteers are always welcome to visit and help at either of the engineering depots.
GNR(I) 4-4-0 Compound No 85 Merlin returned to service early in 2014.
- "The RPSI, how it all began...". RPSI. Retrieved 14 January 2009.
- "Saturday "Barrow Bridge" Railtour Dublin – Carlow – Waterford – Clonmel -Waterford". RPSI. Retrieved 14 January 2009.
- "Londonderry Port & Harbour Commissioners 0-6-0ST No.3 'R H Smyth'". RPSI. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
- "Film Contracts". RPSI. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
- "Five Foot Three No.29". RPSI. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
- "Five Foot Three No.34". RPSI. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
- "Five Foot Three No.48". RPSI. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
- "RPSI Wins Major HRA Award". RPSI. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
- "RPSI Wins HRA Award". RPSI. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
- "All aboard! Award recognition for local young railway enthusiasts". Antrim Times. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
- "Peter Scott MBE. For services to the Railway Preservation Society in Northern Ireland.". RPSI. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
- Cassells, Joe and Friel, Charles. Forty Shades of Steam – The Story of the RPSI. Colourpoint books, 2004
- "RPSI Locomotives". RPSI. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
- RPSI Newsletter January 2011
- "RPSI Carriage & Wagon Lists Steel-bodied Carriages in the Belfast Area". RPSI. Retrieved 14 January 2009.
- "RPSI Carriage & Wagon Lists Vintage Carriages in the Dublin Area". RPSI. Retrieved 14 January 2009.[dead link]
- "RPSI Carriage & Wagon Lists Steel-bodied Carriages in the Dublin Area". RPSI. Retrieved 14 January 2009.
- Five Foot Three. Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.
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