Track gauge in Ireland
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The track gauge adopted by the mainline railways in Ireland is 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm). This unusual track gauge is otherwise found only in the Australian states of Victoria, southern New South Wales (as part of the Victorian rail network) and South Australia (where it was introduced by the Irish railway engineer F. W. Sheilds), and in Brazil. The Grand Duchy of Baden State Railway used this gauge between 1840 and 1855 , as did the Canterbury Provincial Railways in New Zealand.
Ireland's first railway, the Dublin and Kingstown, was built to 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (later known as standard gauge). The Ulster Railway (UR), taking the Irish Railway Commission's advice, used 6 ft 2 in (1,880 mm). The Dublin and Drogheda Railway began building its new line to 5 ft 2 in (1,575 mm) on the grounds of lower costs. The two broader gauges were used nowhere else. Following complaints from the UR the Board of Trade investigated the matter, and in 1843 recommended the use of 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) and that compensation be paid to the UR for the costs incurred in changing to the new gauge.
In 1846 the UR was re-gauged at a cost of £19,000 and the Dublin and Kingstown Railway in 1857 for £38,000.
The Hill of Howth Tramway and the Dublin and Blessington Steam Tramway adopted the 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) gauge. The original Dublin tram system used 5 ft 2 3⁄16 in (1,580 mm) grooved rail which could accommodate 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) railway wagons. Dublin's Luas tram system, opened in 2004, uses standard gauge 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm).
Numerous narrow-gauge systems were built, usually as three foot gauge railways (3 ft (914 mm)). Most are now closed, including the largest narrow-gauge system in the British Isles, that of the County Donegal Railways Joint Committee. The Irish narrow gauge today survives as heritage railways in both the Republic and in Northern Ireland. Bord na Móna uses narrow gauge in the Midland's bogs as part of its peat transport network. There is also a private peat railway on the southern shores of Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland, operated by the Sunshine Peat Company.
- History of rail transport in Ireland
- Irish gauge
- List of narrow gauge railways in Ireland
- Rail gauge
- List of rail gauges
- Railway Regulation (Gauge) Act 1846