Londonderry and Enniskillen Railway
|Successor||Great Northern Railway (Ireland)|
|Donegal, Fermanagh, Co. Londonderry, Tyrone|
Construction and opening
The Londonderry and Enniskillen Railway was incorporated in 1845. Construction began at Derry and followed the west bank of the River Foyle southwards 12 miles (19 km) to Strabane, which was reached in 1847. The L&ER's terminus in Derry was Londonderry Foyle Road station on the west bank of the River Foyle.
Income from the line was lower than projected and capital to extend the line further south was not raised until 1850. The line was continued up the Mourne Valley via Newtownstewart, where the river name changes to the Strule, then continued up river to Omagh, both towns being reached in 1852. The line reached its summit at Fintona, County Tyrone, in 1853. Its final extension was from Fintona Junction, descending southwestwards to its terminus at Enniskillen, reached in 1854. Fintona Junction was just north of the town of Fintona, leaving the short stretch from the Junction to the town as a small branch line.
In 1859 the Dundalk and Enniskillen Railway (D&ER) reached Enniskillen, connecting the D&ER with Dundalk on the Irish Sea. Omagh became a junction in September 1861 when the Portadown, Dungannon and Omagh Junction Railway reached it from the east. The Ulster Railway worked the PD&O, giving Omagh a link with Belfast.
Operation and takeover
Robert Stephenson had been involved in the planning of the L&ER route but the railway was not run well and its locomotives were underpowered. Only five years after the line was completed, in 1859 the L&ER asked the D&ER to undertake its operation. As a result, D&ER leased the line in perpetuity from 1 January 1860.
In 1862 the D&ER renamed itself the Irish North Western Railway (INW). In 1876 the INW merged with the Northern Railway of Ireland and the Ulster Railway to form the Great Northern Railway (GNR). The L&ER's lease continued and the company remained separate until the GNR absorbed it in 1883.
In 1857 a cow strayed onto the line near Carrigans and was hit and killed by the mail train to Omagh. Afterwards the Board of Trade Inspector criticised the condition of the track, which had been laid only a decade earlier. In 1871 there were two accidents within seven months at Mountjoy Halt, County Tyrone. Both were attributed to the poor condition of the permanent way. A level crossing across Ballyfatton Road between Strabane and Sion Mills was the scene of two accidents. In 1876 the crossing-keeper's wife was killed by a mail train and in 1883 a train hit a horse and cart, killing the horse. After the second accident the Board of Trade ordered the railway to replace the crossing with a bridge.
Under the Great Northern the former L&ER developed in three sections. The junction with the PD&O at Omagh made the Londonderry – Omagh line part of the GNR's "Derry Road" main line with services between Belfast Great Victoria Street and Derry Foyle Road via Portadown. The Belfast and Northern Counties Railway's competing route via Coleraine was shorter, quicker and attracted more passenger traffic, but the Derry Road carried more freight. Traffic grew to the extent that by 1907 the GNR had installed double track between Foyle Road and St. Johnston, but in 1932 it was singled again.
The Omagh – Enniskillen line via Fintona Junction became a secondary route, and in 1957 the Government of Northern Ireland closed it. The short branch to Fintona became famous as the GNR worked it with a horse tram. Since the line's closure, the tram has been preserved at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra, County Down.
In 1958 the governments of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland partitioned the GNR between them and the Derry Road became part of the Ulster Transport Authority (UTA). The line was closed in February 1965.
- FitzGerald 1995, p. 1
- "Derry's Railways". Your Place and Mine. BBC. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
- "The Evolution of Public Transport in the North West of Ireland". West Tyrone Historical Society. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
- Hajducki 1974, map 7
- Patterson 1962, p. 10.
- Hajducki 1974, p. xiii
- Patterson 1962, p. 11.
- FitzGerald 1995, p. 4
- FitzGerald 1995, p. 3
- Hajducki 1974, map 3
- Hajducki 1974, map 39
- FitzGerald, J.D. (1995). The Derry Road. Colourpoint Transport. 2. Gortrush: Colourpoint Press. p. 1. ISBN 1-898392-09-9.
- Hajducki, S. Maxwell (1974). A Railway Atlas of Ireland. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-5167-2.
- Patterson, Edward M. (1962). The County Donegal Railways. Dawlish: David & Charles. pp. 10, 11.