Midland Great Western Railway

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Midland Great Western Railway
Map Rail Ireland Viceregal Commission 1906.jpg
Map of Ireland's railways prepared for a Viceregal Commission in 1906
Dates of operation1845–1924
SuccessorGreat Southern Railways
Track gauge1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in)
Length538 miles (866 km)

The Midland Great Western Railway (MGWR) was the third largest Irish gauge (1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in)) railway company in Ireland. It was incorporated in 1845 and absorbed into the Great Southern Railways in 1924. At its peak the MGWR had a network of 538 miles (866 km), making it Ireland's third largest network after the Great Southern and Western Railway (GS&WR) and the Great Northern Railway of Ireland.[1]

The MGWR served part of Leinster, County Cavan in Ulster and much of Connacht. Its network was entirely within what in 1922 became the Irish Free State.

Early development[edit]

The Midland Great Western Railway Act received the Royal Assent in July 1845, authorising it to raise £1,000,000 capital[2] and to build a railway from Dublin to Mullingar and Longford and to buy the Royal Canal.[3] Construction of the main line began from Dublin in January 1846[2] and proceeded westwards in stages, supervised by chief engineer G. W. Hemans.[4] It opened from Dublin Broadstone as far as Enfield in May 1847,[5] to Hill of Down in December 1847[6] and to Mullingar in October 1848.[7]

Dublin to Galway[edit]

Rivalry existed between the MGWR and the GS&WR, each of which wanted to build the line to Galway. The MGWR extended its line from Mullingar and the GS&WR from its line at Portarlington. The MGWR was first, going via Athlone and reaching Galway, 126.5 miles (203.6 km) from Dublin, in August 1851.[8] It was not until 1859 that the GS&WR got as far as Athlone. The GS&WR was obliged to operate its service over MGWR track between Athlone and Galway, paying the MGWR 65% of passenger and 55% of goods receipts. The GS&WR retained a separate station, which is now the sole operating station, as the last service to the MGWR station ran on 13 January 1985.[citation needed]. The branch is to be made into a rail trail as part of the Dublin-Galway Greenway by 2020.[9]

Galway to Clifden[edit]

In 1890 the Government granted the MGWR £264,000 to build a railway to Clifden[10] on the Atlantic coast of County Galway. It opened as far as Oughterard in January 1895[11] and to Clifden in July 1895.[12] Due to its inland route it did not serve the bulk of the area's population,[citation needed] so the GSR closed it in 1935.

A similar branch line was built at the same time from Westport to Achill on the Atlantic coast of County Mayo. The MGW built the first section, opening it as far as Newport in February 1894 and Mulranny in May 1894.[13] The Board of Works built the section from Mulranny to Achill, which opened in May 1895.[13] The GSR closed the line in 1937.

Branch lines[edit]

Tunnel at Newport on the Westport to Achill branch line.

At its peak the MGWR had a number of branch lines:


In 1924 the Oireachtas of the Irish Free State passed the Railways Act, which that November merged the MGWR with the Great Southern and Western Railway (GS&WR), Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway to form the Great Southern Railway.[14] In January 1925, that was joined by the Dublin and South Eastern Railway to form the Great Southern Railways.[14]

In 1907 in a MGWR bus.

Locomotives and rolling stock[edit]

Locomotives and rolling stock were maintained at MGWR's Broadstone works in Dublin.


The MGWR painted all of its locomotives bright emerald[15] until about 1902, when the first of the new Class A 4-4-0 express locomotives were outshopped in royal blue.[16] This did not wear well and in 1905 the company adopted grass green.[15] From about 1913 locos were painted gloss black[15] until the MGWR became part of the GSR in 1925. From then on, all locomotives were gradually repainted plain unlined dark grey.

Passenger coaches were finished in varnish or brown paint[citation needed] until the blue livery was introduced in 1901.[17] As on the locomotives this weathered badly and from 1905 the MGWR reverted to brown,[17] which after 1910 was not so well-adorned with lining.[citation needed] From October 1918 coaches were painted a very dark Crimson[17] and after 1924 the GSR used a similar shade for some years.


MGWR Dargan Saloon at Cultra

No MGWR locomotive has been preserved but several of its six-wheeled carriages exist.

  • No. 25 - Downpatrick and County Down Railway. Originally a full 2nd, this coach is on display in the carriage gallery awaiting restoration.
  • No. 47 - Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. Built in 1844 and notable for being used as William Dargan's private saloon. Fully restored.
  • No. 47M - This carriage used to be based at the DCDR, but unfortunately had to be scrapped.
  • No. 53 - Downpatrick and County Down Railway. Originally a full 2nd, this coach is on display in the carriage gallery awaiting restoration.
  • No. 62M - Railway Preservation Society of Ireland. A full 3rd, this carriage is meant to be under restoration for use at the DCDR.
  • No. 84 - Clifden. Intended to be restored as part of the Station House Hotel's collection.[18]

Present day[edit]

Those of the former MGWR's main lines that are still open are owned and operated by Iarnród Éireann. Routes between Dublin and Sligo, Athlone and Galway, Athlone and Westport and the Ballina branch remain open to passenger traffic. The Meath on Track campaign is campaigning to have the Navan — Clonsilla line (not to be confused with the former GNR Navan — Drogheda line) reopened earlier than the 2030 date announced under current Iarnród Éireann policy.[19] The Edenderry, Clifden, Achill, Cavan, Killeshandra, Ballaghaderreen branch line, Ballinrobe, Killala and Loughrea branches lines are all closed.

Rail Users Ireland proposed running some Galway — Dublin services via the MGWR station in Athlone and the disused route via Moate to Mullingar, reinstating the route of the first MGWR service via the former GS&WR line. The current Galway service runs from Dublin Heuston. This proposal will not go ahead as the railway is due to be replaced with the Dublin-Galway greenway starting from 2020.[20][21]

The former MGWR station at Clifden, now the Clifden Station House Hotel

Three former MGWR stations are now hotels, two of which are called the "Station House Hotel" but are unconnected by ownership. They are the expanded former Clifden station in County Galway, Kilmessan Junction in County Meath and the Mullranny Park Hotel at Mulranny, County Mayo.

The Great Western Greenway is a greenway rail trail that uses the route of the former Westport — Achill branch line.[22]

Senior people[edit]

Deputy Chairmen

This position was not always filled.[25]

  • John Ennis (1845-1847)[23]
  • Honourable Richard Nugent (Briefly in 1903)[25]
  • Major H. C. Cusack (1905-1912)[25][26]
General Managers
  • Joseph Tatlow (1890-1912)[23]
Chief Mechanical Engineer/Locomotive Superintendent

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Casserley 1974, p. 92.
  2. ^ a b Shepherd 1994, p. 10.
  3. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 9.
  4. ^ "George Willoughby Hemans". Grace's Guide. Archived from the original on 20 July 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  5. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 12.
  6. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 14.
  7. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 15.
  8. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 17.
  9. ^ "Latest section of Dublin-Galway coast-to-coast Greenway opens - Varadkar". DTTAS.ie. 27 June 2014. Archived from the original on 11 August 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  10. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 45.
  11. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 46.
  12. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 47.
  13. ^ a b Shepherd 1994, p. 48.
  14. ^ a b Shepherd 1994, p. 64.
  15. ^ a b c Shepherd 1994, p. 90.
  16. ^ Shepherd 1994, p. 88.
  17. ^ a b c Shepherd 1994, p. 93.
  18. ^ "MGWR 84 Six-wheel Third built 1897". www.cs.vintagecarriagestrust.org. Archived from the original on 26 September 2021. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  19. ^ Meath on Track Archived 2 January 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Local councillors had a chance to check on the progress of the Greenway cycleway project as works reached Moate last week". Athlone Advertiser. 18 December 2014. Archived from the original on 18 December 2014. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  21. ^ "€10m More For Cycleways". HospitailityIreland.com. 15 May 2014. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  22. ^ "Home". Great Western Greenway. Archived from the original on 30 July 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  23. ^ a b c d e f g Shepherd 1994, pp. 7–17, 27–28, 31.
  24. ^ "Ireland". The Times. No. 36847. London. 15 August 1902. p. 8.
  25. ^ a b c d Tatlow 1920, Ch. XXVII.
  26. ^ a b c Shepherd 1994, pp. 62–64.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g Shepherd 1994, pp. 82–90.


Further reading[edit]

  • O'Cuimin, Padraig (1972). The Baronial Lines of the MGWR, Loughrea and Ballinrobe. Transport Research Associates. ISBN 0-901552-00-3.

External links[edit]