Downpatrick Railway Celebrates Top Heritage Award

Railway officials at Downpatrick and County Down Railway (DCDR) are celebrating the announcement that the tourist attraction is to receive a top railway heritage award in recognition of its involvement of young people and “excellent building and museum development”.

[caption id="attachment_54167" align="alignleft" width="390"]No 1 engine draws several carriages along the Downpatrick line. No 1 engine draws several carriages along the Downpatrick line.[/caption]

The Heritage Railway Association (HRA) Board selected DCDR for one of their Annual Awards at a meeting on Saturday 13 December. Representatives from Downpatrick will collect their award at a ceremony in Manchester at the beginning of February 2015.

Recently, there have been major developments at Downpatrick, including new rolling stock acquisition and substantial building work. In September, their Carriage Gallery was officially opened, which saw the attendance of the Earl of Wessex. There are a number of projects underway at DCDR to develop their heritage experience even further for those who visit, with the installation of a signal cabin at Downpatrick station, supported by Heritage Lottery Fund and involving students from SERC, due to be completed in mid-2015.

DCDR Chairman Brian Goodfellow said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been selected for this award, given the tough competition faced. There are almost 175 heritage railway undertakings in the UK and Ireland eligible for this award, so I am heartened that a small voluntary organisation such as ours in South Down is capable of standing out among the best. Recent investment by Down Rural Area Partnership, Down District Council, Heritage Lottery Fund and Northern Ireland Tourist Board in major projects has been instrumental in getting us over the finishing line.”

Mr Goodfellow continued: “HRA have told us that we were nominated for this award as a result of what some of their members saw when they visited our railway last September during their Autumn conference, which was held in the Slieve Donard Hotel. I would like to thank Deputy Chairman of Down District Council, Desmond Patterson, for attending that visit to meet the delegates – a nice touch which impressed those in attendance. We are most grateful to the Council for their generous support of the railway project over the years.”

DCDR has recruited an enthusiastic and dedicated youth team in recent years. The group is made up of young people between the age of 15 and 17, but DCDR has hopes to expand this and create a larger, more structured youth scheme within the preservation railway.

Youth co-ordinator Honer Travers said: “This award is a huge achievement for the Society and will boost the morale of our volunteers, especially our youth team.”

“This is a brilliant way to mark the beginning of our 30th anniversary year.”

[caption id="attachment_54171" align="aligncenter" width="543"]The new museum gallery at Downpatrick and County Down Railway centre in Downpatrick. The new museum gallery at Downpatrick and County Down Railway centre in Downpatrick.[/caption]