Tuesday 07 May 2019 10:32:04 PM

Enjoy A May Holiday Train Ride in Downpatrick
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CATCH the steam train at the Downpatrick and County Down Railway on this year’s May Day Holiday, Monday 27 May, as a ‘Black Beauty’ of the steamy kind is showing off her shiny new colour scheme this coming Bank Holiday.

Since hauling her first ever passenger trains in her life on the rail at Christmas, having only hauled wagons of sugarbeet during her working life, Orenstein & Koppel built steam locomotive No. 1 retired to the worksheds to be fully painted out and lined by veteran DCDR painter Cyril Leathers, and now passengers can see her in her full glory this year for the first time since the 1950’s.

The No1 train engine... ready for the May Day train rides.

The No 1 train engine… ready for the May Day train rides.

The final May Day bank holidays are the perfect chance to take another trip to Inch Abbey this time to sample the delights of a real steam train and rail travel at its most traditional.
Robert Gardiner, DCDR spokesperson, said “While it’s still hardly exam weather, and you’re looking for something to do, why not look at the either the rain dribbling down a vintage railway carriage window, or shelter from the cold outside as you’re snuggly inside travelling through the County Down countryside.

“Warm teas and coffees, as well as lots of buns, at highly competitive rates, will be served all day onboard a buffet carriage parked at Inch Abbey station; if travelling in to the town from Inch Abbey the return journey can be made on any of the services.

“A trip to the station museum and the new Carriage Gallery visitor centre brings the golden age of the railway vividly to life and looks at the impact that the railways had on people’s lives, through artefacts from the smallest such as a ticket in the upstairs exhibition, or the largest such as lovingly restored railway carriages in the Carriage Gallery and the stark contrast of the wrecks these vehicles once were when rescued.

“For the younger train fans, children can enjoy their own “Kids’ Station” in the Gallery, and dress up as a train driver or guard, or can get to drive Thomas the Tank Engine on a model railway – or will they let the big kids get a go too?”

But for those a little more adventurous, and perhaps who want to live out a childhood dream, you can buy a Footplate Pass for just £20 and get to travel up in the locomotive cab with the driver, or why not pre-book these in advance for someone special’s birthday treat?

Trains run from 2-5pm, with tickets costing: adults £5.50 return, £4.50 children and senior citizens, and don’t forget that children aged three years old or below go free. A family ticket costs £18, and Or why not join the DCDR Society and get free travel for the entire summer months, as well as get regular updates on what’s happening at Northern Ireland’s steam centre?

The DCDR expressed its thanks to everyone who donated money for the restoration of this locomotive for our “Steamed Up” appeal, and remember donations are still needed to get sister engine No. 3 back up and running – you can donate online at:http://downrail.co.uk/donate.htm

For further information on events – or if you are thinking about joining as a volunteer contact the Downpatrick Tourist Information Centre on 028 4461 2233 log on to the railway’s website at www.downrail.co.uk or find them on facebook at www.facebook.com/downrail follow on twitter @downrail

No1 – Background to the Orrenstein and Koppel Train Engine

It has taken two decades of work and funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (for a new boiler, as the old one had corroded so badly it had to be scrapped) Interreg, as well a substantial amount from the DCDR’s own funds. Work on its restoration was undertaken in a joint effort by the DCDR and the RPSI over that twenty years, such a long period as the locomotive was in an incredibly poor condition after it was saved from lying in a County Down field in the 1980s.

No. 1 is one two sister engines at the DCDR, and was built in the mid 1930s by Berlin-based Orenstein and Koppel for the Irish Sugar Company (Comlucht Suicre Eireann) for use in their factories at Mallow, Thurles and Tuam. There were a total of nine of these engines built (three for each factory) and they were used to transfer sugar beet wagons from the main line sidings in the factory complexes for processing.

Even though German built, they are also a legacy of early post-partition Ireland, as normally Irish firms would have ordered new locomotives from Great Britain, but de Valera’s Irish Free State was engaged in an “economic war” with the UK and so the order went to Germany instead, leading to these very continental looking locomotives appearing on the Emerald Isle.

It is believed that the last time No. 1 was steamed was in 1958.

After withdrawal from service, in 1960 the engines were sent to Dalkey Station, south of Dublin, for storage with a view to being moved to England for preservation. This project did not work out (due to the key players finding out that the width between the rails in Ireland is different to that in England!) and the locomotives were moved to Ballynahinch Junction for storage in 1978, as part of an attempt to resurrect this branch line as a heritage line. When this scheme failed to get off the ground the locomotives were purchased from their owner and moved to Downpatrick a decade later in the late 1980s.

After a period of storage in Downpatrick, work began on rebuilding No. 1 while No. 3 was restored at the RPSI’s workshop in Whitehead. No. 3 was returned to service on Saturday 2nd October 2000, and is currently dismantled for a full ten-year boiler inspection, and it is hoped to return No. 3 to traffic as well ASAP.

A new boiler was fabricated by Woolf Engineering, and No. 1 was moved to Whitehead in 2004 for completion of its restoration. While No. 1 will be “chuffed” to see Santa this December, running all four weekends of the DCDR’s Lapland Express services (subject to running in trails), it is hoped when the loco is fully painted that it will be given a “proper” homecoming celebration some time early next year.

The Lapland Express was the first time in No.1’s life that it will have hauled passengers, instead of wagons full of sugar beet.