First of all, an apology: I’ve had to split this topic over four pages, because there is quite a lot of material and there are many photos. It is impossible to consider the Grand Canal Company’s line to its harbour without also considering the Guinness brewery and the water supply to the south side of Dublin city. So this is Page 1 of 4, taking us from the outskirts of Dublin to the vicinity of the canal harbour.
At present, a boat entering Dublin on the Grand Canal from the west starts at the Twelfth Lock, at the Lucan Road Bridge, usually very early in the morning. Waterways Ireland, the navigation authority, has to be warned in advance and has to supply keepers to open the locks because they’re kept, er, locked.
Filling the 12th Lock. Note the Omer lockhouse in the background
The metal housing contains the locking gear
Between the Ninth and Eighth Locks, the canal passes under the M50, the C-shaped motorway around Dublin, and then passes the Filter Beds above the Eighth Lock. This photo is taken from the upstream end of the beds, with a sculpture forming the wavy line at the left side. The red-and-green building is one of the many office blocks in ParkWest industrial estate. The white line in front of that building is the side of one of the two covered filter beds. The canal is beyond the wire fence on the right of the picture.
The filter beds at the Eighth Lock
There is a second set of filter beds at the Fifth Lock.
The filter beds at the Fifth Lock
These filter beds still supply water to Guinness but nowadays the water is used only for washing. In bygone days, Guinness was made not, as some wags assert, with Liffey water but with canal water. Other breweries and distilleries were supplied with water by both the Royal and the Grand Canal, as were citizens.
Leaving the Third Lock, the boat passes under Blackhorse Bridge at Inchicore and then has both Davitt Road and the LUAS (tram: “luas” is the Irish-language word for “speed”) on its right, down through the Second Lock and the First, a double.
The LUAS at Lock 1
That photo was taken from Suir Road Bridge, and the canal goes under the bridge. Immediately afterwards, though, it makes a sharp right turn, goes under the (much older) Griffith Bridge and then travels through Dolphin’s Barn, Portobello and Dublin 4 to the Grand Canal Docks and eventually the River Liffey. Strictly speaking, from the turn it’s the Circular Line of the canal, and its seven locks have their own numbering system, starting at the Grand Canal Docks. So you go from the 1st Lock at Suir Road Bridge to the 7th Lock at Portobello.
The Circular Line from Griffith Bridge
Griffith Bridge from the Circular Line
The Circular Line is actually a modern innovation, built between 1790 and 1796. The Main Line originally went straight on, to the Grand Canal Harbour at James’s Street. That section of the line was closed in 1974 and, between 2001 and 2004, most of it became part of the route of the Red Line LUAS tram system. And between the Suir Road Bridge and Griffith Bridge is Ann Devlin Bridge, which carries the LUAS line.
Ann Devlin Bridge (from Griffith Bridge)
LUAS crossing the canal (seen from Suir Road bridge)
This sketch map might help.
Grand Canal Main Line
This map shows elements that did not co-exist. Coming in from the west (left), the Circular Line heads south-east after Suir Road Bridge. The old Main Line heads east, under Rialto Bridge, passes the old City Basin (reservoir, now no longer with us) and curves around to the Grand Canal Company’s James’s Street Harbour. There is a further small harbour to the east of that, which was owned by Guinness, who occupy much of the land from there to the River Liffey (the blue bits at the top). I’ve shown only two streets: Echlin Street leads north from the curve of the harbour to James’s Street.
The section of the LUAS line that occupies the canal bed is shown in red; it curves north into St James’s Hospital before carrying on to Heuston (formerly Kingsbridge) Railway Station and on again to Connolly (formerly Amiens Street) Railway Station, much further east. I’ve shown a few main line railtracks ending at Heuston.
Now, before we look in more detail at the canal, look at the position of Guinness. It has the Grand Canal beside it, bringing malt in and carrying porter (and later stout) out. It’s close to the City Basin (spelt “Bason” when Uncle Arthur set up), and Guinness had the right to draw water from the open culvert that carried water from the River Poddle to the Basin; from 1777, the canal itself fed the Basin. When Guinness expanded into the area north of James’s Street, as far as Victoria Quay, it was able to build its own landing-stages on the Liffey, where its own barges could carry its barrels down the Liffey to its own ships. It had a standard-gauge line linking its premises to the Kingsbridge goods-yard. And, linking the entire area, it had its own 1′ 10″-gauge tramway, which ran in a tunnel under James’s Street and in a spiral to reach the upper level. The narrow-gauge locomotives could even be mounted on “haulage wagons” to enable them to haul trains of standard-gauge wagons. [For more on the Guinness tramway, see the excellent article by Paul Ellison here.] Here are some photos taken in the Guinness Storehouse.
Geoghegan-Spence 1′ 10″ gauge steam locomotive
Planet (S G Hibbert) 1′ 10″ gauge diesel locomotive
Model of Guinness Liffey barge. Note that Guinness left canal transport to the Grand Canal Company: it did not run its own barges on the canal
Tramway 1′ 10″ tracks at the entrance to the Guinness Storehouse
Anyway, back to the canal at Suir Road Bridge. Here’s a photo looking back up under Suir Road Bridge to First Lock.
Looking back west under Suir Road Bridge
Close-up of a LUAS (for railway fans)
There is a linear park along this stretch as far as Rialto Bridge. The line dips to enable the LUAS to pass under Rialto Bridge.
Looking west from the north side of Rialto Bridge
LUAS passing under Rialto Bridge. Note the raised parapet on the bridge
Elegant double flight of steps on the north-east side of Rialto Bridge
There is a road along the south side of the canal on the stretch east of Rialto Bridge, but let’s skip down towards the far end to the point where the LUAS leaves the line of the canal.
Looking back west, we see the LUAS curving north …
… around the curved building and into the grounds of St James’s Hospital
Walking a little further east, and then looking back to the west to the LUAS line, you can see the almost-buried line of stone before the trees. I wonder whether that might have been the edge of the canal. It narrowed in near this point, where the canal passed the bottom of the City Basin and then curved north towards the Harbour. The narrow section was known as The Gut.
Looking west to the LUAS
We have now arrived at the general area of the City Basin, the Grand Canal harbour and the Guinness brewery. I’m not going to continue the tour from this point, though: I’m going to skip up to James’s Street, to its junction with Echlin Street, and to take an anti-clockwise route from there. To continue, click here to go to Page 2 of 4.