Category Archives: Rail

The Church of the Sacred Heart, Roscommon

So there you are, en route from Kingsbridge railway station in Dublin to Westport in Co Mayo. Or, as it might be, from Westport to Dublin. Either way, the journey takes at least three hours.

What you would like, of course, is to lengthen the journey by making a little stop along the way. In particular, you would like to stop in Roscommon to see the Church of the Sacred Heart. You could get off your train, visit the church and then catch the next train. You might even be able to do the same in Castlerea.

That is according to Senator Terry Leyden of Fianna Fáil. Now that the Shannon stopover, which hijacked transatlantic passengers en route to Dublin, is no more, the good Senator proposes an equivalent for the railways.

In C-ab

What to watch while listening to In C.

Very flat, Norway. Not.

Here’s today’s performance. Minimalism with buck-leppin.

The good old English plan

Browsing the Dublin Morning Register of 1 August 1828, I came across this item, taken from the Waterford Mirror:

On Tuesday, John Purcell Fitzgerald, of London, Esq, entertained his numerous tenantry of this neighbourhood at dinner, at his ancient castle at the Little Island, in the river Suir, about two miles below Waterford, on the good old English plan, a plan which we would by no means be sorry to see in more general imitation in Ireland. About five hundred sat to table.

Here is Little Island in the Suir estuary below Waterford:

Waterford Castle (OSI 6″ ~1840)

 

 

It is now a hotel with activities (shooting, archery, croquet and the unmentionable (which involves mashie-niblicks, joggers and cleeks)).

Waterford Castle car ferry (some years ago: I think there may be a new one now)

John Purcell Fitzgerald was born John Purcell, son of a Dublin doctor; he became a Fitzgerald when his already-wealthy wife became even wealthier on inheriting her father’s estates. His main achievement was fathering Edward Fitzgerald, translator of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

Neither of them, though, was half as important as John’s brother Peter, the greatest mail-coach operator in Ireland, hotelier, coachbuilder, promoter of agricultural improvement, lobbyist for Catholic emancipation and against slavery, supporter of innumerable charities and first chairman of the Great Southern and Western Railway. He was one of a generation of supremely capable Irish transport entrepreneurs who managed the transition to steam power on land and water.

This is how the Dublin Weekly Nation of 30 May 1846 announced Purcell’s death:

DEATH OF PETER PURCELL ESQ

We regret to announce the death of this gentleman, which took place at his house, 3, Rutland-square, on Friday morning. He was a man of kind and generous nature; a good landlord, a liberal and considerate employer, and a practical philanthropist. His enterprise did nearly as much as that of Mr Bianconi in supplying facilities of intercourse on a great scale to this country.

He was the greatest coach proprietor, and one of the largest railway shareholders, in Ireland. The Agricultural Society, the Testimonial to Father Mathew, and other national projects in which he was engaged, and the liberal spirit in which he sustained similar movements, are evidences that he had a real and unselfish interest in the prosperity of Ireland.

He was an active member of the Precursor Society till his unhappy quarrel with O’Connell, to which this is not a moment to allude further. In the estimation of his fellow-citizens he occupied a creditable place, and the grief for his death is deep and general.

The Mail of last night, generously oblivious of the political differences between it and Mr Purcell, says:

“As a man of business, whether as a government contractor, or as a proprietor and cultivator of land, he bore the character of a man of energy, enterprise, and honesty; punctual in his engagements — liberal in his expenditure — judicious in his management — a great employer of labour — a charitable benefactor of poverty and distress.

“In the private relations of friendship and family affections, he won all hearts by the homeliness and sincerity of his manner — the unaffected simplicity of his tastes — the hospitality of his table — and the genuine kindliness of his domestic dispositions.

“Strong good sense and natural good humour were his distinguishing qualities in his intercourse with the world. Many a good joke we have run upon him as a public man, in this journal; and we must do him justice to say, they were taken by him, as meant by us, as effusions of a tolerant spirit, which, while it must condemn the exertions of opponent parties, is still willing to soften the acerbities of political strife by as much good humour as can be thrown into the political cauldron.

“We wish we had many such to deal with as Peter Purcell — was.

“We write the word with sorrow. He departed this life — we trust for a better — at an early hour this morning, at his residence in Rutland-square.”

And a few lines from the Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent of the same day:

From Mr Purcell we differed in political opinion, and we have frequently in this journal felt it our duty to comment with freedom on his public conduct, but we never did, and never could deny that he was a fair, straightforward, honorable, and manly opponent, to whose personal character no exception could be taken, and whose sincerity in whatever views he advocated was unquestionable.

Purcell — who worked for Catholic Emancipation but did not want the Act of Union to be repealed — was, for a few years, active in local politics in Dublin. His quarrel with Daniel O’Connell came when he found that the funds of the Precursor Society were lodged in O’Connell’s own bank account. O’Connell promised Purcell several times that he would put them under the control of the society’s trustees but did not honour his promise. Purcell eventually felt that he had no option but to resign and to make public his reasons for doing so.

There is a memorial to Peter Purcell (by John Hogan) in the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin.

The mysterious capitalist

In 1847 George Lewis Smyth wrote [in Ireland: Historical and Statistical Vol II Whittaker and Co, London 1847 Chapter 14]

Another favourite object of praise and assistance is the Dublin and Kingstown Railway. The large sums lent to this railway and to the Ulster Canal are represented in certain circles in Dublin to have been matters of personal obligation. A capitalist holding a considerable interest in both undertakings is familiarly described as always carrying a commissioner in his breeches pocket.

Who was the capitalist in question? One possibility is Peirce [or Pierce] Mahony, solicitor to both the Dublin and Kingstown Railway and the Ulster Canal Company, but perhaps “capitalist” in not quite the mot juste for him. Another is James Perry, quondam director of the railway and Managing Director of the Ulster Canal Steam Carrying Company, which was owned (from 1843) by William Dargan, the contractor who built the Dublin and Kingstown Railway.

Perry had fingers in many other pies, including the Ringsend Iron Works which, in 1842, built an iron steamer for the use of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company on the Shannon. The steamer was named the Lady Burgoyne.

 

Useless information about a railway

The Irish Times has a piece about the numbers of people travelling on some or all of a railway line from Limerick to Galway. But the article is entirely useless in enabling assessment of whether the line should be kept open. It tells us nothing about the costs of running the line, the cost of the £110 million of capital spent on it or the income generated by the passengers. Furthermore, it does not discuss the alternatives (buses) and their costs, whether to the user or to the taxpayer.

I can’t find information about individual lines either in the CIE annual report for 2017 [PDF] or in the most recent annual report for Iarnród Éireann (which runs the railways), which is for 2015.

I suspect, therefore (but am of course open to correction), that this is fake news, marketing or PR: a partial account of the line’s operations, intended to give the impression that it is a Good Thing. And because the important information is omitted, I suspect that it is not favourable to those arguing for ever-larger train sets whereon they may play with the choo-choos.

Incidentally, the number of passengers is about one quarter of that achieved by the Dublin & Kingstown Railway in its first year of operation in the 1830s.

 

Railway horse power

From the result of inquiries, which the Directors have caused to be made, into the system of Scotch railways, it is the intention of the Board to use animal power exclusively until the line is finished half way to Drogheda; and even when finished to Drogheda, it is intended that all the goods will be carried by horse power, and in the intermediate hours, when no steam train shall start for Drogheda; that a horse train shall run from Dublin to Malahide, and another from Malahide to Dublin, as this division of the line must be supplied with extra means for its own peculiar traffic, which will not be required on the rest of the line.

Report to the Proprietors of the Dublin and Drogheda Railway in The Railway Magazine; and Annals of Science No XXVI April 1838

Railway archaeology

Ewan Duffy’s chapter “Royal Canal bridges in Dublin”, in The Royal under the Railway: Ireland’s Royal Canal 1830–1899 [Railway & Canal Historical Society, Derby 2014], drew attention to the hitherto neglected effects of the Midland Great Western Railway’s ownership on the physical structures along the Royal Canal in Dublin.

Ewan’s latest venture is a Railway Archaeology of Ireland, which he is publishing online, at the rate of one chapter per week. The introduction and Chapter 1 are now available. The focus is on “railway-related architectural and engineering structures”, not on trains or rolling stock.

It is possible to sign up to an RSS feed and thus get notified automatically when new chapters appear.

 

Ardnacrusha by train

Here’s an event.

I think that Heuston Station means Kingsbridge.

Killaloe/Ballina talk on steamers

Wednesday 28 February 2018, Wood & Bell café, Killaloe, 7.00pm; details here.

Coolawn

Graving Bank, Waterford

Three River Barges, also the Steam Barge ‘Coolawn’, for sale

To be sold by auction, on Friday, 8th September, 1905, at 12 o’clock, at the Graving Bank, Waterford, by directions of Messrs Robert McAlpine and Sons (owing to the completion of the Waterford and Rosslare Railway), 3 River Barges, also the Steam Barge, ‘Coolawn’. Carrying capacity, 25 to 40 tons.

All are in good working repair, and well found. Terms — Cash.

THOS WALSH & SON, Auctioneers, The Mall, Waterford

Waterford Standard 26 August 1905


City of Waterford // Valuable Steam Barge for sale

To be sold by auction, on Tuesday, 2nd October, 1906, at Twelve o’clock, at the Graving Bank, Waterford. By directions of Messrs Robert McAlpine and Soons, Railway Contractors, the steel steam barge ‘Coolawn’.

To carry from 40 to 45 tons on light draft of water; length about 58 feet, beam 13 feet 6 inches; fitted with Winch, Double Cylinder Engine, Screw Propeller with three blades, Boiler of the locomotive type, by Tangye; Two feed Tanks, to hold about 600 gallons each.

This Sale is well worthy the attention of contractors and others. She is in good working order, and can be inspected day previous to and morning of sale. Terms — Cash.

Thomas Walsh & Son, Auctioneers etc, The Mall, Waterford

Irish Times 29 September 1906