The West Clare Railway at Moyasta

You may be wondering how the West Clare Railway gets a place on a waterways history site. I think I could justify its inclusion by saying that it had a branch to Kilrush, a harbour on the Shannon Estuary that had been served by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, which also operated on inland waterways. Or I could say that one of those currently involved with the WCR is a Welshman, Richard Gair, who ran a carrying business on a narrow boat up to fifteen years ago. From narrow boat to narrow gauge: the WCR used the 3′ 0″ Irish narrow gauge (the broad being 5′ 3″).

But I think that the clinching argument is that L T C Rolt, after his journey around Irish waterways (recorded in Green and Silver), did not go directly from Athlone to Waterford: he went via Limerick and Ennis so that he could take the West Clare Railway from Ennis, around the north coast of Co Clare, down to “the triangular platform of Moyasta Junction” and thence “into the single coach of the Kilrush train”, arriving in Kilrush exactly on time. After a night in a hotel there, he and his wife caught a bus to Limerick and then took the train to Waterford. If it was good enough for Rolt, it’s good enough for me.

Rolt wrote:

I shall always remember my journey over the West Clare line. It was an experience which I should have been very sorry to miss, and one which is the more precious because I fear that before many years have passed, unless the public taste for travel changes, it may no longer be possible to repeat it.

He was right. But there has been a long struggle to get some small section of the line opened with a steam engine to run on it. The campaign seems to have advanced in fits and starts, a bit like the WCR trains themselves, at least if we are to believe Percy French, whose most famous song landed him in court. However, despite some disagreements along the way, and some delays, Jackie Whelan, er, acquired the locomotive Slieve Callan and had it restored. The WCR has now gained support from Clare County Council; it hopes to extend its short length of track to two miles with a level crossing over the main road, and eventually to link Kilkee to Kilrush via Moyasta. It also intends to provide broad gauge (5′ 3″) track for its main-line diesel locomotive and for others that may be based there. No doubt the WCR website will have news of progress.

My first visit was in June 2009, after which I put up the first version of this page, with photos of the station itself. My second visit was in late August 2009, after the West Clare Railway tank engine Slieve Callan had returned from Alan Keef’s workshop, duly fettled and ready for duty. That has led to a major increase in the number of photos on this page.

I am grateful to TC, BLD and ED for identifying and commenting on various aspects of the equipment on display. I now know that the Slieve Callan’s bow fender is more correctly described as a chopper coupling and that a giant tap is a water column. Further corrections and comments welcome: there is a Comments facility at the bottom of the page.

Second update November 2009

Added a couple of photos of the pier at Cappagh and the site where the WCR turntable was.

Update November 2009

Added some photos of the station fire-engine and a weed-spraying vehicle.

The “triangular platform of Moyasta junction” and the station

the entrance gates (right) and the refreshment carriage, with good coffee

The entrance gates (right) and the refreshment carriage, with good coffee

TC says:

… that grounded coach body looks to be an LMS mainline coach of late 1930s origin judging by the windows and the ribbed roof panels. They may have been sold on to Ireland by BR when the new Mk1 stock appeared in the late 1950s, or possibly have come direct from the Northern Counties Committee in Ulster, who were owned by the LMS and thus largely ran mainland designs built to the 5′ 3″ wheel gauge — much preserved NI steam is distinctly Derby-shaped round the cab.

The station building

The station building

Looking down the platform

Looking down the platform. Note the old Irish script on the upper line of the sign

It looks better this way

It looks better with an engine in the background

Giant tap

This giant tap is, ED tells me, called a water column

Looking back up the platform

Looking back up the platform

Spare wheels

Spare wheels

Ticket office

Ticket office

Luggage office

Luggage office

The domestic side

The domestic side

rolt

Rolt said: “… we settled ourselves in a compartment that was a period piece in itself. The seats were covered with black American cloth well studded with buttons. Braided arm rests (were they ever used?) were looped on the door pillars, and the captions of the ancient and faded photographs over the seat backs were hand written in painstaking copper-plate. To do justice to such an interior I should, I felt, be wearing a deer-stalker and an ulster, for it was in just such a compartment, one imagines, that Sherlock Holmes and his Watson sped down from Paddington to Devon to investigate the mystery of Silver Blaze.”

Rolling stock on the Kilrush branch (which goes no further)

Rolling stock on the Kilrush branch (which currently ends just beyond the right-hand side of this photo)

WCR weed-sprayer 1_resize

Weed-sprayer

Carriage

Carriage

Engine

Engine (June 2009). This is currently on loan to the Tralee & Blennerville railway, whose own steam-engine needs much fettling

Pit being constructed

Pit being constructed in June …

... now covered by an engine-shed

… now covered by an engine-shed (August 2009)

TC says:

The track is interesting to a Brit too, being chaired bullhead rail whereas most NG rail here,
certainly of industrial origin, is spiked flatbottom.

The Kilkee line

The Kilkee line

The fire-engine

These photos were taken in the rain, so there are some blurry bits.

WCR fire-engine 1_resize

The fire-engine from behind

WCR fire-engine 2_resize

The port bow

WCR fire-engine 3_resize

The seats

WCR fire-engine 4_resize

Hose reel

WCR fire-engine 5_resize

The stern

WCR fire-engine 6_resize

The starboard bow

The main line diesel

Main-line diesel on the far side of the main road

Main-line diesel on the far side of the main road

Closer view of the diesel

Closer view of the diesel

My expert adviser TC says:

… the diesel is one of the Bo-Bo “small GMs” (071 class?) that used to haul a lot of the mainline cross-border services in the 1970s. The coaches behind it are ex-BR ones, late Mk2s, sold abroad and regauged, in CIE livery …. Judging by the variation in roof line I take they’re NOT on their wheels?

Mark says (see below):

The diesel loco is a Metropolitan Vickers “A” class, Co-Co arrangement No. 015, formerly A15.

I don’t know whether the coaches are on their wheels, alas: I didn’t go to check.

A short trip

The carriages were built or restored on the spot. The seating layout replicates that used in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; in the 1920s face-to-face seating was installed instead.

Inside the first carriage

Inside the first carriage

The Slieve Callan awaits

The Slieve Callan awaits

Richard Gair in the cab

Richard Gair in the cab

All aboard

All aboard

Jackie Whelan (who paid for the Slieve Callan restoration) checks for late-comers

Jackie Whelan (who paid for the Slieve Callan restoration) checks for late-comers

The green flag

The green flag

The view from the cab

The view from the cab

Under way

Under way

Looking forward from inside the carriage

Looking forward from inside the carriage

That last shot was included for artistic merit rather than informational content.

The return leg

The return leg

Reversing into the station

Reversing into the station

Alongside the platform

Alongside the platform

Wheels

The Slieve Callan is a 0-6-2 tank engine, with what I am told is an unusual feature: that the 2, the rear wheels, are the same size as the 6 driving wheels.

The wheels

All eight wheels

The driving wheels

The driving wheels

The front wheels with attached gubbinses

The front wheels, cylinders and valve gear

The gap between driven and undriven wheels with vent pipe

The gap between driven and undriven wheels with injector overflow pipe

The carriages

The off sides (non-platform sides) of the carriages

The off sides (non-platform sides) of the carriages

Carriage wheels

Carriage wheels

The link between the carriages and an unexplained pit

The couplings between the carriages and the points operating lever (in the foreground)

Stern fender on the rear carriage

The couplings also act as centre buffers, unlike on standard (or broad) gauge railways where the two are separate

The outside of the engine

The engine number

The engine number

Alan Keef plate

Alan Keef plate on one of the front sandboxes, used to store dry sand that can be sprayed on to the rail via a steam pipe by the wheel treads to stop wheelslip in wet or icy conditions

Starboard water-tank

Starboard water-tank

Bow fender

Chopper coupling

Towing arrangements for the butty

The back end of the engine

Unidentified black thing underneath the engine

Actuating cylinder for brakes beneath the cab

I described that as “Unidentified black thing underneath the engine” but I’m told it’s the actuating cylinder for the loco brakes. My expert adviser said “one might expect it to be vacuum with steam, but judging by the relative newness of the loco and the distinctive brake hose couplings seen on the buffer beam I suspect it’s actually air-braked.” I can confirm that: I was told that it is air-braked.

The towing arrangements for the butty

The towing arrangements for the butty (I’m told the technical term is “coach” or “carriage”)

Dome

Dome

Funnel

Funnel

Unidentified item on top

Boiler safety valve, possibly Salter pattern (anything expert-sounding like that comes from my expert advisers and does not reflect my own level of knowledge)

Letting off water

Letting off water

Looking forward along the engine

Looking forward along the engine

Inside the cab

The dashboard

The boiler backhead

The controls for the whistle

The controls for the whistle

The steam pressure gauge

The steam pressure gauge

Brush stored across the back of the cab

Brush stored across the back of the cab

Unidentified metal tool stored across the back of the cab

Firebox dart stored across the back of the cab

Turf (for decoration)

Turf (for decoration)

Coal (for use)

Coal (for use). The sliding vertical lid is original equipment

Manual brake (the vertical column)

Manual brake (the vertical column)

Storage bin

Storage bin

Oil and oilcan at front left

Oil and oilcan at front left

Can and gloves

Can and gloves

Controls for dampers for air inflow

Controls

There are two dampers, one mounted on the floor and one on the left of the boiler, above the oil container. The pipes and handwheel control one of the two steam injectors, feeding the boiler with water (thanks to TC).

The central section

The central section

I don't know what the handle on the right is for

The large swing lever for the firedoors (secondary airflow)

The fire (low)

The fire (low)

The fire (warming up)

The fire (warming up)

Unidentified red handle

The regulator (throttle), which opens and closes steam access to the cylinders

I think that the small wheel ...

The small wheel …

... adjusts the amount of water going to the boiler

… is the right-hand injector control

And here's a black handle that opens and shuts something

The black handle is the driver control for the cylinder cocks

TC says:

Steam trapped in the cylinders at a standstill and left to cool will condense: water being incompressible, it can cause hydraulic lock on restarting and blow the cylinder covers off their studs. So a little relief valve is left open for the first few strokes to blow through the residue, then closed to seal the pressure for hot steam. Look on it as like using the valve lifter to crank over a diesel engine.

This wheel plays a very important role. Which I forget

The reverser, controlling the direction and setting of the valve gear

It has a gauge so that you know how much ...

The gauge marking …

... of whatever it is is happening

… the cutoff setting

I think the thing on the right is the air brake

The gadget on the right is the control for the air brake

And I think this gauge is for water pressure

The dual air pressure gauge

TC says:

… the dual gauge is air pressure: train pipe and reservoir tank, connected by a system of non-return valves to ensure there’s always a supply to hand even with frequent applications of brake. You need to know the state of both when driving. The RH gauge — I can just see the word “pipe” — is at 0 as the brake’s applied in the station, and will need to rise to disengage the brakes from the wheels (brakes have to fail safe, so a leak anywhere in the system applies the brakes as a default state, with pipe pressure applied to hold them OFF). The LH gauge is the reservoir and 80psi clearly suggests it’s air braking, as vacuum standard gauge was usually around 23-25psi or its equivalent in inches of mercury.

I can confirm that the brakes are air brakes. On the full-size photo, I can see that the RH gauge says “b. pipe” (in lower-case letters) and runs from 0 to 100 lb/sq in; the LH says “m.r.” and runs from 0 to 200.

Thanks again to ED, BLD and TC for their expert advice and to Richard Gair and Jackie Whelan for information and access.

Cappagh pier

The line from Moyasta to Kilrush was, strictly speaking, the South Clare rather than the West Clare Railway, but the two were operated as one, and the distinction seems to have had little practical importance. The line curved around Kilrush Creek to Cappagh Pier, which had been the steamer pier since the 1820s: as you can read on this page, Kilrush Creek itself dried out.

Kilrush map_resize

Kilrush and Cappagh

Here is the pier in a gale in October 2009, with the wind blowing the pilot boat off the wall.

Cappagh Pier in a gale October 2009 16_resize

Cappagh Pier in a gale (October 2009)

Here is the pier at low tide in better weather.

IMG_0177_resize

The pier in better weather (September 2009)

Here is a photo looking back along the pier. The railway station was to the left of the pier; passengers had a short walk down the pier to their steamer.

Cappagh Pier in a gale October 2009 44_resize

Looking back up the pier

The next photo is taken looking across the base of the pier: it shows the line of the railway and the site of the turntable. Rails ran down the pier: passenger carriages did not go down the pier but goods wagons were hauled down and back by ponies or horses.

Cappagh Pier in a gale October 2009 1_resize

The turntable and the line of the railway

Getting there

Moyasta Junction is on the N67 road from Kilrush to Kilkee in West Clare.

The WCR website is here.

Links

Clare County Library has many photos of the WCR.

Photos of the West Clare fleet at Inchicore works (Dublin) in 1963.

You might be interested in my page about the Lartigue monorail at Listowel, Co Kerry.

rail20

20 responses to “The West Clare Railway at Moyasta

  1. i am interest in train are you going to belt the steam train

  2. Brian,

    at the risk of being an anorak, the technical term for the “giant tap” is a water column.

  3. Thanks, Ewan. I’ll make the appropriate amendment.

  4. Nice series of images Brian. I think the ‘butty’ is actually a coach or carriage. ;-)

  5. Hi. The diesel loco is a Metropolitan Vickers “A” class,Co-Co arrangement No. 015,formerly A15.

  6. Thanks, Mark. I’ll add that information.

    bjg

  7. Well I never thought the hideous loud welshman would end up driving or firing an irish loco. The last such thing was probably the late Keith Jones’ steam narrowboat on the top section of the GU (Yes I was there-when?)
    WC Scenes look like early days of Welsh Highland I visited and rode on the very first afternoon in 1997 from Caernarvon to Dinas -and now look where they are 12 years later, rails lain in the streets of Portmadoc just waiting for the first argument between Garrat and motorist.
    Be Seeing You, PB.

  8. Phil

    I don’t know how often Richard checks this page, so he may not see your message. Would you like me to email it to him, and give him your email address so he can get in touch?

    bjg

  9. It is wonderful to see the restored loco at work. I have watched the restoration at Alan Keif’s Ross on Wye yard, and met the delightful owner. I gave the West Clare the station telephones I salvaged from the Irish scrap yard.

  10. Thanks for some great images!! My wife and I were at the WCR in late August 2009 and great time. All the folks there were very informative and kind. We wish them all the luck!

  11. Thanks, Roger. I was out at the WCR again at the weekend with some friends, one of whom took this photo in a very strong wind.

    The WCR will be running Santa Specials before Christmas.

    bjg

  12. Feargal O Dulaing

    Just wondering will Santa be visiting Moyasta this year? If so, could you give me dates and times of his arrival and his phone no so I can ring him for an appointment! Does he do text?!!

    Many thanks.

    Feargal O Dulaing

  13. I’ve already emailed direct about this, but just in case anyone else wants to know ….

    My web pages are not run by the West Clare Railway (I’ve just been a visitor on a few occasions); their own site is at . However, I understand that Santa will be steaming at Moyasta this year (2009). I don’t know the dates, but keep an eye on the WCR site or use the contact details given there.

    bjg

  14. Pingback: The Lartigue: the Listowel & Ballybunion Railway « Irish waterways history

  15. Afraid you’re way off the mark in regards the tea room carriage, there’s little LMS heritage in it! It was built by the Great Southern Railways in Inchicore in the 1930s. The GSR did have a very LMS-inspired livery, but that was all. More info here: http://www.cs.vintagecarriagestrust.org/se/CarriageInfo.asp?Ref=3900

  16. FYI The valve on the loco is a Ramsbottom, not a Salter valve.

  17. Those wheels chained to the station name board are from the Bianconi Steam Rail Lorry, they must be trailing wheels as there is no drive connection. Of the two diesel loco we see the yellow one is a 100hp mines type ex NCB UK loco, it is now running, or it was in 2011. The green diesel was built for the Chanell Tunnel construction it was built by RFSK in South Yorkshire, rated at 70hp, it is a little modern for my likeing and they now have two ex Bord Na Mona Ruston locos, one of which LM 60 is painted a kind of maroon/pink, the other has still to be got going.

  18. Excellent: thanks for adding that information. bjg

  19. The engine number should be 5 C , I have 7 C. I donated station telephone to West Clare, has it been installed?

  20. The carriage at the platform isn’t LMS, NCC of British origin – in fact, it’s nothing like any of these. It’s a standard 1956 build by CIE in Inchicore Works. The green main line diesel is a 1955-built Metropolitan-Vickers “A” class, not either an 071 class nor a “baby GM”, which were to separate things anyway!

    Time to sack your railway advisor…… :-)

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