The power of data

I have spent a lot of time recently on two projects, one of which is updating Access databases that hold all of my information in relation to Ireland’s industrial heritage. As part of this process, I broke all public railway lines known to have operated on the island of Ireland in date defined sections with the opening and closing date being the unique identifier. This dataset has allowed me to do a number of things, including using mapping software in my possession to generate a railway map of Ireland for any year 1834 to date quickly and reliably.

It also allowed me to determine the maximum extent of railways in Ireland (peaking at 3,450 miles in 1920) before decline set it.Length of Railways in Ireland by year

Length of Railways in Ireland by year

It has also corrected a misapprehension that I had in relation to the pace of line closures. Prior to carrying out this analysis, if I had been asked when was the peak year for closures of railway line in Ireland, I’d have answered 1963, based on nothing more than a personal belief built up over years of reading Irish railway history. It is also wrong. The peak year for railway closures on the island of Ireland was 1959 when some 335 miles (almost 10% of the railways to have ever operated) were closed.

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