A boathouse is effectively a garage for a boat(s). Located at the water’s edge, such structures can be as large or small as is required for the effective storage and maintenance of the boat(s) using it. Given their waterside location, a former boathouse can make for an attractive residence if sympathetically converted.

In the grounds of Cong Castle, Lord Ardilaun (of the Guinness family) converted the first lock of the never opened Cong Canal into a boathouse. Ardilaun was something of a fan of boathouses as his estate at Saint Anne’s in Dublin also had one. There was also one on the lake at his brother’s country residence at Farmleigh.

Many boathouses are owned by the RNLI to facilitate their excellent work in assisting those in need of rescue at sea. These can be found all along the Irish coastline.

Catch Points

Historically, spring operated catch (or trap) points were installed on double track lines to derail runaway trains.

When a train passed over the points in the right direction, the points would move into line to allow safe passage, but if a train was travelling in the wrong direction, it would be derailed. Reduced freight traffic and reversible working on double track lines have resulted in the removal of catch points that fulfilled this role.

Their other use allows a train on a branch line to approach a junction and stop immediately before it, even when another train is running along the mainline as if the branch line train fails to stop, it will derail at the catch points, rather than foul the mainline. This facilitates the more efficient use of track at junctions and allows trains to operate more efficiently.

Bay Platform

A Bay platform is a terminal platform at a railway station that is located on a through railway line. Historically, such platforms existed at stations where a branch line starts/ends. There was a bay platform at Mallow, Co. Cork, called the “Waterford Bay” as it was used by trains travelling to/from Waterford. A similar platform existed at Portlaoise for trains to Kilkenny running via Abbeyleix.

Nowadays, bay platforms can be found at Ballybrophy for trains to Limerick, Manulla Junction for Ballina trains and Clonsilla for M3 Parkway trains.

A modern day equivalent is the ‘turnback siding’ where a bay platform is provided at a station to allow a commuter service to travel to that station and clear the running lines before ‘turning back’ to its original location. Turnback sidings exist on the Kildare Route at Adamstown and Hazelhatch & Celbridge.


An aqueduct is an engineered structure designed to carry a body of water over some other feature. Whilst primarily used in canals, rivers can be diverted into aqueducts where diversion of the river is not feasible.

The Grand Canal spans the River Barrow in Monasterevin, Co. Kildare by means of an aqueduct. Also on this line of canal, the Leinster Aqueduct near Sallins carries the canal over the River Liffey. This saved the canal from having to lock down into the river and lock back up on the other side of the Liffey to continue its journey.

The building of the railway network in Ireland resulted in a small number of streams being diverted into aqueducts over railway cuttings, such as at Hillsborough, Co. Down and at Mossley West station in Co. Antrim, where Archibald’s Aqueduct spans the railway line.


An adit is a feature of a mine, which most people would refer to incorrectly as a ‘mineshaft’. It is a horizontal or near horizontal entrance to a mine. Within the mine, horizontal passages are known as ‘levels’ and an adit is a category of level that opens into the outside world. Adits can be used for the passage of road vehicles and/or railway rolling stock.


The use of adits for the removal of ore/drainage is more effective than shafts as their (near) horizontal nature makes for easier transport than hoisting material up a shaft.


Adits can vary in size, dependant on what was being transported through them. ‘Old mens workings’ or mines created before the advent of mechanisation, tend to be very small as only humans/animals passed through whereas for mining using modern trucks, adits can be quite large.


A lighthouse is a dedicated structure designed to emit a beam of light at pre-defined intervals, to aid shipping by warning them of the presence of obstructions to navigation. Historically, lighthouses were manned with keepers living either in the cramped quarters of the lighthouse or in adjacent employer provided housing. All lighthouses in Ireland are now automated with remote monitoring undertaken by an attendant.

In Ireland, apart from some harbour installations, lighthouses are operated by the Commissioners of Irish Lights, an independent, all Ireland body, with 63 lighthouses plus further navigational aids under their control.

The oldest operational lighthouse in the world is at Hook Head in Wexford and is 800 years old. The lighthouse at St. John’s Point was once painted (badly) by playwright Brendan Behan, resulting in a complaint from the principal keeper to the Commissioners about him.

Signal cabin

A signal cabin is a central control point for signals and points on a railway line. Early signalling was very primitive and uncoordinated. Over time, the control point for these was consolidated into one building to deliver more effective control. This also allowed for the interlocking of signals, which is where a signalman cannot move certain levers in the lever frame which would display signals which conflict with each other, or with the direction of points on the track.

The standard signal cabin design is a two storey structure, which allows for an elevated view of the area under its control from the upper floor. The lower floor is used to accommodate the mechanics and interlocking of the lever frame and for storage. Most signal cabins are standalone structures but in some cases, they are integrated into the station building.


A weighbridge is an industrial sized scales used to determine the quantity of material in a vehicle for charging purposes and can be adapted for either road or rail use. The general principle is that a vehicle is weighed when empty and again when full and the difference is the weight of the underlying material.

They are extensively used in the extractive industry, in the milling industry and anywhere it is common to sell material by the tonne.  They are also used to determine motor taxation for certain commercial vehicles, with recognised weighbridges designated for this purpose.

Whilst modern weighbridges tend to be functional in design, historically, weighbridges were ornate structures, usually of metal construction, with the manufacturers name cast therein. A weighbridge will usually be accompanied by an associated building which contains the equipment for reading the weighbridge output.


A roundhouse is a type of locomotive shed which can be found in use on some railways. Most locomotive sheds are rectangular in shape, but in locations where space is constrained, a roundhouse may be used. The design of a round house is akin to a cutaway section of a doughnut, not usually more than 180°, with tracks perpendicular to the rear wall, converging on a central turntable, via which, access to the railway network is provided.

In Ireland, there have been roundhouses at Broadstone Station (Dublin), Portadown, York Road (Belfast) and Clones. The latter is extant as attempts by the army to demolish it with explosives failed. It is not in railway use as the railway line it served closed in 1959. There was also a roundhouse in the Guinness Brewery to house the locomotives on their industrial railway.


140 word explanations

The genesis of this idea was a Facebook post of A.N. Other that a (real life) friend of mine commented on (thereby bringing it into my Facebook feed) whereby he has been commissioned to write a series of 150 word articles about nature for the Times in Ireland (that would be the Murdoch publication as opposed to the old lady of D’Olier Street (or Tara Street as it is now)).

I will be publishing a series of 140 word posts explaining some aspect of industrial heritage as it pertains to Ireland. The first post will appear tomorrow.