75 arches to the Royal Canal

Not that you would necessarily know that they are there.

I am doing the final research and tidying up/proof reading of what I hope will be a publication on the Archaeology of Ireland’s Railways. In doing so, I came across a reference to the railway between Amiens Street (Connolly) Station and the Royal Canal in Dublin being carried on 75 arches, which was due to the fact that the land which the line crossed had only been reclaimed relatively recently at the time the line was built in the 1840s.

The thought struck me, if that area of the city were to be redeveloped for high density residential accommodation, the bringing back into public view of many of those arches would be quite an impressive display. As an example, when the site of the Dublin Gas Company on Barrow Street was redeveloped, a walkway at ground level was provided, which has opened out the arches carrying the former Dublin & Kingstown Railway (now the DART) to public view (see below)

Image from GoogleMaps StreetView.

Update 31072017 – H/T to Brian Goggin of irishwaterwayshistory.com for letting me know about an image which can be viewed online at the National Library of Ireland website which purports to show Dublin as it was in 1853. The railway line from Amiens Street northwards is in the top right of the image. The number of arches shown would appear to be subject to artistic licence and the absence of the Royal Canal makes it difficult to fully compare to the present day situation (the bay crossed at the extreme right of the image is where Fairview Park is now).

A reference book to the Incorporated Railway Companies of Ireland 1847

I started reading this pdf version downloaded from Google (one of the millions that they have scanned) to see if there is any new nugget of information therein.

On the first page it states:

“In 1832, an Act for a line of 25 miles, called the Belfast and Cavehill, was obtained, which changed the title, in 1836, to the Ulster”.

With such a grievous error on the first page, I am not hopeful for the rest of the text.

Benson Report 1963

In Britain, they had Beeching, in Northern Ireland, they had Benson.

In 1963, the NI Government hired an accountant – Henry Benson – to carry out a review of the railway network in Northern Ireland to justify closing it down. Benson delivered and his recommendations would have left a Protestant railway for a Protestant people, with only the cross border line from Dublin, Belfast to Larne and Belfast to Bangor left open – none of which would be connected to the other. Conveniently, this arrangement would have left the railways primarily serving the Protestant areas of Northern Ireland only.

Benson Report Railways to remain
Benson Report Railways to remain

His recommendations were not fully acted on and the railway line to Derry was spared the axe (and remains to this day) along with the lines from Coleraine to Portrush, Bleach Green Junction to Antrim and the Lisburn to Antrim line (albeit temporarily closed). In addition, the lines in Belfast were joined up in two stages with the Bangor line reconnected to the Dublin line in 1976 and the Larne line being connected to both in Belfast in 1995.

NIR network 2017
NIR network 2017


Sometimes, the accountants lose!

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.

Rope ferry in China

The Guardian has an interesting article about a rope operated ferry capable of taking one car at a time across the Chaobai River in Hebei province in China.

There was a similar ferry in operation at Bannfoot in Co. Armagh, near the south western shore of Lough Neagh, up until  1979. The Belfast Telegraph has a brief article about the latter and McCutcheon’s Industrial Archaeology of Northern Ireland has a photo of the Bannfoot ferry in operation.

UPDATE – H/T to Brian Goggin of irishwaterwayshistory.com for sending me a link to a 3 minute video clip of the Bannfoot ferry in operation.