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.
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.
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
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.
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.
The original mainline of the Grand Canal ran to Grand Canal Harbour, near the Guiness Brewery, in Dublin. What is nowadays the canal from Suir Road to the River Liffey at Grand Canal Dock was an afterthought. Since 2004, most of the bed of the former mainline from Suir Road eastwards has been occupied by the Red LUAS Line.
Adjacent to the bridge over the LUAS (canalbed) at Rialto, recent cutting back of adjacent overgrowth has revealed these two sets of steps from what would have been the towpath down to canal level.