Chinese replica of the Titanic

At what point does it look like whinging? A Chinese theme park’s plans to include a full size replica of the Titanic has “relatives” of those who died on the original Titanic in 1912 upset.

At this remove from the original event, it is safe to say that there is no-one alive who remembered anyone who died on the Titanic, nor are there any survivors of the Titanic left alive. As such, the emoting (as reported by the BBC) that this is inappropriate is just whinging.

I remain with Jeremy Paxman in holding the view that they should have called it the Iceberg Quarter as without the iceberg, very few people would have heard of the Titanic.

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 bridge in Kells, Co. Kerry

Bet you didn’t know there was a Kells in Co. Kerry (nor that there is a Kells in Co. Antrim) in addition to the more well known one in Co. Meath, all three of which had railway stations at some point in their life (there is another Kells in Co. Kilkenny, plans for a railway to which did not succeed).

Enough about the railways – this post is about a competitor to the Carrick a rede rope bridge with the owners of Kells Bay House and Gardens having built a 112ft long rope bridge as part of the attractions in their estate. The bridge will be open to the public as part of the entrance fee to the gardens from 8th April 2017.

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 for sending me a link to a 3 minute video clip of the Bannfoot ferry in operation.