On Saturday 1 September 1962, the Irish Railway Record Society (IRRS) organised the first passenger train ever to operate to Ardnacrusha. Inclement weather on the day made photography difficult, but not impossible, for the tour participants, who captured some beautiful shots of the event.
The special train was hauled by steam locomotive No. 183 of 1880 vintage and consisted of two modern CIÉ 1950s-era passenger carriages, one Victorian six-wheeled carriage and a luggage-van – quite an ‘eclectic’ mix.
The train left Limerick at 12:23 and travelled the little-used 1¾ mile branch line from the junction near Longpavement to Ardnacrusha, where the party were privileged to enjoy a tour of the station. As there was no platform at the station, a dog box carried in the luggage-van was used as a portable ‘platform’.
The track to Ardnacrusha
Paralleling the River Shannon, the 1¾ mile branch line from Longpavement, Limerick, to Ardnacrusha power station was constructed under the direction of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce during 1928-1929. Responsibility for the line was transferred to ESB on 28 June 1930. The branch rails were stamped with the name and date of their German manufacture, ‘Osnabruck 1888-1891’ and ‘Bochum 1890’.
The line was primarily used by trains to deliver and renew ESB machinery for the power station, an operation which occurred approximately once a year until 1960. From then on the line was used very infrequently. The final train to use the line did so in 1968 while filming Disney movie ‘Guns in the Heather’. After years of disuse, the overgrown tracks were finally removed in the mid-1990s.
IRRS visit to Portarlington power station, 1964
Two years after its Ardnacrusha outing, the IRRS ran another special train, this time to ESB’s power station at Portarlington. This footage shows these CIÉ J15 Class locomotives 186+130 hauling one of the only passenger trains to visit the station, the IRRS ‘Grand Steam Tour of Ireland’, on 9 June 1964.
With sincere thanks to Ciarán Cooney, volunteer archivist at the Irish Railway Record Society, for sharing this wonderful story and accompanying images and video footage with us. All images and video courtesy and © Irish Railway Record Society. For more on the IRRS, check out irrs.ie.