|Ballaghaderreen Railway Station|
Many excellent photographs of the now closed Ballaghaderreen to Kilfree Junction branch line have appeared on Facebook recently. I grew up close to Edmondstown Station and have happy memories of travelling on the line.
On Saturday, 6th December 1862 the prospectus of the Sligo and Ballaghaderreen Junction Railway (S&BJR) was published. The following year plans for the proposed branch line were presented to the Parliament at Westminster. The bill became law when Queen Victoria affixed her signature to the relevant documents on the 13th July 1863.
The Sligo & Ballaghaderreen Junction Railway was authorised to build a branch line connecting Ballaghaderreen to the newly opened extension of the Midland Great Western Railway (MGWR) from Longford to Sligo. On 31st October 1874, an advertisement was issued by the MGWR announcing the opening of the branch line on 2nd November.
Opened in 1974
The new railway line opened as planned in 1874, just five years before the apparition at Knock, Co Mayo, in 1879 and was operated by the Midland and Great Western Railway. It cost £80,000 to build. The first train from Kilfree to Ballaghaderreen was driven by Ben Partridge, an English man from Kent, who married and settled down in the town.
However, after trading at a loss for two years, the S&BJR sold its interest in the line to the Midland Great Western Railway for £24,000 in 1877. The Sligo and Ballaghaderreen Junction Railway lost its identity and was absorbed into the Midland system.
The distance from Ballaghaderreen to Kilfree Junction was nine miles. The speed restriction was 25mph and half an hour was the time allowed. There were two intermediate halts on the branch line - Edmondstown and Island Road. Excellent views of Lough Gara were visible between Island Road and Kilfree Junction.
|Dublin - Ballaghaderreen Railway Timetable|
The basic passenger service was three or four round trips per day apart from the “Emergency” when the service was reduced to one round trip. Between 1947 and the line’s closure in 1963, the service decreased to two round trips in the morning and early afternoon. Most services were mixed passenger and freight.
The stone-built station building at Ballaghaderreen still exists but is in a very derelict state. Part of the platform also survives. The goods shed, used by the GAA, remains complete with its typical long cattle bank platform.
|Edmondstown Station c1960|
Opening in November 1874, Edmondstown Station had a single storey station building, complete with an attached waiting room. The station only had one platform and an adjacent level crossing.
|Island Road Station|
Island Road railway station opened on 1 July 1909 and consisted of a station masters' house and small waiting room. The station was situated next to the gated level crossing on Island Road in the townland of Tawnymucklagh, and about 1/2 mile from the village of Monasteraden. The station is now in use as a private residence, with the waiting room, station house and platform largely intact.
Kilfree Junction was located on the Sligo line in the townland of Cloontycarn between Boyle and Ballymote. The station was not located near any significant settlement, the nearest, Gorteen in County Sligo, being over 6km away. The station had three platforms: two served a passing loop on the main line and the third was used by the branch line. The station had sidings and turntable for turning round engines coming from the branch line. There was a signal box and a house for the station master.
During the Irish War of Independence (1919 – 1921) trains were regularly stopped on the branch line by the IRA, British soldiers, and the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). In May 1921, a train was hi-jacked and used to shoot at the RIC Barracks in Ballaghaderreen
The blizzard of 1947 was one of the most memorable episodes of the history of the Branch Line. The Railway system north and west of the Longford was snowbound. Ballaghaderreen town and district was isolated, with snow piled up to ten feet high on the roads. After several days and the threat of a food shortage, a snow clearance committee was organised. A group of 150 men boarded the train at Ballaghaderreen and working in relays proceeded to clear the snow from the line.
After the Second World War, better main roads, and an increase in road transport for transporting goods led to financial problems for the Railway system. Eventually, the Railway Company was obliged to reduce spending and resorted to a reduction of its service on uneconomic routes. The tragic news of the looming closure of the Ballaghaderreen to Kilfree line was delivered to the people of Ballaghaderreen. Organised protest against the closure was unsuccessful and the line finally closed on 2nd February 1963.
Closed in 1963
|Train about to depart Ballaghaderreen Station for Kilfree Junction|
The last return passenger trip departed Ballaghaderreen at 11:50 on 2nd February and was hauled by 0-6-0 steam locomotive 574. I joined the 160 children and 30 adults who made the journey marking the sad end of an era. The train was seen off by as many spectators. The return journey from Kilfree Junction started with the bang of detonators and a local band played a farewell tribute. The last train was a special cattle train hauled by Locomotive B133 leaving Ballaghaderreen at 15:22.