Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Cavan and Leitrim Railway and the Arigna Tramway

Train crossing the road in Kiltubrid, County Leitrim.  Source

Classic postcard view of the line

C&L railway stamp

The Arigna Tramway was a branch of the Cavan and Leitrim Railway in Ireland. Steam worked to the end this system almost made it to the 1960s, closing on the 31st of March 1959. It was a three foot gauge line, in common with most Irish narrow gauge lines.

It's most interesting feature was the Arigna Tramway, a mainly roadside route which connected the coal mine at Arigna with the rest of the line at Ballinamore. As late as 1920 a 3 mile plus freight only extension of the tramway allowed coal to be shipped directly from the mine to locations all over Ireland. This was the only coal mine on the island.

The tramway was a charming rural route and at the time of closure was unique in these islands and just about unique in western Europe.

More info (on the Cavan and Leitrim Railway including the Arigna line) from Wikipedia

The Cavan & Leitrim Railway was a 3 ft (914 mmnarrow gauge railway in the counties of Leitrim and Cavan in the north-west of Ireland, which ran from 1887 until 1959. Unusually for Ireland, this 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge line survived on coal traffic, from the mine at Arigna. It outlived most of the other Irish narrow-gauge lines, giving a further lease of life to some of their redundant engines.

Early years

In September 1883, a public meeting in Ballinamore declared that a light railway and tramway would open up the coal and iron districts of Arigna and Lough Allen. The Cavan and Leitrim Railway opened for goods traffic on 17 October 1887 and for passengers on 24 October 1887. The section from Belturbet in County Cavan to Dromod in County Leitrim was light railway, and a tramway ran from Ballinamore to Arigna. At the start both lines were operated by eight Robert Stephenson and Company 4-4-0T locomotives. In later years locomotives from other closing narrow gauge lines were used.
Ballinamore was the hub of the line, with the locomotive depot and works. At Belturbet the line connected with the Great Northern Railway (Ireland) broad-gauge branch to Ballyhaise on the Clones toCavan line, and at Dromod connected to the Midland Great Western Railway mainline from Dublin to Sligo. The line was extended to Arigna in 1920. The line was unique in using native coal mined at Arigna.

Later years

In 1925, the company was amalgamated into the Great Southern Railways. By the 1930s the Cavan and Leitrim Railway was in trouble due to road competition. The demolition of the carriage sheds as an economy measure only served to worsen the condition of the stock. It survived World War II, but the opening of a power station near Lough Allen using Arigna coal, and not needing rail services, did not help. The line finally closed on 31 March 1959, the last exclusively steam narrow-gauge line in Ireland.

Moving goods wagons by steam in 1959 at Dromod.


The line consisted of a main line 54 km (34 mi) long between Dromod and Belturbet with a 24 km (15 mi) branch from Ballinamore to Arigna.
The Belturbet to Dromod part of the Cavan and Leitrim Railway ran from Belturbet through Tomkin RoadBallyconnellBallyheadyBawnboy RoadKillyran,Garadice, Ballinamore, LawderdaleFenaghAdoonRosharryMohill and Dereen to Dromod.
The Belturbet to Arigna part of the line ran from Belturbet to Ballinamore and from there through Ballyduff, CornabroneAnnadaleKiltubrid, Creagh andDrumshanbo to Arigna.


When the line opened, there were eight 4-4-0T locomotives, numbered 1 to 8, supplied by Robert Stephenson and Company. A ninth locomotive, No. 9, an 0-6-4Tcame from the same supplier in 1904. In 1933, after the closure of the Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway, the GSR transferred its four 2-4-2T locomotives to the C&L line, renumbering them 10L to 13L.


C & L Railway Station, Dromod
The preserved Cavan & Leitrim Railway is run by volunteers, based out of the former Dromod Station, in Co. Leitrim. Trains run every weekend, and on Mondays. The group also has a transport museum, with narrow-gauge trains of every gauge, buses, planes, fire engines and artillery guns from World War I and World War II. It is located beside the Irish Rail Station in Dromod. It was originally intended to rebuild the line to Mohill but this is now most unlikely to happen.
During 2014 train rides on the line ceased due to essential maintenance work and no date has been set for their resumption.
One of the original locomotives, No. 2, and one of the original carriages, is preserved on display at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. Locomotive No. 3 was exported to New JerseyUnited States and is today displayed in the New Jersey Museum of Transportation. The body of a box wagon formerly used by the railway is preserved at Dromod, and is believed to be the last example of freight stock.

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