‘Closure of the railway was a tragic loss for Coalisland’

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The Metal Bridge is what it was always called, as far back as I remember, but it’s official name is really Carson’s Bridge - even though, of course, it’s not even there anymore.

The bridge in question was on the main Dungannon to Coalisland road at the bottom of what we colloquially know as Flourmill Hill, right before the turn-off for Bush Road and the horrible double bend that ‘straightens’ ahead of Church Corner beside 30mph limit entering Coalisland.

A 1994 Tyrone Times nostalgia article partially centred on an old landmark. Here it is:

‘When railway man Bobby Frizelle took his camera to work at Coalisland Railway station one day in 1952, little did he realise he’d be capturing a precious piece of history.

With the line now gone and the station closed, the photographs of the trains and the faces at the station provide a valuable insight into running of the station in the 1950s.

Born and raised beside the now-gone Carson’s Bridge on the Dungannon-Coalisland line, it was inevitable he would find work with the Great Northern Railway.

“When I left school at 16, there was a porter job going at the station and I applied,” Bobby said. “I remember travelling all the way to Dublin for a written examination all the platform staff had to sit, and then going to Belfast for a medical.”

Bobby left the station to serve for a spell with Royal Navy only to return in 1952 for another four years.

First working as a porter-signalman under station-master Davy John Martin, he progressed to the post of full signalman and had the privilege of signalling the last passenger train through the station.

“The team was the best group of people I ever had the pleasure to work with and the station was full of characters,” 69 year old Bobby recalled. “I remember one elderly man from Portadown who had a running feud with the drivers and I had to act as go-between.

“There were regular Sunday excursions with Warrenpoint being the most popular destination and, on a bad night, the guard had to walk along the line to collect all the seats that had been thrown out of the train.”

Despite the noise and dirt of the engines, and long hours, it was work he considered ‘a pleasant outdoor job’.

Morning shift began at 4am, finishing at 12.30pm. The 2pm shift could frequently end at 2am, with the pig factory in Cookstown holding us back. Sand was delivered to Derryvale and coal taken from the mines to Kilpatrick’s, leading merchant in the province. Goods were also ferried out from the Kelly’s pipe yard and brick factory beside the station.”

According to Bobby, however, the heyday of the line and station was during the Second World War when the trains would shift soldiers, their equipment and tanks.

“Sometimes there would be two massive engines pulling and another pushing to get over the hill coming out of the station and quite they would have to make a second attempt” he recounted.

After the passenger traffic ended in 1956m the line continued to carry goods until its closure some years later.

“The closure of the railway was a tragic loss, taking away work from the area” he said. “It was such a safe form of transport and the only accidents happened as a result of civilians being on the lines when they shouldn’t have been” concluded the interesting article on a time when life was lived at a slower pace.