‘Train driver forgot to put brakes on as it approached Coalisland Station’

Barney O'Donnell, railwayman
Barney O'Donnell, railwayman

Veteran of the GNR, Barney O’Donnell from Edendork Road, saw his fair share of stations during his service on the line, said the article.

Starting his service as a porter in the store of the Coalisland station in 1951, he took over as signalman on the retirement of Matt McGuinness in 1957.

On closure of Coalisland station in 1960, Barney transferred to Dungannon as relief signalman and shunter, before spells in Pomeroy and Moy ahead of his last post in Portadown which ended in 1964.

“There were five men at Coalisland station - two storemen, two signalmen and a boy porter - under the stationmaster. It was heavy work but we had some great times.

“I remember one Saturday evening a train came into the station and the driver forgot to put on the brakes. There was nothing the poor man could do. It went rolling off and only came to rest on the far side of the town, by Tyrone Brick. Luckily, there was no collision no-one hurt.”

Barney explained how the signalman began work at 4.15am to meet 3.15am train leaving Portadown with its cargo of post and bread. After calling at Coalisland, it went on to Stewartstown and Cookstown where it dropped its cargo and made it return journey, carrying passengers.

“The troubles played a part in closing railway, but the real reason was the development of roads. I always recall 10am bus and train for Cookstown leaving together, racing to be first. Once the line closed, it was the end for industry in the town, both the Weaving and Derryvale factories long gone” he said.