Lost rails across the Clogher Valley brought back to life

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

THE spirit of the trains which once puffed their way along the Clogher Valley will be brought to life on the TV screen on January 19, as part of a four part nostalgic documentary series for TG4.

Using a mixture of expert interviews, personal stories, narration and beautiful archive, viewers will learn about the history of the iconic Clogher Valley railway line and how it changed the lives of the communities it served.

Hauling the fair day special through Fivemiletown

Hauling the fair day special through Fivemiletown

An article published in the Tyrone Times features in the programme, as well as a story about a clever goat that strayed onto the line.

The thirty seven mile railway journey took three hours, as the train travelled at a maximum of twelve miles per hour. Its timetable was said to be based ‘more on folklore than fact’.

The series will be broadcast on TG4 on Thursdays at 8.00pm starting on Thursday January 12th, 2012 and repeated on Sundays.

Geography

The railway was mainly situated in rural parts of County Tyrone, which hindered the company’s potential profitability. The western terminus was Maguiresbridge, County Fermanagh, where the line shared a station with the Great Northern Railway (Ireland) on the Clones to Enniskillen line.

It then proceeded in a north-easterly direction through stations at Brookeborough, Colebrooke, Fivemiletown, Clogher and Augher until reaching Ballygawley station, at which point the line turned in a south-easterly direction to Aughnacloy, Caledon and the terminus at Tynan, County Armagh (where the Great Northern Railway was again met, this time the Clones to Armagh line).

Aughnacloy was the line’s principal station and the location of the company’s headquarters and workshops. Fivemiletown was the second largest station; like a tramway the line passed down the middle of Main Street.

Loss-making

From 1921 onwards, the line found itself located entirely within the new Province of Northern Ireland (although running close to the border with the Irish Free State for almost its entire route). In 1922 a commission appointed by the Government of Northern Ireland recommended that the loss-making line should be taken over by the Great Northern Railway (Ireland), but the GNR(I) declined. The company struggled on, until it was taken over by a committee of management appointed by Tyrone and Fermanagh County Councils in 1928. Henry Forbes, the manager of the County Donegal Railways Joint Committee (CDRJC), was one of the members of the new committee and was instrumental in introducing diesel traction - a then novel form of motive power.

To reduce operating costs, two diesel vehicles were built for the railway by Walkers of Wigan - a 28 seat railbus in 1932 and a rail lorry in 1933. The railbus was virtually identical to those operated by the CDRJC (which purchased both vehicles following the line’s closure).

In 1932 the CDRJC also acquired the CVR’s unsuccessful steam tram locomotive built by Atkinson Walker, which was rebuilt as “Phoenix” with a diesel engine.

This locomotive is now preserved at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra. For much of its length, the railway ran alongside roads. The last trains ran on 31 December 1941, the railway becoming a victim of road competition and cost-saving measures during World War II.