ST Valentine’s Day will mark the 50th anniversary of the closure of Dungannon railway station, which was an important stop on the Portadown to Derry line, or the ‘Derry Road’, as it became fondly known as.
Much of the film footage was taken by former railway employee and railway enthusiast, Fred Cooper, who will be attending the event and providing personal reflections on his memories of the closure.
There will also be an exhibition of railway artefacts from Headhunters Railway Museum in Enniskillen, including photographs, timetables, signalling equipment, uniform and signs.
Selwyn Johnston, curator of Headhunters Railway Museum, said: “A selection of railway items will be exhibited from the line which we hope will bring back fond memories to both former employees and those who remember travelling by rail.”
This will include a complete set of railway signalling staffs from the Derry Road and signs from various railway stations, such as Newtownstewart, Victoria Bridge, St. Johnston, Beragh, Sixmilecross, Strabane and Omagh.
Visitors to the event are encouraged to bring along their own photographs and memorabilia to share their ‘rail’ memories with others. Jimmy Donnelly, former GNRI driver, who now lives in Portadown, is one of those who is particularly looking forward to the event and meeting fellow railway employees who worked on the line.
Malcolm Lake, one of the event organisers, ssaid: “The railway arrived in Omagh in 1852 and it quickly became the gateway to the wider world stimulating exports, encouraging people to go on seaside holidays and bringing a greater variety of goods to the shops. Tragically, it is now gone for half a century.”
Malcolm continued that as well as looking nostalgically to the past the commemorative event will show how public transport provision in the north-west of Ireland has been greatly diminished as a result of the railway’s closure.
“A century ago, it was possible to travel by train from Omagh to every part of Ireland”, he said. “Nowadays, the North-West of Ireland is one of the most extensively inhabited areas of Europe that lacks a railway service.”
The free commemorative event in Omagh Library is open from 10am to 5pm and everyone is encouraged to visit throughout the day during which there will be an opportunity to meet film- maker Fred Cooper and other railway employees. Library staff will also be showcasing the wide range of local history books within their collection which feature the railways and the organisers are grateful to the support they have provided to help commemorate this event.”