The International Steam Pages
Irish Narrow Gauge in the 21st Century
James Waite reports on Tralee and Dingle Railway , the West Clare Railway and the replica Listowel and Ballybunion Railway (the latter not steam but very interesting)...
The report below was written some time ago, James went to the West Clare Railway in 2010 but adds this footnote concerning the Tralee and Dingle operation:
"The steam loco last ran in 2006 after which it was stripped down and the boiler lifted for an overhaul which never happened. The loco's parts were left standing out in the open for more than two years which can't have done them any good with the salty atmosphere. Eventually the operating company had its contract withdrawn and the loco's parts were moved under cover. After two years of closure the line reopened with a diesel but there's no sign of the steam loco being restored any time soon. The West Clare loco is currently the only working narrow gauge steam loco in the country."
The Tralee line starts from a station on a new
site to the south-west of the town. Immediately west of the station it crosses a
bridge over the river, swings to the south and joins the old formation. It heads
due south along this for about half a mile and then turns to head due west and
crosses another stream on an original girder bridge from the old line. The
terminus at Blennerville is about half a mile further on. The engine shed is
here, at the end of a lengthy siding. The shed itself is a modern building but
the yard is alongside old farm buildings and is quite photogenic. The loco comes
off shed usually about 10.00am and the first train out of Blennerville is at
10.45am. The light is best then as the loco faces towards Tralee and comes out
of the sun for much of the run from about midday onwards.
No. 5 has just come off shed (the line from the left crossing the road) and is about to back into the station at Blennerville. The stone bridge on the right carries the main road from the Dingle peninsula into Tralee.
The 11.45 train midway along the line with the Slieve Mish mountains in the background.
The old line was about 30 miles
long. Much of its route is still intact, especially the steeply graded section
south west of Castlegregory Junction where it climbed south through the
mountains to reach the south coast of the peninsula - wild country and it's easy
to imagine how lonely it must have been working trains up to the summit in
stormy weather. Further west the old girder viaduct at Lispole, at the foot of
the gradient down from the mountains, is still there as are the main buildings
at Dingle station and the large water tank at Castlegregory Junction. It's worth
visiting the pub here - the footrests at the bar are made from old rail and
there are many photos of the line.
If you carry on along the main road northwards from Listowel it's about a twenty minutes drive to the Shannon car ferry which runs every half hour or so in summer. The estuary must be a couple of miles wide or maybe even a little more. We were accompanied by dolphins for a part of the crossing, apparently not unusual as there is a large dolphin population in the estuary and offshore. Moyasta Junction on the preserved part of the West Clare Railway is about a half hour's drive from the ferry heading northwestwards and there are several other remains of the WCR at Kilrush and Kilkee. At present the half-mile line is diesel-worked but their 0-6-2T, one of the line's original locos, is coming to the end of a protracted overhaul at Alan Keef's works and should be at work there soon. There's a great deal of rail stockpiled at the station in connection with a planned extension towards Kilkee which would be an attractive run. (See James' 2010 update for more information.)