18 Aug 2022

All aboard for an insight into the railways of south Donegal

All aboard for an insight into the railways of south Donegal

The locomotive for that day's Bundoran Express to Dublin is prepared at the locomotive shed on 3 June 1954.

Ahead of the 60th anniversary commemoration of the last train to leave Bundoran in September, the annual Fr Paddy Gallagher lecture this August will have a railway theme.

Renowned railway historian Charles Friel of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland will deliver an illustrated talk entitled “The Railways of South Donegal” on Monday August 21st at Bundoran Community Library.

Charles will show photos from his extensive collection - indeed he has been collecting pictures and negatives of Irish railways for some time so that they will not be lost to future generations. He will also talk about the two railways which served south Donegal -  the Bundoran branch of the Great Northern Railway which opened in 1866 and the County Donegal Railway Joint Committee's Ballyshannon branch which opened in 1905.

He will also talk about the starting of the railways in 1896 right up to the closure in 1957. He recalls “The two lines were of different gauges. The line into Bundoran was the Irish standard gauge of 5 foot 3 inches while the Donegal to Ballyshannon line was narrow gauge, with the rails set just three feet apart.  The two lines did not meet up in Ballyshannon - geography and the mighty river Erne kept them over a mile apart. The talk will illustrate life along each of the lines until their closure - the Bundoran line on 30 September 1957 and the Ballyshannon branch on the last day of 1959’.

Michael Travers, Chairperson of Magh Ene Historical Society says the group are very much looking forward to the annual lecture ‘we are delighted to have Charles deliver this year’s Fr Paddy Gallagher lecture. Indeed it is all the more apt as Fr Paddy himself lived on Station Road. The railway played a hugely important part in the development of Bundoran as a tourist destination and it’s right that they should be remembered as we approach this important anniversary in September. We are confident that Charles will deliver an informative and entertaining talk on the subject of the railways of South Donegal on the night.’

Admission to the event is free and is a pre-cursor to the Railway Heritage Festival that will take place in September to mark the departure of the last train from Bundoran on September 30th. More details on the event can be found on railwayheritage with a full programme of events being launched in the coming weeks.

There will also be an exhibition of railway artefacts courtesy of Ballyshannon and District Museum taking place at Bundoran Community Library during Heritage Week and will be on display on the night of the lecture.

About Fr Paddy Gallagher

Fr Paddy Gallagher was born in Bundoran in 1919.  He was the first president of the Credit Union League of Ireland and a distinguished local historian. He published over 100 works throughout his lifetime including the parish histories of Magh Éne, Dromore and Botha. He was educated at St Macartan’s College, Monaghan and St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. He was ordained in 1945 and ministered in California, Clones, Dromore and Botha until he retired in 1988. He died peacefully, aged 77, on March 30, 1996. (Source: Clogher Record, Vol 15, No. 3 (1996), pp. 160-163) via “Dancing by the Sea” by Marc Geagan. 

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