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Inchicore Works—keeping rolling stock rolling for 176 years.

Updated: Jul 8, 2022

Inchicore Works is now 176 years in operation, with a celebratory open day event due to take place on Saturday 7th May 2022. It originally opened in 1846 as the engineering base of the Great Southern & Western Railway, which was opening its line from Dublin to Carlow. Over the following half-century, this system expanded to cover most of the south, southwest, and even parts of the northwest of Ireland, with Inchicore being responsible for providing and maintaining locomotives and rolling stock for this expansive network. Inchicore itself expanded too, with a thriving community building around the railway works.

Inchicorea Railway Works responsible for trains of all shapes and sizes.

Inchicore’s role grew further in the mid-1920s, when the GS&WR was amalgamated with all other railways located that didn’t cross the Northern Ireland border. This entity was known as the Great Southern Railways, and Inchicore was now responsible for overhauling the rolling stock of not only the former GS&WR system but those of the Midland Great Western Railway’s lines to Galway, Mayo, and Sligo, the Dublin & South Eastern Railway’s lines to Wexford and Waterford, those of the Cork, Bandon & South Coast Railway and even the smaller narrow gauge lines. The latter included the Tralee & Dingle Railway, the Cavan & Leitrim Railway, the Cork, Blackrock & Passage Railway, and the famous West Clare Railway.

The heart of the Irish railway network

Inchicore is the main engineering center for the Iarnród Éireann system. If you’ve traveled on a train in Ireland, there’s a high chance it’s been through Inchicore at some point. Even Northern Ireland Railways occasionally send their railcar sets to Inchicore for wheel turning. Heavy locomotive overhauls are still undertaken here, while the carriage shops overhaul not only railcars and the mkIV carriages (such as the ones that will be used on our special train trip to Kerry this summer), but occasionally also work on the generator vans used on the Dublin to Belfast ‘Enterprise’ service.

Did you know that Inchicore built its own locomotives?

While these days Irish rolling stock is imported from foreign manufacturers, Inchicore once built its own locomotives in-house. This started as early as 1852, when an 0-4-2 tender engine, No.52, was constructed in-house. Inchicore went on to build many more locomotives throughout the decades, in fact, at one point they were so busy that they actually had to outsource some of their locomotive construction. An example of this would be the 101 or J15 Class steam locomotives, some of which were built in Inchicore, while others were manufactured by locomotive companies in Great Britain. This tradition continued on into the days of the Great Southern Railways, which the Great Southern & Western Railway was amalgamated into in 1924. Some new 0-6-2 tank engine classes were built for use on suburban trains from Dublin to Bray along with a series of ‘updated’ versions of the older J15 class locomotives. A one-off design in this period was a 2-6-2 tank engine, No.850, again primarily used on Dublin suburban trains but known to have wandered at least as far as Tipperary. However, perhaps the most famous example of Inchicore-built locomotives are the B1a or ‘800 Class’ 4-6-0 steam locomotives, the largest ever to run in Ireland. Three were built over the course of 1939-1940, named Maedbh, Macha, and Táilte (As you may have gathered, the last one is what our heritage railway fundraising initiative is named after). The final steam locomotive to be built at Inchicore Works was perhaps its most unusual, an experimental turf burning engine in 1957.

One of the famous 800 Class locomotives, built in Inchicore, the largest to run in Ireland. David Walsh collection.

Inchicore also built some diesel locomotives. These included 5 diesel shunters, lately known as the ‘D Class’, in 1947. Sadly, none of these survive. In the early 1950s, Inchicore Works built two Sulzer-engined mainline diesel locomotives, the first on CIE, Nos.1110 and 1101. These later became B113 and B114, and B113 is now preserved in the Ulster Folk Museum at Cultra, near Belfast. Two series of E Class diesel shunting locomotives were built in Inchicore, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the final example, No. E432, emerging in 1963. This locomotive is now preserved at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway.

Inchicore Works built EVs before they were popular

Battery-powered vehicles are all the rage these days (even the railway is ordering them), but did you know that Inchicore Works built some as far back as the 1930s? Following a trial conversion of a petrol railcar in 1930, two battery railcars, A and B, were built at Inchicore in 1932 using a battery developed by Dublin chemist Dr. James J. Drumm. Two more, C and D, followed in 1938, and went on to operate suburban trains from Dublin to Bray. These units were known as the Drumm Battery Trains.

Carriage & Wagon building at Inchicore

Inchicore has built thousands of carriages and wagons, used all over the Irish railway system, over the years. These have included carriages from humble six-wheelers through to a train of steel-paneled rolling stock used on the Cork mail train. Perhaps the most prestigious carriage to be built in Inchicore was the Irish State Carriage, No.351, originally built in 1902 for the visit of King Edward VII to Ireland the following year A fine example of Inchicore Works craftsmanship, it has since gone on to carry many famous dignitaries including Éamon de Valera and Douglas Hyde, to name but a few. One of the last designs to be built from scratch at Inchicore was the ‘laminate’ series of carriages in the late 1950s, along with a pair of dining cars in the early 1960s. However, Inchicore continued to be an assembly point for carriage kits imported from the UK, including the Cravens, mk2s, and mk3 carriages, the last of which, mk3 push-pull car No.6105, was assembled in Inchicore in the late 1980s.

This mk3 push-pull car was one of the very last carriages to be assembled at Inchicore Works.

Hopefully, this article has given you some idea of the history of Inchicore Works in the development of the Irish transport system, and its local community; roles that it continues to play. If you’re lucky enough to have gotten tickets to the Inchicore Open Day, you’ll be able to sample for yourself the history and tradition Ireland’s largest engineering works is steeped in. If not, be sure to take a look at Inchicore next time you’re passing on a train trip to or from Dublin. It’s quite the site.

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