After the long day that was the "Premier Rose" railtour from Dublin to Kerry, the Táilte team had somewhat of a lie-in before the second part of our Two Day Irish Railtour Weekend commenced. Today was to be a more sedate affair, with an afternoon trip by service train from Dublin to Dromod and the Cavan & Leitrim Railway.
Off to a good start
The first leg of the outing was to be on the 13:00 Dublin Connolly to Sligo service train as far as Dromod. We assembled on the concourse at Connolly, where David discovered that carrying the Táilte headboard over his head was quite a useful identifier for those collecting tickets off us. Those 30 minutes passed by pretty quickly, and having shepherded our passengers towards the train, at 12:57 we decided it would be a good idea to make our way towards Platform 1 to join the Sligo train ourselves. It wouldn't do for the group leaders to be left behind after all. The service train was made up of two ICR sets, Nos. 22023 and 22057 for those wondering.
All along the banks of the Royal Canal
There was ample room on the Sligo service, and we soon settled in for a pleasant journey along the banks of the Royal Canal, which the Sligo line follows as far as Mullingar. Pleasant chats were had with our passengers and the sun shone. At Killucan we passed railcar set 22007 on the Branch Line Society's railtour which was on its way back from Dromod.
On Edge at Edgeworthstown?
At Edgeworthstown (or Moistrim as it's known to some) we were held to cross the afternoon train from Sligo. Unfortunately this had been held up by the hot box detector west of the station. While initially we were worried that this might compromise our time in Dromod, a quick word with the helpful Train Host ensured that we could wait a while longer in Dromod for the evening Sligo-Dublin service if need be. When we finally left Edgesworthstown, our own train was held a little while at the same hot box detector. A quick call by Niall to Micheal Kennedy at Dromod to let them know of the delay—no problem.
Nancy the Wild Rose of Leitrim
Presently, our group arrived at Dromod (mainline) station and with a quick walk across the carpark, we were at Dromod's second station, the terminus of the Cavan & Leitrim Railway. Any anxieties about our late arrival were now gone and we met up with some participants who'd made their own way to Dromod. The warmest of welcomes was on hand from Micheal, Darragh and all the team at the Cavan & Leitrim. As we emerged from the red brick station building there, resplendent in the sunshine, stood the star of the show: Nancy. This little green Avonside tank engine was in the midst of her first weekend of public train since overhaul by Alan Keefe. And when we say overhaul, we mean a complete rebuild. Her carriage, No.13, was decorated in flags celebrating Heritage Week. Indeed, between our tour, that of the Branch Line Society and Heritage Week itself, we were informed that the Cavan & Leitrim was having its busiest weekend on record. The atmosphere was buzzing.
Into the woods we go
After fitting the Táilte headboard (making Nancy the first steam loco to wear it), we gathered into (by now quite well loaded) the carriage and everyone shuffled up to make room. A cheerful toot of her Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railway whistle and Nancy pulled away, smooth as silk over the Cavan & Leitrim Railway's newly relaid track—a testament to the dedication and skill of their small volunteer force. We chuntered up the line passing the C&L's vast collection of Irish narrow gauge rolling stock and road vehicles. When we arrived at the end of running line, our host Micheal asked if we'd like a group photo. Of course, we would. So carefully, our group disembarked to assemble beside Nancy. Nestled among the trees, a gentle sunlight peaked through giving the scene an almost fairytale quality. After much happy snapping, we got back on board and Nancy gently pushed us back towards Dromod.
A most wonderful workshop
Before Dromod station, the train stopped to allow participants to disembark for a tour of the yards and workshop. These contain many weird and wonderful treasures, including a working pump trolley (as seen in Old West movies) and even a railway bike! Not to mention, a plethora of vintage buses, aircraft artifacts, and some real hidden gems from of the Irish railway preservation world. Did you know that Dromod is home to the only surviving Great Southern Railways Drewry Inspection Car? It's a real treasure. Also present is Guinness Brewery locomotive No.22, which was built in Cork Street, Dublin, in 1912. We understand that the Cavan & Leitrim have exciting plans for both vehicles and we'll watching with interest.
Passing like ships in the night
Some passengers stayed in the carriage for the run back to the station. As they did, there was a quick blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo appearance by vintage Bord na Móna diesel No. LM101, Dromod's resident 'shed pilot', which passed us on the loop. It's not often that two heritage locos pass each other on the Irish narrow gauge so this was pretty special.
A relaxing railway afternoon
For the rest of the afternoon, it was a relaxed, casual affair. A call to Sligo station revealed that our return service wouldn't be due in Dromod until after 18:00 due to the delays, so there was no panic to hurry back. With the sun shining, there was plenty of time to enjoy a few more trips up the line with Nancy and for refreshments to be obtained at the local shop. When the time did come, we bade our farewell to the Cavan & Leitrim crew and headed back over the carpark to get our train home. It was the same set we had come out on, and with plenty of seats available we settled in for the journey back to Dublin in the evening sun (but not before we had a demonstration of the PARPing capabilities of LM114 "Joe St. Leger", one of the Cavan & Leitrim's restored diesel locomotives (check out the video below and it'll make sense).
Tommy gives us a taste of LM114's melodic capacity
Thank you one and all
As our group went their separate ways at Dublin Connolly, the Táilte team finally had a chance to reflect on our first railtour weekend. We were tired, for sure, but there was a general sense of good vibes all around. Despite a few delays on both days, things had worked out in the end and everyone seemed to have had a good time. Big thanks are once again due to all who supported and helped make the "Wild Rose" railtour a success, including: Micheal, Darragh, and all the team at the Cavan & Leitrim Railway who couldn't have given us a better welcome. Thanks are also due to the Iarnród Éireann staff who assisted us on the service train and kept us well informed of the delays. And of course, to our passengers—we hope you enjoyed the day as much as we did.
For those who missed this event, keep an eye on the Cavan & Leitrim Railway's website for their operating dates. As mentioned, their station is right beside Dromod station on the Dublin to Sligo line and is possibly the easiest heritage railway to get to in all of Ireland. We hope to run further Sunday tours of this type in the future so keep an eye on our social media pages for updates.