This is part two of the tribute to the famed County Donegal narrow gauge railways which closed on the very last day of 1959. In the first part we took a look at the CDRJC’s route to Ballyshannon and Killybegs. In this second part we look at the CDRJC’s other stations including Derry and Letterkenny, plus the aftermath of its closure and whats left of the system. The closure of the CDR left a huge part of NW Ireland without any proper public transport. Part one is here.
The line from Donegal to Killybegs followed the coast but because of the many inlets from the sea the route was extremely winding. As the crow flies the distance is just over 13 miles (or 21km) by both rail and road it was an extra four miles or so. Stations were at Killymard, Mountcharles, Dooran Road, Inver, Port, Dunkineeley, Bruckless, Ardara Road and Killybegs.
Killybegs to Strabane working featuring railcar 20. August 1959. Source: Donegal Live
Bruckless station. Source: Whyte’s
The line terminated almost by Killybegs pier. There was a siding onto the pier itself.
The final full timetable for the railway depicted Killybegs and its pier on the front cover. Source: Pinterest
Railcar no.19 at Killybegs. Source: Twitter (Note: As of May 2020 the account ‘RailwayanaUK’ has been suspended/deleted thus an archived image is used here.)
Killybegs harbour in the early days. Note the railway station and the lines onto the pier. Source: Mapio
Killybegs in 1895. Note the solitary wagon. Source: Internet Archive
Donegal – Ballyshannon/Glenties
Of the two branches westwards besides Killybegs, one was the CDRJC’s southern branch and the other the system’s longest branch heading in an almost due west direction. The Glenties branch was an early victim of cuts and closed in 1947. That to Ballyshannon lasted to the end of services in 1959.
The southern terminus at Ballyshannon in August 1959. Source: Flickr
Victoria Road, Derry
Victoria Road was perhaps the most important of the CDRJC’s stations because it was in the city of Derry. However that important distinction didn’t prevent the line from here to Strabane closing in 1954, seven years after the line to Glenties had shut and five years before the rest of the system closed for good. The reason for this early closure of the Derry line was the fact there was a parallel line 5′ 3″ from the other side of the river between here and Strabane.
In many ways this other line was rather more convenient as it did not necessitate crossing the bridge as one would have had to to in order to reach Victoria Road. Not only that if anyone wanted to reach other parts of the CDRJC it was probably quicker to catch a 5′ 3″ gauge train and change at Strabane. The closure of the Derry to Strabane section enabled the CDRJC to focus its resources on the remaining lines to Letterkenny, Ballyshannon and Killybegs, but ultimately did not prevent the system from closing in 1959.
Blanche, with Columbkille behind. Super power perhaps for a single coach and guards van – or maybe the latter had suffered some fault – and Blanche was put in charge of the train? Source: Derry Journal
Victoria Road station, Derry. Note the standard gauge freight train crossing the Craigavon bridge. Source: Twitter
Craigavon bridge is one of the very few double deck bridges to have been built in Europe. The lower deck carried a railway until 1968 when it was replaced by a new roadway.
The Derry Journal explains in this thoughtful article that that the city’s railway heritage should be developed for this was once a railway town – yet there’s very little left of this former industry. The paper says the city needs something that can be a draw for tourists and businesses – as well as support jobs and the city’s railway heritage could be part of this. The paper also notes the importance of Victoria Road station and the fact the city still has two of its rail termini intact.Embed from Getty Images
A bit further out from the environs of Victoria Road station is this class 5 (looks like no.5 again) on a train going possibly as far as Donegal Town circa 1935. Source: Gettys
Stations from Victoria Road to Strabane were at New Buildings, Desertstone, Cullion, Donemana and Ballymagorry.
Strabane – Letterkenny
This was the northern branch of the CDRJC, nevertheless it was an important line. It connected to the Lough Swilly Railway at Letterkenny and until the closure of the Lough Swilly system, there was through freight between the two systems. The combined lenght of the CDRJC and Lough Swilly was around 235 miles in its heyday, and was the biggest narrow gauge network in Europe.
Stations were at Lifford Halt, Ballindrait, Coolaghy, Raphoe, Convoy, Cornagillagh Halt and Glenmaquin.
Raphoe station in the early days. Source: Whyte’s
Last freight train at Raphoe. 31st December 1959. Source: Twitter
The final passenger working to Letterkenny 31st December 1959. Railcar 19’s driver, Michael Gallen, poses for photographs. Source: Twitter
Letterkenny station. Source: Donegal News
Letterkenny station. Source: Boards IE
One of the CDRJC’s Class 5 locomotives at Letterkenny. Source: Boards IE
The County Donegal Railways had a number of observation coaches which were used on certain trains. These were unusual that the cream and red livery went all the way round – normal coaches had full red ends. This and other interesting stuff can be read in an article on the CDRJC in Meccano November 1950. The CDRJC was also featured in several other Meccano magazines. The front cover of the Meccano January 1964 magazine featured its most modern railcars which had been bought by the Isle of Man Railways after the CDR had closed.
The CDRJC railcars in their new role on the Isle of Man Railways.