The third part of the CDRJC feature covering the line’s closure and what can be seen of the railway today.
The County Donegal Railways closes
The end of the CDRJC. December 1959 notice announcing the system’s closure on 31st December 1959. Source: Twitter
Although the closure notice implies all freight services were to finish at the end of 1959, a skeleton service continued between Strabane and Stranorlar.
Newspaper report published just after Xmas 1959 detailing the County Donegal Railways – to close just a few days later… Source: Twitter
Donegal Town station after closure – a fair amount of track is lifted and stored on the platforms. September 1960. Source: Flickr
Erne was prepared ready for preservation – but it instead got scrapped. The location is a short distance from the disused platforms at Letterkenny, about where the present Aldi car park is. May 1963. Source: Flickr
Practically ten years after closure a fair number of rolling stock could still be seen about the former system…
Dereliction at Strabane – ‘Meenglas’ & a couple of carriages seen in December 1968. Source: Flickr
Strabane signal box still quite complete – the smashed windows being an almost mandatory condition of such relics lasting well beyond their final proper use. Source: Flickr
A number of CDRJC locomotives have been rescued – Blanche, Columbkille, Drumboe, Meenglas, Phoenix, plus quite a few railcars, wagons, and carriages. Some were destined for America but never made it. A number of rolling stock lay derelict at Strabane until the mid 1970s when they were finally rescued. Some of the stock made it to Shane’s Castle Railway and was used there between 1971-1995. Below is a list of the CDRJC’s locomotives:
In the 1990s I made a visit to several of the former Irish narrow gauge railway sites and the CDRJC too was included. As the pictures below show, at Ballyshannon I was fortunate to see the inside of the former station.
The former CDRJC station at Ballyshannon. The platform is still evident as are both station buildings. This is 31 years after the last trains had run.
Despite this part being used as a store room/outbuilding for the main house, the ticket window was still there as was the hole where the former station clock once was.
The CDRJC’s station’s ticket office with ticket window and hole for the clock.
The former ticket office building is no longer there. The station house however still exists but is much modified as this scene from Google Streets shows. In this earlier Google Streets view (2012) the former platform can just be seen – whilst the rubble in front is all that remains of the former ticket office.
I also visited the transport museum in Belfast where there was a considerable amount of museum dedicated to the CDRJC. Not the much heralded new museum in Hollywood but the older one at Witham Street. The downside of this place was the rather poorly lit and cramped layout. It was fascinating though and a couple of hours were spent here. The collection is now at Cultra.
CDRJC railcar no.10 in the museum at Cultra. Source: Twitter.
The County Donegal Railways today
The old 3 foot gauge route, now a pathway, between Stranorlar and Meenglas. Source: Twitter
The old line at the Barnesmore Gap. Source: Twitter
Aerial view of the Barnesmore Gap looking west with the old railway alignment quite visible. Source: Twitter
Lovely station name board from Strabane. Names include the Lough Swilly Railway’s Burtonport extension. The northernmost and southernmost terminus of this once vast 235 mile long Irish narrow gauge system are absent – Ballyshannon and Carndonagh. Source: Twitter
Drumboe some years ago after partial restoration. Source: Twitter
Meenglas on a rail wagon at the RPSI Whitehead base before partial restoration. Source: Twitter
Meenglas at the Foyle Valley museum in Derry after its cosmetic restoration. November 2019. Source: Flickr
Bus 273 from Derry passing the CDRJC’s former Victoria Road station. Source: Twitter
The CDRJC’s 1908 built Letterkenny station’s still in use – as a bus terminus. Picture from 2017. Source: Google Streets
Walking along the old railway between Derry & Strabane. Source: Twitter
There have been several attempts to restore the old railway. The most successful has to be the Fintown operation. Then there’s the museum at Donegal. This was established as part of the drive by the South Donegal Ralway Society to restore part of the line, and their first focus was to restore the section through the Barnesmore Gap. However that fell though and eventually they acquired the former station buildings and land at Donegal. There’s also the Foyle Valley Railway in Derry. Its been closed to the public for some time however there are plans to reopen it.
The Glenties branch was partially restored as the 3 mile long Fintown Railway – a very picturesque line. Source: Twitter
Nice view along the Fintown Railway. Source: Twitter
News about the 60th anniversary of the CDRJC’s closure and a special badge. Source: Facebook
In October 2021 Drumboe was taken by low loader from the Railways Preservation Society of Ireland’s workshops to Donegal Town where the locomotive forms the centrepiece of a new exhibition on the CDRJC. Drumboe is seen here in the Barnesmore Gap with the former railway alignment visible on the hillside in the background. Source: Twitter.
The very first copy of The Phoenix magazine, 1991 (from author’s collection.)