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Downpatrick & County Down Railway badly affected by flooding

Posted by Chris Graham on 31st January 2024

We report on the damage caused by the floods which hit the Downpatrick & County Down Railway in Northern Ireland at the end of last year.

Downpatrick & County Down Railway

Downpatrick & County Down Railway: This image taken from drone footage shows the extent of the flooding that affected the railway last November, with tracks well under water. (Pic: D&DCR)

Volunteers at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway say that they’re down, but not out, after devastating floods that hit Downpatrick and the railway on November 2nd, last year. Flood waters inundated the town after several consecutive nights of heavy rain, causing the River Quolie to burst its banks and wreak havoc on the railway terminus, workshops and historic carriage gallery, undoing years of work and effort. As an immediate consequence, the popular and – crucially for the railway – revenue-generating Lapland Express events, usually held on the weekends running up to Christmas, were cancelled.

An even greater casualty was the cancellation of the line’s New Year Diesel Gala, that had been scheduled for 6th January, and to which Dublin-based Tailte Tours was planning to run a bus to widen access to the event. The railway reports that all ticket holders have been contacted with a view to organising refunds.

Downpatrick & County Down Railway

A grim-faced Robert Gardiner surveys the damage after gaining access to the station, nearly three days after the flood. “But we’ll be back!” vows the chairman. (Pic: D&DCR)

Chairman Robert Gardiner said: “The extent of the flooding and the damage done to the railway is quite shocking. We were unable to access our premises for several days because the water levels didn’t drop until pumping was carried out in the town by the authorities and, when we did gain access, it was clear that a great deal of damage had been done. But we fully intend to repair that damage and return our railway – Ireland’s only heritage branch line – to full working order as speedily as we can.”

Robert added that flood waters penetrated the axle boxes of operational stock, while the line’s diesel-electric multiple units, including its famous Derry Girls train set, will all have to have their electrics – including traction motors – dried out and thoroughly tested. Interestingly, the railway says that returning its steam locomotive to working order won’t be as challenging, given the relative simplicity of steam locos compared to diesel. Tracks in and around the station and out on the line, have also been undermined, with ballast washed away in places, while workshop equipment and restoration projects have been badly affected.

The sad scene in Downpatrick station yard, with flooded tracks and former Northern Ireland Railways class 458 ‘Derry Girls’ DEMU set, after the water had begun to go down. (Pic: D&DCR)

The D&CDR is checking its insurance position and, in common with all affected businesses in Downpatrick, is lobbying the authorities for financial aid, although the absence of a functioning Northern Executive at Stormont has been affecting the speed at which aid may be made available.

Following closely on the heels of the railway’s Covid 19-enforced closure, the flooding has come at a time when the line was really starting to get back on its feet, having enjoyed a successful season during 2023, and being thoroughly established as a key tourist attraction in County Down. Although no decision on a recovery appeal has yet been made, while volunteers continue to assess the damage, financial support and help in kind are both very welcome and anyone, any agency or any business which can help the D&CDR realise its vow to get back on track, should contact Robert Gardiner at: robert.gardiner@downrail.co.uk.

The historic carriage gallery was also badly flooded and damage is being assessed. (Pic: D&DCR)

This feature comes from the latest issue of Old Glory, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE

 

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