Programme of Events 2017/18

Below is a summary of talks and events hosted by the IRRS London. If you would like any further information about a subject or wish to get in touch with the speaker, please use the Contact Us page.

“The GNR(I) lines to Newcastle and Derry” by Charles Friel

Thursday 19 April 2018

Charles Friel

Charles Friel gave another excellent presentation to the IRRS London Area on 19th April – the last Area meeting of the season. It was a Great Northern-themed evening. The first half showed a great collection of previously unseen photos of the line from Knockmore Junction – Newcastle, including the Scarva branch. Only four members of the audience had travelled on the line, although at least one was a babe-in-arms at the time!

In the second half, Charles introduced a recording of a BBC programme about the Derry road made to mark the 50th anniversary of its closure in 1965. The programme included film at almost every station on the line and dwelt at some length on the people who operated the line and the circumstances of its closure. More of the audience remembered this route and the programme was a poignant reminder to all of what has gone.

“Further Tales of Irish Railway Travel in the mid-1950s” by Michael Davies

Thursday 15th March 2018

Michael Davies & Richard McLachlan

Michael Davies & Richard McLachlan

Michael transported the audience, with members visiting from Wales, Scotland and Ireland, back to 1950s Letterkenny (by the Swilly and the Donegal), the length of the Cavan and Leitrim (clearly his favourite), the Midland Great Western from Inny Junction to Cavan and on to Clones by the Great Northern. Michael was also in time to travel several times on the Sligo Leitrim and Northern Counties before that singular railway closed.

Along the way, Michael made many enduring friends among Irish railwaymen and recounted how when a rail connection was not available he used buses and on many occasions hitched a lift with commercial travellers and on one occasion, a parish priest. While exploring the Cavan and Leitrim one Sunday, he obtained the loan of a bicycle, but a tyre succumbed to the rough roads. Nothing daunted, he discovered a cycle repair business in the next town, knocked on the door, only to discover that the proprietor was at Mass. The man’s wife fed young Michael, while he waited and when the owner returned and carried out the repair, he would not accept a payment. Michael’s ingenuity knew no bounds and to resolve difficult connections he would write in advance to station masters to ask them have a “Hackney Carriage” waiting when his train arrived – and they did. It was a different world!

He illustrated his talk with photographs taken on his father’s “Box Brownie” camera and he acknowledged the skill shown by Area member Richard McLachlan in restoring the images and bringing them out in their full glory.

“LUAS 14 years on” by Anthony McDonald

Thursday 15th February 2018

Anthony McDonald

Anthony brought us up to date with operations and developments on the LUAS since its opening in 2004 – extensions to Brides Glen, The Point and Saggart, lengthened trams, accidents etc. and most recently the construction of tracks through the city centre to extend the Green Line to Broombridge. He showed how the LUAS has been embraced by Dubliners to become an integral and vital part of city life.

“Port, Harbour and Military Railways” by Andrew Waldron

Thursday 18th January 2018

Andrew Waldron gave us another entertaining talk on Irish industrial railways, beginning with a comprehensive look at the railways around Belfast docks. Showing the wide variety of traffic on those lines including large pieces of equipment for ships being built by Harland and Wolff, Andrew then showed those around the Port of Derry.

He covered many well-known uses of rail in industry, North and South, and others less well-known. It seemed that anywhere rail was used to shift something, Andrew has been to see and photograph it!

Appropriately, as we remember the centenary of the outbreak of World War One, Andrew introduced us to various rail systems in military establishments, including a remarkable line at the Curragh – on the target range! If that wasn’t enough, the number of different gauges utilised was almost beyond belief.

A very informative presentation, at which everyone learned something new.

The IRRS apologises for the delay in this write-up. 

“Engineering Railway Architecture –the GNR(I)” by Siobhan Osgood + AGM

Thursday 7th December 2017, Calthorpe Arms, London

Siobhan Osgood and Tim Morton.

Using engaging visuals of original drawings alongside photos of current buildings, Siobhan detailed the development of the GNRI’s central engineering works at Dundalk focusing on the work of its first chief engineer, William Hemingway Mills. Starting with the engineering works Siobhan linked key architectural features across residential and railway station buildings, including those inherited from the earlier site and those constructed by the GNRI.

There was a lively question and answer session leading to discussions about other sites which use Mills’ brick-branding style such as Lisburn station. The embedded signange of Stuart’s Granolithic also made an appearance at a member’s school in Surrey!

Following the talk were complimentary Christmas drinks and the London Area AGM.

“Ireland’s Great Railway Engineers” by Gerald Beesley

Thursday 16th November 2017, Calthorpe Arms, London

Gerald Beesley gave us a remarkable insight into the lives of over fifteen Irish railway engineers, from the far-famed like Charles Clifford of the GNR(I) to the less well-known like Mervyn Ryan from Thurles whose work was mainly in South America.

In between, we had Robert Ross, inventor of the wonderfully named Ross “Pop” Safety Valve, and Bartolomew Kelliher from Castleisland who designed and built many bridges in North America.

In his talk, punctuated by many entertaining narratives, Gerard demonstrated the remarkable connections between many of his subjects, whether through school – Stonyhurst was Alma Mater to Ryan mentioned above and Roche who worked on the LSWR – or by birth, for Robert Ross’s mother was first cousin to William Traill of Giant’s Causeway Tramway fame.

A lively, carefully researched talk which added much to the writer’s knowledge of Irish engineers.

“Graham Hoare’s Irish Railway Photos” presented by Roger Joanes

Thursday 19th October 2017, Calthorpe Arms, London

Graham was an English railway enthusiast, who travelled extensively in Ireland between 1956 and 1964, taking a special interest in lines and stations then threatened with closure. He bequeathed his 2,000 photos to the IRRS and a selection were presented by Roger Joanes, a frequent visitor to Ireland himself since 1960.