Programme of Events 2020/21

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.

ONLINE MEETING – Thursday 22 Apr 2021 “Locomotives of the Great Southern & Western Railway” by Michael McMahon 


Photo of Michael on the left with Jeremy Clements on the right, taken in the “Trophy” room at IRRS HQ 

For the last lecture of the successful, Zoom delivered 2021-21 season of lectures an audience of over 120 heard a detailed PowerPoint presentation on the history and locomotives of the GSWR.

Michael McMahon, co-author of the recently published eponymous book, recounted the complex motive power story of the GSWR throughout the company’s existence from 1844 – 1924. This historic subject has never been comprehensively researched before and Michael and the team took 10 years to do it. He explained the detailed research work by Alan O’Rourke, Jeremy Clements and himself. The difficulties in marketing and publication of the book were explained. A huge amount of new information is revealed in the book.

Michael therefore covered, in depth, a huge part of early locomotive development in Ireland, mirroring the expansion and needs of GSWR operations. In unraveling the convoluted loco numbering system, he made reference to the book’s locomotive “keys” that enables reference to numbering and classification of the locomotives. And he explained the construction, rebuilding and renewal of the large fleet (325 at the end) as it evolved over 80 years. Michael identified the eminent CME’s who worked at Inchicore many of whom went on to great success in mainland railway companies. McDonnell, Aspinall, Ivatt and Maunsell for example. He specifically identified 3 locomotives for illustration a Waterford and Kilkenny 2-2-2-2, a single Fairlie and the 500 series of 4-6-0’s. The final part of the lecture went into some detail on the Waterford, Limerick and Western Railway and finally he explained the poorly researched and understood history of tenders!

Michael thanked Charles Friel for providing photographs which enlivened the second half of the evening, which was well received by the audience.


ONLINE MEETING – Thurs 18 Mar 2021 – “UTA/NIR Spoil Trains of 1966-70” by Joe Cassells

joe cassells

Photo 1 for 2 May 1970 (002)

The UTA NIR Spoil Trains were the last great challenge for Irish steam. Over 3½ years, WT Class 2-6-4T locos operated 7600 trains carrying over 4m tons of spoil from Magheramorne to Greencastle. Lifetime recorder of the railway scene, Joe Cassells, keenly observed the operation but now using previously unavailable information, he gave a well researched and illustrated description of it – its conception, its planning, and day-to-day activity. Joe’s lecture identified the genesis  and in retrospect the flaws of the scheme  (poor design of the wagons by Craven being one example)  An audience of over 150 enjoyed the photographs and explanation of the day to day running with special focus on the locomotives and enginemen. Joe gave a full insight to this impressively successful project.

Among comments from the audience were : “A really good historical record – And Joe illustrated that the last steam-hauled passenger train carrying paying passengers in a public timetable on 4’8″ or 5’3″ lines in these islands was into Belfast York Road in 1970″.”Absolutely superb. Evocative, but incredibly detailed. What a wonderful mountain of information and such super photos”. “So much new information, well done Joe. The definitive version!”

ONLINE MEETING – Thursday 18 Feb 2021 – Railways throughout Munster in the 60’s & 70’s” – a Film Show by Ciarán Cooney


IRRS London Area Chairman, Tim Morton opened the meeting by calling for a moment’s silence for the late Mike Jose, past Chairman of the Area.

He then introduced Ciaran Cooney, the Societies Photo Archivist, to give his lecture on “Railways throughout Munster in the 60’s & 70’s”.


Ciaran preceded the main subject by explaining how he had converted Joe St Leger and Colm Cooney’s cine films to digital. This was informative and demonstrated the care necessary to refresh the original images.

Joe St Leger came from a railway background with his main enthusiasm the permanent way and the work involved. One film showed the rebuilding of a bridge at Abbeyfeale on the North Kerry line. Ciarán presented a feast of unique films. From Mallow and rare glimpses of the Sugar Factory, we sampled Cork mainline workings ranging from new Supertrain MkII stock to magnesite and loose-coupled goods trains. Then to the Cork City goods-line, GM and Metrovick diesels on summer excursions to Youghal, Sulzer-hauled ballast operations, beet specials, Tivoli oil flows, traditional goods trains serving Newcastle West and Castleisland.

The films were shown in sequence with first Mallow to Youghal, followed by the Loughrea branch, with shots of the G- Class Deutz locos, leading to closure in October 1975. After an interval Ciaran returned to explore, with Joe’s films, the North Kerry line from Tralee to Limerick. Ciaran gave informative, knowledgeable commentary and related the scenes from the films to what had survived to the present day.


The construction of a factory at Ballinacourty was explained – with an audience comment saying that “the branch line to the factory had the shortest legal existence, being laid in the early 70’s and formally abandoned in the early 90’s!” As the era depicted was after steam had ceased on the CIE the lecture illustrated the wealth of diesel locos A & AR Class, 121, 141.

A lively Q&A session followed.  Ciaran’s lecture was well received by an audience of over 150  who appreciated the views of lines long gone but relived by Joe and Colm’s historical films.

ONLINE MEETING -Thursday 21 Jan 2021 “Irish Ambulance Trains of the Great War” by Charles Friel
CPF on 186 14-03-2020small - photo by Westway Productions Great War Ambulance Train No 13 approaches Omagh on 1st May 1915 - photo by Norman Holland

Irish railway preservationist, photographer, and author, Charles P Friel brought us his researches into No 13 Ambulance Train, provided by the GNR(I) and No 14 Ambulance Train, provided by the GSWR. An attendance of 89 appreciated the depth of Charles research. He started with an explanation of the geography of the war and how casualties were transported by hospital ship from Havre to North Wall in Dublin and initially Cork. Onward transport to hospitals throughout Ireland followed. He discussed details of the vehicles involved (including N Vans) and their adaptation using many rarely (if ever) seen photographs and drawings as well as Charles’ researches into the trains’ hitherto almost-unknown movements. Charles detailed the staff and nursing involved and who looked after the injured soldiers. The talk included details of how the vehicles were refurbished after the war and how one N-Van nearly survived into preservation..

ONLINE MEETING Thursday 10 Dec 2020 “With Lance King in Ulster- The Great Northern” by Leslie McAllister + London Area AGM
Lance King
Leslie McAllister  &   the late Lance KingAX32 WebWarrenpoint, three different classes of  GNR(I) 4-4-0s prior to hauling their return trains to Portadown and Belfast on Sunday 26 June 1960″. Lance King Collection, Copyright IRRS

Some 136 members and guests attended a Zoom lecture by London Area Committee member, Leslie McAllister, who paid tribute to our late founder Chairman, Lance King, with Lance’s colour photographs taken in the North of Ireland in the last years of steam. Leslie explained that Lance, who worked for the BR at Kings Cross, travelled regularly to Ireland recording the end of Irish steam. He used two cameras one colour and one B&W. Lance claimed that “The sun never shone in Ireland” but his superb sunny photos decried that myth.
The 1960s saw a halving of Ulster’s railway mileage, but not before Lance faithfully recorded the Great Northern route to Derry; the Warrenpoint Branch; steam hauled passenger and goods trains on both the GNR and NCC main lines; daily steam suburban trains into Belfast and the last vestiges of the Donegal narrow gauge lines. When the County Donegal closed the skies wept and Lance’s pictures were on a ‘soft’ day. A heady mixture of nostalgia.
Leslie had made an excellent selection of Lance’s photos and particularly identified Leslie’s favourite GNR locomotive class – the VS’s. One of the striking aspects of the selection was the number of Goods Trains depicted – sadly now swept away by the desire to put freight on the road. Appreciation was shown to Leslie for his presentation.

The meeting was followed by the IRRS London Area AGM.

ONLINE MEETING Thursday 12 Nov 2020 “Cork – Limerick Junction 30 Years ago” by Ken Fox
Ken Fox Headsmall       Ken Fox Train

With 95 participants at the start and 100 on conclusion,  members and guests enjoyed an excellent talk by Irish Rail driver and railway enthusiast, Ken Fox. He looked back to his younger railway days based in Cork in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Starting on the Cork- Cobh & Midleton lines and followed by illustrations from his own collection of Cork loco shed and yard, his journey took us along the line to Limerick Junction showing a range of loco types on passenger and freight workings, plus RPSI specials and the signalling of the day. Ken with his wide experience and knowledge, showed track renewals, demolishment of traditional semaphore signals and telegraph posts.

After an interval  Ken continued up the Cork mainline stopping at Mallow to explore the now defunct GSPRS, Charleville and ultimately Limerick Junction. The unaltered, idiosyncratic layout was illustrated by more photographs that included a RPSI Railtour that ended with No 4 failing at Clonmel. That tour gave its participants the rare opportunity to travel behind the station to the Waterford Bay.

A lively question and answer session followed the lecture. He was asked his favorite steam loco and replied that No 4 was a ;lovely loco to photograph and even nicer to drive, but his choice had to be No 85 Merlin despite the more complex problems of being a compound. One of the significant aspect of the presentation was the number of freight trains illustrated , and Ken in response to a question about the changes he had seen in his 30 years identified this change in traffic, together with the work being cleaner, more efficient and with better conditions of employment.

Area Chairman Tim Morton thanked  Ken  who had provided a terrific insight into the railway of the time.

ONLINE MEETING Thursday 15 Oct 2020  “From Portrush to Tramore & back by a Devious Route” by Roger Joanes
Roger JoanesO08 Ballinamore 7pm to Dromod 10L SMALL WEB
Ballinamore: 10L, formerly of the Cork Blackrock and Passage Railway with the 7pm train to Dromod
For the London Area first Zoom lecture, attended by a maximum number of 100 participants,  Roger Joanes, a frequent visitor to Ireland since 1959, presented a journey through Ireland with images taken between the mid-1950’s and the 1970’s by Graham Hoare and Chris Gammell. Both photographers made many visits to Ireland and viewed the railways through the eyes of professional railwaymen. The outward journey commenced at Portrush and followed the Derry Central via Magherafelt, later visiting Clones, the Cavan & Leitrim, Mullingar, Streamstown, Banagher, Ballylinan and New Ross. We returned via the coast, via Rosslare, Dublin Harcourt Street, Tullow, the Hill of Howth tram, the Warrenpoint line and Belfast to terminate at our starting point – Portrush. The quality Black and White and Colour images gave a superb overview of Irish railways of the day, informed by Roger’s knowledgeable commentary. He acted as a fine “tour guide” explaining locations, the history of closures and some information on the locos seen. A high light was a series of shots taken at Amiens Street in low winter light – superb!

Lockdown Photo Archive
During the first national lockdown in the spring and early summer of 2020 due to Covid-19, the London Area published a series of weekly photographs of subjects relative to Irish railways. Scrolling down will enable the viewer to see these images and comments received.

A summary of the most recent talks and events hosted by the IRRS London follows this archive.

Week 17

As the lockdown has now finished (unless we get a national resurgence of the virus), I am proposing to end the “Weekly Lockdown Photo”. So what better way to conclude with than an illustration of arguably the greatest class of locomotives to run in Ireland – the B1a 800 class – to the design of E C Bredin and built between 1939/40 – powerful three-cylinder machines they were the equal of UK based machines, and used exclusively on Dublin to Cork route. Named after Queens of Ireland, Maeve survived withdrawal and can be seen in the Belfast Museum at Cultra. A forlorn hope would be to see it restored to operational use!



Received Comments – None

Week 16

The South Munster Railtour – May 2015. The RPSI visited Cork. The first photograph shows No 461 reassembling the tour train into Midleton on the Youghal branch. This was the first visit of steam to the re-opened line. Closed in 1980-81 after the beet season, the line was relaid as far as Midleton and opened in July 2008.


The second photo shows 461 and GNR Compound No 85 Merlin being prepared on the site of the old Cork MPD. No 85 was used for a trip to Cobh and then up the main lines to Dublin and onward to Belfast. The timekeepers on the train on both legs recorded a very fast run! Photographs Bill Allen.


Received Comments – none

Week 15

Back to the Michael Davies archive this week and the Irish Narrow Gauge. Cavan & Leitrim section. 4T on last special goods east of Cornabrone. This section of the line was in very close proximity to the road. The photo was taken on Monday March 30th 1959 (the penultimate day before closure)

M Davies 218

4T arrived on the C&L from the Tralee and Dingle in 1941. The loco (a 2-6-0T) was built by Kerr Stuart in 1903. After being used to assist the lifting of the track after closure 4T was cut up.  A companion 5T survived into preservation

Received Comments – None

Week 14

Another RPSI Railtour this week. We see J15 186 on the Province of Leinster Railtour on Sunday 11th  September at Dublin Docklands. The station was formally opened on the 12th March 2007 by the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern. A two platformed affair to serve the growing International Financial Services Centre nearby, there are now plans for expansion to 4 platforms. The train was the first steam loco visit to Docklands.


Conversation piece before departure from Docklands to Mullingar. The J15 is now in store at  RPSI headquarters, Whitehead, displayed in the museum. As the latest Five Foot Three quotes “186 has seen considerable attention from museum volunteers who have polished up the brasswork and labelled cab fittings. Someday maybe the call will come again”

Received Comments – None

Week 13

This week we have an unusual photograph, supplied by Richard McLachlan from the Simmonds collection which Lance King looked after and subsequently Robin Linsley. It was taken at Inchicore in the 1930s, and is a rather nice photo of a 400 class, No 404. The low angle of the photograph captures the size and power of these machines.

The 400 Class originally designed by E A Watson in 1914 as 4 Cylinder locos along the lines of the GWR Star class. They proved somewhat unsatisfactory and re-building took place to some of the class with 2 cylinders. The history of this class is a complex story. The Railway Magazine 1938 has a detailed article on the class.

G GSWR 057 processed

Week 12

This week we return to Michael Davies Collection for photos taken on the St Patrick’s Day IRRS Railtour on the Cork Bandon & South Coast Railway in 1961. The locomotive featured is No 464 one of the Beyer Peacock 4-6-0Ts delivered to Ireland in 1961. H.C. Casserley describes the class of locos as “good sturdy engines and ideal for the needs of the line. 5 of them survived until final closure (later) in 1961”

M Davies 325

464 crosses Inishannon Viaduct crossing the Shannon River between Kinsale Junction and Bandon

2020-05-22_1 (1)

The special pauses at Ballinhassig not long after leaving Cork Albert Quay. Driver solicitously checking the motion.

Received Comments – None

Week 11

This week we have another special working, the RPSI Railtour in May 2002 – “The Corrib” – It was the last steam visit to the Galway line before the replacement of semaphore signalling and, more significantly, the removal of the connection to Galway turntable in 2003. The photos depict Glover 170 S Class 171 “Slieve Gullion” on the Galway leg of the tour. Originally built by Clifford and modernised by Glover pre-war, they were strong and speedy machines as illustrated by O S Nock in his book “Irish Steam”. Currently awaiting completion of overhaul at Whitehead. All photos Bill Allen


Saturday 11th May and 171 pauses at Athlone after leaving Dublin and travelling via Portarlington. The original MGWR route via Mullingar was by now mothballed.

sg1a-f063 (2)

171 on the turntable after arrival in Galway. Sadly no locos can now be turned here as the connection has been severed. At the time tour participants mooted the idea of a ” Preservation Society for Turntables” to look after and maintain the tables. The spectators on the bridge are over the old route of the Clifden branch.


Sunday 12th May and Slieve Gullion is prepared for the return run to Dublin.

Received comments – none

Week 10

This week we have a photo from Michael Davies taken at Mallow with an IRRS special to Cork (and Youghal) on 17th March 1962. It depicts one of the three cylindered GNR VS 4-4-0s, designed by H.R. McIntosh and built by Beyer Peacock in 1948. 207 was one of a class of 5 locos and named Boyne. The loco was part of the assignments to CIE in 1958 on the disbandment of the GNR Board. Note that the change in ownership is signified by the stencil CIE on the buffer-beam – the lovely GNR blue livery remained. The class is famous for being the last 4-4-0s built in Great Britain and Ireland.

M Davies 337

Received Comments – none

Week 9

Irish Narrow Gauge this week. The Cavan and Leitrim and the centre of the system Ballinamore. The junction where the Arigna branch went off to the right as we look at the photo taken on the 26/05/1958.

Michael Davies comments “Empty coal train arriving from Dromod. I was with the late John Edgington whose photo it is. Mine is not as sharp!”

M Davies 210

Received Comments – none

Week 8
The 2013 RPSI May Golden Vale Railtour ended after a trip on NIR metals behind J15 No 186. At Whitehead passengers had the opportunity to see and photograph No 85 Merlin recently restored to full working order. Here the two engines meet!


Merlin has been a consistent performer on RPSI trains since 2013 and is currently based at Dublin. 186 is retired to the Whitehead Railway Museum as an exhibit. When might it run again?

Received Comments – None received.

Week 7

Another magnificent photo from Michael Davies – A wonderful atmospheric photo of Derry Waterside on August 22nd 1964.
Leslie McAllister adds “Yes, and the tank was only a few years old at the time!”

Derry Waterside Aug 22nd 1964 001

Received comments – none

Week 6
We have been privileged to receive and be able to share photographs from Michael Davies’s collection. We start with a glimpse of the Irish Narrow Gauge on the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway, and Tooban Junction

Tooban Jct LLSR June 3rd 1952 001

General view of the junction with 4-6-2T No 10 on a Buncrana train on the left and 4-6-0T No 3 on a Letterkenny train on the right. Photo taken on 3rd June 1952. Michael describes the station as “One of the most obscure junctions in these islands.”

Tooban Jct LLSR Loco 10 for Buncrana. June 3rd 1952 001

Michael comments “No 10 departing for Buncrana is one of my best pictures. Taken with a 7/6d Brownie box camera!”

Received Comments – Responses to photo Wk6

Week 5


Claremorris – once a busy junction – but convenient for the 2009 Carrowbeg RPSI Railtour to water and pass service trains from and to Westport. The derelict part of the Western Corridor goes off to the right to Athenry. Perhaps one day to re-open?


Jeep No 4 waits in the remnants of the Ballinrobe branch before continuing to Westport and the tour participants opportunities to sample yet more Guinness in Matt Molloy’s pub!

Received comments – none

Week 4
A Mystery Photo!


Where is J15 No.186 in the shrubbery and when? (with apologies for the orange jackets)

And another photo that should help the location?

Received Comments – Responses to photo Wk4

Week 3
Two photos this week
Photo 1 for 2 May 1970 (002)
“It is the 50th anniversary of the end of the NIR Spoil Train contract between Magheramourne Quarry (cement works) near Larne, and the shore of Belfast Lough at Fortwilliam, near Belfast. This was powered by ex-NCC 2-6-4T locomotives and used specially designed wagons for the contract. This kept steam alive in Northern Ireland from 1967 to 1970.
The last train ran on Saturday 2nd May 1970, hauled by 2-6-4T loco 53 and banked by No. 4 (now preserved).” Photo selected by Richard McLachlan and taken by Lance King

Photo 3 for 2 May 1970 (002)
This second photo shows the same headboard being used on the RPSI May tour in 2010, celebrating 40 years of the Spoil Trains. This was taken by Richard.
Received comments – None

Week 2


“Once there was an engine shed kissed by the sun – now there is a Motorway where railways used to run”. York Road, Belfast MPD in 1967. Lurking in the distance is J15 No 186 preserved of course by the RPSI.  With apologies to the Brothers Four – Photo by Ron Allen

Received comments – Responses to photo Wk2

Week 1


“Ancient & Modern” K2 461 and a DMU at Limerick  – RPSI Golden Vale Railtour  11/5/13
Received comments – Responses to photo

Talks and Events

Below is a summary of the most recent 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.

Please note the March and April meetings of the 2019-20 season were cancelled due to the effects of Covid-19

For events from previous years please select the following:

Programme of Events 2019-20

Programme of Events 2018-19

Programme of Events 2017-18

Programme of Events 2016-17

Programme of Events 2015-16

Programme of Events 2014-15