Programme of Events 2021/22

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.

ZOOM – Thursday 18 November 2021

 “The County Donegal Railway – Survival and Revival” by Joe Begley

Some 140 members and guests joined the London Area lecture on the 18th November on Zoom. Joe Begley is a railway author long interested in the CDR. He commenced with a detailed careful description of the genesis and complex relationships of the line. From the Finn Valley Railway to the slow expansion from Derry and Strabane to Ballyshannon, Killybegs and Glenties. Joe described the “apathy of the mercantile class in Donegal” that prevented proper investment and building of the lines. Based on new material, he recounts the many challenges faced but survived by the railway – financial, Partition and war to name but three – the CDR was resilient, enabling it to outlive most of its contemporaries until closure in 1959.

But the story did not end there. Initially thanks to American interest and purchase of locos and stock from Dr Ralph Cox, many items of rolling stock enjoyed a stay of execution and have been recovered and restored by the North West of Ireland Railway Society, the Foyle Valley Railway Centre and the South Donegal Railway Restoration Society. Hopes remain of further restoration and growth to keep the memory of this well remembered narrow gauge line alive.. The memory of the CDR is secure and Joe brings the story right up to date.

As a participant said in the discussion that followed the talk “Thank you very much for this fascinating talk about the CDR. Many of us know the story of the railcars in the 1930s to 50s but not the whole history. The way in which locos and carriages sat abandoned at Strabane for so long after the 1960 closure is striking. The number of locos, railcars and carriages that have survived into the 21st century is most impressive, as is the preservation effort. The County Donegal lives on!”

 “Irish Rail Timetabling – Slotting it all together” by Kieran Marshall

The 2021 – 22 London Area programme commenced with opening remarks by Tim Morton and Dick Fearn. Over 100 participants enjoyed a detailed but clear explanation of the Irish Rail timetable production. Kieran is an enthusiast, preservationist and railway professional working in Irish Rail’s timetabling office. He moved to Ireland from Nottingham in 2007. Kieran described how Irish Rail approaches the complex task of planning the timetable, balancing many different requirements between commercial, fleet, infrastructure and signalling, as well as personnel considerations. He explained the change to a new computer system (HaCon) in 2018, that replaced the previous Voyager. It is challenging to “slot it all together” he said. In addition to that, Kieran explained the further considerations involved in threading additional, special services through the timetable.

After an interval and Kieran gave a close insight into the practicalities and professionalism involved. He activated the system on line and simulated a number of trains running and the potential conflicts that had to be resolved day to day. One question from the audience was “If you are planning a slow moving train such as a track machine will the system automatically suggest places where it is diverted to a refuge siding? Fascinating to see Kiernan achieving this pathway. Further questions were both detailed and more general. Steam trains had to be fitted in dependent on their timings and speeds, but sadly due to Covid he had not been able to exercise this challenge.