Bray in the 1950s
Bray Railway Station today is an efficient Dart Terminal station. It has about 110 Dart arrivals and departures on an ordinary weekday, using the down platform for arrivals from Dublin and the Up platform for departures to Dublin. About a quarter of the Dart services go on to Greystones. There is a regular arrival and departure timetable frequency of between 3 and 12 arrivals and departures per hour. There are also intercity trains to Rosslare and commuter trains to Arklow and Gorey. This is very different to what I remember in the late 1940s and 1950s From 1854 until 1927, Bray had only one platform, with a scissor crossover halfway along it, to serve trains to and from Harcourt Street and Amiens Street or Westland Row and to and from Greystones and Wexford or Rosslare. It was a junction station. It seemed to me that many of the practices of that time continued, even after the second platform was built. I am writing as an observer. I do not have a working timetable for that time. It seemed that if there was no train due from Greystones, then trains from Dublin were brought into the up Platform ‘The Near Side’.
Sean Kennedy’s picture in Great Southern Railways by Donal Murray of a train from Dublin just arrived at the up platform.
If a train was due from Greystones or already at the up platform waiting to depart, then the trains from Dublin were brought into the Down platform (the Far Side) and passengers had to cross the footbridge to get out of the station. There was an exit on the Down platform about halfway between the Signal Cabin and the Glass canopy and another exit at the south end of the Up platform beside the Starting signal and the water column. This exit was down steps to Albert Avenue under the Railway bridge. The bricked-up doorway at road level, can still be seen in the bridge abutment. These exits were used on fine summer days, especially Sundays when extra trains from Dublin were put on for ‘Day-trippers’. It has been mentioned about looking out the window. It was common in a train coming from Dublin as it was crossing the river Dargle at the harbour, for someone to look out at the three doll Home signal to see which signal was off and to announce to the rest of the passengers “It’s the near side” or “It’s the far side" Because of the single line beyond Bray, if a train was approaching from the south and another from Dublin, then both were brought to a stand for a few moments at the outer home signals, the up signal at the ‘Wicklow sidings’ behind the Esplanade Hotel and the down signal just after Woodbrook Golf Course. Then both cautiously entered the station.
On a week day, there were 25 arrivals from Amiens Street, 2 from Westland Row to Rosslare and 22 arrivals from Harcourt Street, 1 for Arklow and 1 for Rosslare. There were 16 departures for Greystones, three for Rosslare and one for Arklow. Arrivals and departures were not evenly spaced out during the day. Usually departures for Harcourt street and Amiens street left within a few minutes (sometimes 4 minutes) of each other especially if one train had arrived from Greystones. Then there could be almost 45 minutes or more to wait for the next departures.
Shanganagh Junction worked with Bray to ensure that when two trains from Dublin arrived at the junction at about the same time, the one going on to Greystones went through even if the other arrived first. Sometimes it was the one from Harcourt Street, (the Main Line), sometimes from Amiens Street. Very often, the train for Greystones ran to the very end of the up platform. Then the second, about four minutes later, followed. It was stopped at the home signal then the ‘Calling on’ signal came off and the train came into the up platform behind the train for Greystones to let passengers change trains without having to cross the footbridge.
Sean Kennedy’s picture in Great Southern Railways by Donal Murray, of a train from Dublin on the facing crossover from the down to the up line after getting the calling on signal to come in behind the train already at the up platform. If the platform line was clear, the main or top signal would be used.
On Sunday afternoons in Summer, when the weather was fine, droves of day-trippers came out to Bray and in the evening, it seemed that the time-table was abandoned. Both platforms were used for arrivals and departures. Trains waited in the Wicklow sidings and sometimes in the sidings on the north side of the gates. Engines were waiting on the centre road. When a train arrived from Dublin, the first of these engines would go forward and reverse on to the back of the train, while the engine that had just arrived was uncoupled to go to the turn table. As soon as the train was filled it would depart. If there was gap in the arrivals, a train would be brought to the platform from one of the sidings.
All sorts of goods and parcels arrived in and were dispatched from Bray. The window to collect parcels was beside the exit gate facing up Florence Road. The 7 bay goods shed was entered from the Meath Road. All day long you could hear buffers clanging as wagons were shunted to be loaded or unloaded. In the evening, at about 8.00 or 9.00 pm, the Wexford goods would arrive from Dublin to drop off and pick up wagons. It would depart at about 10.30 or 11.00 and very often would need a banking engine to get up the gradient out of Bray. This would return a short time later. I only discovered a long time later that there were two staff instruments in Bray Signal cabin, one the train staff and the second the banking staff. The line remained ‘occupied’ until both staffs were returned to their instruments.
In the summer of, I think 1956, Bray and Shankill parishes had a combined pilgrimage to Knock. The train arrived in Bray from Inchicore. The engine, a new A class diesel, ran round the train and then took the carriages to Shankill Station on the Harcourt Street line for the Shankill pilgrims. The engine ran round again and brought the train back to Bray for the Bray pilgrims. It ran round again and then ran nonstop to Knock. The line through No 5 platform in Amiens street ran straight to the down line to Glasnevin before the alterations for the Dart. I was standing at the door at the rear right hand corner of the carriage and as we swept round the curve beside the passenger entrance to platform 5 at about 40 mph, the edge of the carriage over-rode the platform leaving a trail of sparks.
Finally, my first practical lesson about steam engines. We were in Amiens street to meet cousins arriving from Belfast. The big Blue Engine (a Vs) had stopped just short of the huge hydraulic buffers on Platform 2. There was a lot of hugging and kissing, meanwhile I was enthralled by the outside valve gear and motion. I reached out and touched the cold silvery piston rod only to discover it was HOT!!! - VERY HOT.