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GNR architecture details

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The GNR's iconic architectural style with yellow brick (almost unique in Ireland) was designed by their engineer in the 1870s and early 80s, one William Hemingway Mills.

It consisted of a distinctive coursed brickwork, usually red and black brick coursed through yellow brick walls, but often the reverse. Old stations on other lines were often replaced as traffic grew; thus the architecture of the Ulster Railway Company, the P D & O, and the Londonderry & Enniskillen Rly. disappeared from many locations.

Mill's signature style may still be seen at Connolly Shed (the old loco office), Howth, Sutton, Malahide, Drogheda, Navan, Dundalk and Lisburn, as well as his equally distinctive wooden shelters at many Northern Line suburban stations in the Dublin area. His architecture also survives at a number of closed locations - at one time Mills designs in yellow brick could be seen all over the western district, from Sion Mills to Bundoran, and in Ardee, Oldcastle and Carrickmacross to Warrenpoint; while his reversed red brick with yellow and black coursing could be seen anywhere from Strabane to Knockmore Junction, Mullaghfernaghan and Ballyroney on the Newcastle branch.

Many other places too.

Here are a few details for modellers who wish to replicate this style. I'll post them over the next few days as I unearth them from pics I took recently.

First, the weighbridge that was on EVERY platform of all but the smallest stations - often overlooked by modellers.

 

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Typical windows.

Curved tops, sidtinctive separation of panes, and square at the bottom.

The "station master" sing, now often replicated and reproduced by online frauds, is of standard GNR design and used (in this style) only on doors. Notice board signs, and signs on posts were different and did not resemble this style; they were more the responsibility of the PW people, with whom Mills would probably have had no dealings.

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Note the coursing. Only the black goes up over the door or window.

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In the first picture, a standard GNR trespass sign - but it would have ben on a post, not attached to a wall as here (as an exhibit only) at Dundalk.

The seat is a standard GNR one - very very few of these now exist (except one from Enniskillen in my sister's garden...).

The letter box is actually also a GNR standard - there's one surviving in Lisburn station too, mounted upside down so the letters look like writing out of a Harry Potter magic manual.

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GNR signs of this type were also never gold and black - they were white on black, with the only exception being in some places, standalone trespass signs in red lettering on a white background.

The UTA painted them yellow with black lettering usually, while CIE painted them usually the reverse of the GNR - white BACKGROUND, black letters. There were a few exceptions, but very few.

 

The 12:45 to Greenore awaits departure one day last week. They've replaced the GNR 2.4.2Ts with these things, which can take three or four sheep, four mailbags and seven passengers, and run on eco-friendly kale, couscous and vegan broccolli juice.

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....

 

Original GNR signs. Not too many of these left. Again, originally black with white letters and white edging.

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The GNR often used cast iron letters screwed to wooden backgrounds; virtually all of their station nameboards were made like this, including the famous one at Strabane with a whole essay on it about all the places you could change trains into, covering all of Donegal, hey.

A reasonable approximation of this is now in Cultra. Disclaimer: Reasonable, not accurate.

The "GENTLEMEN" letters above are of this ilk, and about the only ones still extant as far as I know. Anyone know of any others?

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Typical larger GNR cabin, Lisburn, in railcar days.

(H C A Beaumont)

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The protruding bit on the left was NOT typical, though - in fact, I know of no other example exactly like this.

Knockmore Junction Cabin was of W H Mills-style RED brick, like many station master's houses and a few Mills stations (e.g. Mullaghfernaghan on the Lisburn - Banbridge line, and a couple of single storey structures on the Banbridge - Newcastle and Lisburn - Antrim sections).

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See how the red-brick variation works; this is Malahide - the station master's houses of this design at some other locations survive too - Ballyhaise, Lisburn and Ballyroney come to mind.

Malahide has an ornamental entrance - this may have been influenced by the adjacent Talbot Estate.

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More signal cabin stuff; more typical in style (though not in green!), and not in its original location.

Note the screwed-on letters above the door - originally these were white with a rectangle of black painted behind them, as a "sign background" - and the rest of the wooden part of the cabin in a light sandy-beige colour usually, or sometimes cream.

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Look at the design of the eaves. This is the same as seen on many yellow-bricked station buildings. This was a REALLY strong corporate image; way ahead of it's time.

Mills' architecture is grossly underrated.

Edited by jhb171achill
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Timber details and structures, even when one-offs like the filled-in bits under the footbridge at Dundalk as seen here, PW sheds and other oddball one-offs, had their own style.

The former bookstall at Dundalk, the only one surviving now I believe (Lisburn had one in use until the 1970s), was fairly standard. Now it is empty, but with some interesting photos displayed inside, and very odd writings inside it; poetic, I believe. But then I never even begun to understand poetry - ask my practically suicidal English teacher at school......

Next pic, notice the absolutely standard design of GNR door. The panelling inside was usually the same exactly. But there's a twist to the tale; look closer. This is TWO narrow doors - that bit is not standard, but not unknown, and usually found on wider doorways.

We have three styles of wooden panelling. The first, with the midget doors and the red thing on the wall, was the same horizontal style and planking as used on the wooden platform shelters seen on several Dublin suburban stations still, and signal cabins (NEVER signal "BOXES" on the GNR, and most other Irish railways, by the way!).

The vertical matchboard style seen in the 5th picture is less typical, but from memory could be seen at Foyle Road and somewhere else - elsewhere in Dundalk, I think.

On the second last pic, we see a vertical style with strong wooden battens holding inner panelling to a metal frame. Enniskillen had some of this, and I've a vague idea it was also to be seen at Strabane and Porteeydown.

The last pic is standard signal cabin panelling. But it's not a cabin. Ye know what I mean. It's time for my cocoa.

 

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1 hour ago, jhb171achill said:

In the first picture, a standard GNR trespass sign - but it would have ben on a post, not attached to a wall as here (as an exhibit only) at Dundalk.

The seat is a standard GNR one - very very few of these now exist (except one from Enniskillen in my sister's garden...).

The letter box is actually also a GNR standard - there's one surviving in Lisburn station too, mounted upside down so the letters look like writing out of a Harry Potter magic manual.

IMG_0015.JPG

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GNR signs of this type were also never gold and black - they were white on black, with the only exception being in some places, standalone trespass signs in red lettering on a white background.

The UTA painted them yellow with black lettering usually, while CIE painted them usually the reverse of the GNR - white BACKGROUND, black letters. There were a few exceptions, but very few.

 

The 12:45 to Greenore awaits departure one day last week. They've replaced the GNR 2.4.2Ts with these things, which can take three or four sheep, four mailbags and seven passengers, and run on eco-friendly kale, couscous and vegan broccolli juice.

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You say that JB, but the Cavan and Leitrim did actually toy with the idea of a similar yoke over a hundred years ago for the mails! Lovely GN stuff - the amount of such historic iron ware that passed through our house over the years….,

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Where there were refreshment rooms, there were often beer / wine cellars - remember, no beer coolers in dem days. Underground was as good as you'd get. Younger enthusiasts who insist, when in Coppers, on sub-freezing icy-ice cold beer, of yellow hue and tasting like insipid cow product, notwithstanding, take note: it's ROOM temperature for ye, my boy, enjoy.

I digress.

The old hatch shown in pic 1 might make an interesting addition to a model platform. The fence round it was designed by another famous architecture, who adheres an a very functional, but exceptionally unattractive style; Mr. Elfin Safety.

Pics 2 & 3 show GNR roof supports. In design these are normal GNR, but as far as I'm aware unique in that instead of the interlaced letters "GNRI" seem at Howth, Lisburn and Drogheda, plus some suburban places, these have an ornamental inner serrated edging.

There's a rainbow-coloured customer-tube train in the last pic too, with a truly beautiful fence behind it. I wonder did Mexico pay for it.

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Just now, Galteemore said:

You say that JB, but the Cavan and Leitrim did actually toy with the idea of a similar yoke over a hundred years ago for the mails! Lovely GN stuff - the amount of such historic iron ware that passed through our house over the years….,

And mine, indeed!

The MGWR did, of course, actually DO that with their oddball railbus in the mid-1910s. It ran for 5 years on the Achill line before it got through too many gearboxes (and maybe rubber bands) to warrant repairing it.

Mind, you' I'd rather go by train to Greenore in that yellow thing (whatever it is) than not go there by rail at all, which is the current status quo!

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Some details on brickwork.

Note the fluted detail either side of windows, and on SOME but not ALL corners of buildings.

These did not go the whole length of the relevant corner.

Note, too, the recessed downpipe. If you REALLY know what you're doing, you'll spot a place in the small remaining piece of brick wall on the down side of Adelaide Halt in Belfast, where the recess for the downpipe may still be seen. It is also evident, as far as I remember, on the up side station building at Dunmurry. (What? you didn't know that building beside the station entrance was a Mills-design GN building?).

Downpipes were square in cross-section - the one shown is Moddern.

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Note the brick lining. From top to bottom, red / black, black / red.

This varied somewhat in many locations. Compare this (Dundalk), Lisburn, Ardee and Malahide.

Finally, have a look at the next pic and the above on. At the bottom of each wall, the wall gets wider and there's a sloped course of brick bringing it outward.

In many pics it looks a different colour. It's not - it's DIRT.

Like supposedly "black" domes on blue GNR locos, red CDR locos, grey CIE / GSR locos and green CIE locos, it's DIRT! A heavy caking of brake dust, which rusts and turns dark.

That line of sloped brick behind the seat (below), about a foot off the ground, is the same colour as the rest of the yellow brick.

Now my cocoa's cold.

Good night!

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5 hours ago, Northroader said:

Do you mind if instead of me clicking like for each entry, I just say how highly appreciative I am of this series? I think it is really useful.

Thank you, northroader!

I'll add to it next time I'm bumbling about Malahide station - there are a few more details I should be able to add. Pity blue 4.4.0s aren't among them nowadays!

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More of the above. Many GNR stations had their standard type of wooden structure on the platform opposite the main building.

Most are gone now, but a number of northern line Dublin suburban stations still have them. 

Even the survivors are not always (or at all) in use, thanks to the destructive pond life that frequents unstaffed stations in the evenings.

Note the original door on this, and curved ornamental top to the doorway, another common GNR feature.

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Another at Skerries.

Many stations on this line, and the Oldcastle branch, had a dark brick architecture, mixed and mingled with the standard “Mills” designs.

Again, curved topped doorway.

Note the columns….

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The almost standard GNR platform canopy supports had “GNRI” interwoven in them. These may still be seen at many locations; Lisburn, Dundalk, and a number of places south of Drogheda.

But not all did.

Malahide - standard Mills architecture and standard GNR columns under the canopy.

This iconic architectural style also had curved tops to windows.

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Drogheda.

The darker brick common on this line is used in the main building, but a Mills-designed outbuilding is included too.

The station interior here was also similar to many elsewhere on the GNR, albeit not always with such a tall ceiling.

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Note, too, the wooden building in the 2nd last picture. Pure GNR; horizontal board, and typical GNR eaves and windows.

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I should have added - that internal high-ceiling in Drogheda station is clearly of the same family resemblance as the interior of parts of Connolly Station, including the boardroom, behind the scenes.

I understand that a historian is currently carrying out a major job of research into Irish railway architecture. The results of that will be interesting.

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One feature that always strikes me about the Mills’ designs are the significant number of openings for windows and doors. As the ‘horizontal’ black and red brick courses always travel around these openings we get the very distinctive style. This horizontal theme continues with the horizontal planking on the wooden building structures and follows the linear flow of the  stations with platform, track and fencing. 

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