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Wearing a purple shirt with wide collars, brown bell bottom trousers, a demin "Thin Lizzy" jacket, and white platforms, I emerged from one of the few licensed premises (a private club) which was open in Belfast in the mid 70s. The "troubles" were unfortunately in full swing, and what few bars there were in the city centre shut up shop at 5 or 6 in the evening. But, wait! dear reader; two still functioned way way into the lateness of the night, where you could swig Guinness (or whatever one swigged, or swug, back in the day) unti, as late as 10:30pm. We did live dangerously.


Up the road to Botanic Station, a draughty new halt only a year or so old. A small sentry box at the top of a ramp down to the platform on the newly reopened Belfast Central line. A novelty, this; not long ago it was the equally draughty partly roofless bomb-ravaged shell of the once great Great Victoria Street, where AECs mingled with MEDs, rattling away as they idled in their clouds of blue smoke, awaiting their punters.


Botanic had brand new track. The embankment walls were bereft of anything that grew - not because they were adorned as in later years by supermarket trolleys, graffiti, old toy prams and discarded rotting mattresses, but because nothing had yet had a chance to grow since the line reopened. There were even new trains; these 80 class things - in their unfamiliar blue and maroon livery instead of time honoured maroon and grey or UTA green.


I spoke to Billy at the sentry box; I wonder what became of him - we got to know each other as a result of my nocturnal expeditions through his ticket barrier. Well, round it anyway. I produced my Under 21 Monthly - a little hard-backed ticket with my name hand-written on it. When I went on holiday I could hand it in and they'd give me an extra fortnight's credit at the end of the year, again handwritten on a form.


The Bangor train came through as we chatted. An MED; even counting the "Castle" or "450" class railcars - yet to be invented - they were the most uncomfortable things on rails ever devised. They were freezing and draughty in winter, warm, stuffy and muggy in summer; and twelve months out of twelve had you asphyxiated with diesel fumes as you attempted to peer out of filthy windows from rattly upright UTA bus seats, too close together and still clad in standard UTA bus upholstery. Had I been there earlier, I would also have seen the "Enterprise" on its way. This could be five Mk 2's being pushed, usually by 101 or 102. 103 seemed shy, a bit like 113 a few years later. Other times, if a locomotive led, we'd be looking at seven coaches with an engine at each end. They were always clean, their shiny maroon coat matching their blue and maroon coaching stock.


As 22:50 approached, and with it the last train to Lisburn, in came a shiny new 80 class set. Mock wood formica adorned the interior, and when idling at stations they made an unfamiliar chugging sound. I settled into my seat, thinking of a burger and chips in Greasy Lizzies in Market Square as I walked towards bed and sweet dreams. What I presume was Lizzie (I never knew her by name) always gave me a few extra; plenty of salt and vinegar please. "That'll be 30p please". "Oh, and a tin of Coke". "38p then".


Maybe I dreamed of the late night nibbles too much, maybe the comfort of new seats was too much for me, but I dozed. By Finaghy, I was skipping through the Chocolate Meadows with the Sweetie Mice. By Hilden I probably only differed from the Great Undead by the emission of loud snoring noises; testament to a 4.30pm to 10.30pm session on an empty teenage stomach. Had the Irish North and the Cavan branch not closed over fifteen years earlier, I could have ended up in Culloville or Loreto Halt.


Oblivious to the rounding of Hilden curve, I presume the train swept into Lisburn station, halting under the semaphores at the end of the platform.


I suddenly jumped; I daresay an imprint of me remained in the ceiling of one 80 class car until it met its end. From behind Mrs Logue's old news stand on the up platform, the familiar tones emitted the clarion call "LIZZZBURRRRRRRRNNNNN!!!!!!!!"


It was Noel, the porter. A GNR veteran who had started on the Newcastle branch at Katesbridge or Ballyroney, and ended up a guard on cattle trains in Banbridge. Every day Noel lit the oil lamps in Lisburn, and on arrival of every single stopping train, emitted his loud trademark call.


It worked. I exited my Guinness-induced state of peace; perfect perfect peace, and wandered in varying sizes of circles towards Greasy Lizzies.


Funny watching 80s being broken up some forty years later.

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Probably, UP. My father has similar stories re coaches in GSWR livery, Woolwiches, the Lucan and Blessington steam tram, etc.


Years ago on the RPSI May Tour, newly-restored 461 was doing a runpast at Thurles or Port Laoise - can't remember. As she thundered through, one 90-something tour participant muttered to two of my teenaged dining car crew "I remember that thing being built!" You should have seen their faces...

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I suddenly jumped; I daresay an imprint of me remained in the ceiling of one 80 class car until it met its end. From behind Mrs Logue's old news stand on the up platform, the familiar tones emitted the clarion call "LIZZZBURRRRRRRRNNNNN!!!!!!!!"


It was Noel, the porter. A GNR veteran who had started on the Newcastle branch at Katesbridge or Ballyroney, and ended up a guard on cattle trains in Banbridge. Every day Noel lit the oil lamps in Lisburn, and on arrival of every single stopping train, emitted his loud trademark call.



If you want to bring back some memories of Lisburn Station, have a look at the last chapter Jim Edgar's NIR Archive Vol 1DVD, showing "Reggie the Porter" unloading mailbags and lighting Station Signals.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Great yarn JHB,brings back memories indeed.I remember Botanic being built,never liked it,maybe it was because it replaced Great Victoria Street,but the walk from the safety of Shaftsbury Square to it took me out of my comfort zone,generally just got the 59 bus home!


Still bashing my beloved MEDs!!,I have nothing but fond memories of them,maybe its because they took me to our only holidays during the summer months,a couple of day trips to Bangor from Queens Quay.I probably dont remember the seats as my head was usually jammed out the windie for the whole trip.Ahh those were the days,Spain was just a name to us back then,only thrust into our lives in '82 by a certain Mr Gerry Armstrong's goal,bliss.


I remember Lisburn well,as I would regularly sneak off to get the train to Lisburn from Adelaide when I had saved enough pocket money,with my parents being none the wiser.In the early 70s,it was usually an AEC or a BUT,but after their demise,it was great if it was the then new 80 class,so modern,but generally it was an MED or MPD on the all stations to Lisburn.A quick scout around the town and then back for the return to Adelaide,or if there was enough dough,a non stop return to Great Victoria Street to see what was in and around the old station,the CIE Enterprise if one was lucky,and then a short hop back to Adelaide before anyone noticed you were missing!!


Great times indeed,thanks for the memory jog.

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Nostalgia is a funny thing I have similar stories from about 20 years ago communting on Network South East and Scotrail and once even fell asleep and missed my stop after a few after work drinks with friends.



While I have vague memories of trips in AEC railcars to Bray and Mosney, BR Class 158 Super Sprinters in Scotland and 321 EMUs bring back the fondest memories.

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Nothing like it Mayner! Tell us your AEC memories! I suppose my own earliest memories were 1st class compartment, antimacassars, in old wooden GNR 1st class coach hauled by 207 "boyne" - albeit too vague to write much about......


Early 70s I was probably 14 possibly 15 listened to Radio Luxenburg & Thin Lizzy but hadn't yet progressed to the purple flares and afro hairstyle. During the school holidays a cousin who was an apprentice barman used to take me and his younger sister by train on day trips to the seaside, on his day off probably a Wendesday.


Bray was the normal destination but we had one trip to Bultins. We lived in Crumlin and would normally catch the train at Tara Street a brisk walk from the Bus Terminus in Fleet Street or else a long walk to Amiens St for the train to Mosney.


AEC railcars seemed to be the norm for off peak working in those years though my first trip by train was in a GSR or possibly GSWR non-corridor from Killiney to Tara St possibly behind a black C or A Class. My mother and her sisters took us on a summer weekday outing by bus to Dalkey and a walk towards Killiney wheer the train seemed the only means of getting home.


The best thing about the railcars was the view ahead sitting in the row behind the driver, sometimes in 1st Class seating though these sets normally seem to terminate at Pearse possibly outer suburban workings from Drogheda. At the time there was a lot of interest the Amiens Street-Dun Laoire section was particulary interesting still with its GSR power signalling system, 1930s style signal cabins at Amiens St and the overtrack cabin south of Westland Row, manned crossing boxes between Landsdown Road and Merrion Gates, Mailvans at Westland Row, The Boston carriage sidings and Grand Canal Street Shed still a diesel depot responsible for supplying power for Galway and West of Ireland workings, light engine movements of 121 Class for turning between Westland Row and Amiens Street.


Very little freight on this section a few cattle wagons at cattle bank at IMP Grand Canal Street, horse boxes and cattle wagons stored at the RDS sidings, mainly used for stabling and turning IRFU specials to Landsdown Road. Freight had all but ceased at Dun Laoire with the odd wagon to Irish Lights.


Parcel traffic seemed busy often with a Sulzer and a parcel train in the original D&K station. In those days we would only see a mail train when meeting visitors off the Mail Boat or a Thursday evening buying freshly caught fish at Crofton Road bridge.


The railcars were getting on a bit and as BR, CIE, NZR and UTA found out British Leyland had little or no interest in supplying spares to the railways. As the engines and transmissions became more work the railcars struggled with the long climb to the Vico Road tunnel, on one day we were treated to a sauna as the interior of the leading car filled with steam on the climb from Sandycove to Dalkey, once over the top the rest of the journey was uneventfull.


Dalkey was in a way the first country station on the line, it acted as a terminus for some peak hour cross-city working, North Bound trains could depart from the down platform.


Occasionally a couple of open wagons presumably with briquettes for the signal mans fire would be left in the goods yard, which later beacme a temporary home for the 3 Sugar Puff locos.


Killiney though normally switched out was another station that was signalled for reversible working.


The approach to Bray was interesting the course of the original coastal line between Ballybrack and Bray was visible in many places, the base of the signal cabin at the Junction of the Harcourt St line was in use as a platelayer hut and the trackbed was clear towards Shankill.


The magnificent lattice signal gantries dominated the Northern approach to Bray the harbour and sea front briefly came into view before being obscurred by Victorian and Edwardian hotels and guest houses.


Most trains crossover onto the up line and the main station platform, the layout was unchanged from GSR days the cattle bank siding at the North end was mainly used by the engineers, the carriage siding on the down side was once used for charging Drumm units leaving the station we would run down the alleyway buying ice creams and large bottles of lemonade as we planned our day. Usually a dip in the sea, followed by climbing Bray Head, then the ammusement arcades (mainly the dodgems) before going to the chipper and the train home to Dublin.


If we had time or I was let I would check out the railways side of things, the goods yard was still in use with a couple of H vans outside the goods shed, probably sending out Solus light bulbs from the local factory, there always seems to have been a Solus van in the yard, a couple of open wagons of briquettes for the station and signal box fires. The loco shed was still roofed and in use as a loco depot though the 3 long carriage sidings on the up-side at the south end of the yard were out of use and partially lifted. These were later brought back into use as storage for new container wagons and and later DART units.


In those days services south of Bray seems to have been very scarce, apart from the Rosslare trains, services were aimed mainly at commuters with a daily service from Wicklow to Dublin and return and a slightly more frequent service from Greystone.


A couple of incidents stick in my mind from that period or slightly later


(a) A heated discussion with a family member at Bray that there was no way CIE would paintthe side of a railway carriage black, it had to be dark blue.

(b) A family grumbling about having to pay a return fare between Greystones and Connolly during the CIE "Great Train Robbery" half fare on "Main Line Trains" promotion.


Did CIE think Greystones was "bog railway"? or words to that effect.


For me the myth exploded a few years later, Bray was no longer a place spend a summer afternoon or the railway the most pleasent way of getting there.


DART seemed to bring some of the pride in the job back, the journey around the head either in a railcar or a proper train one of the Worlds greatest short train journies, but nothing compared to sitting up behind the driver for the first time apart from taking control of the throttle and brake.

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Although I have vague early childhood memories of a big blue steam loco with smoke deflectors 207? and dark green railcars on seaside trips in our Fiat Topilino to Gormanstown my first longish rail journey was on a day trip to Butlins in an AEC railcar as a teenager in the early 70s.


We took our usual position immediately behind the driver, I am not sure if the Drogheda and Dundalk trains started from the Main Line or Loop Line platforms, CIE had only recently introduced large scale through running between Bray & Howth following alterations at East Road, previously there was only a single line North facing connection from the Loop Line to the Down Belfast line immediately past the end of the platforms.


Crossing Spencer Dock the sidings on the South side of the dock were still in place but out of use, this siding once lead to coal yards and cattle docks in the Mayor Street area now occupied by banks and the Dockland College.


The Midland yard was still a traditional goods yard chock full of wagons, at East Wall Junction the line from the North Wall trailed in on the Up side, GNR signals were perculiar with short arms and some posts were telegraph poles.


The area past the Roadstone ready-mix plant at East Wall Road was still tidal slobland, no sign of landfill or industrial development. Access to the plant was interesting with a Bailey bridge across the Tolka.


Clontarf Railcar depot was unchanged since GNR days with 3 roads through the shed and a loop alongside the main line, signals change from semaphore to 3? aspect colour light the first sign of modern infrastructure from Clontarf Road to Howth Junction.


Some outer-suburban trains ran semi-fast I am not sure if we stopped at Killester or Harmonstown, Raheny was still pretty much a country station with housing development concentrated along the Howth Road.


At the time Howth Junction was quite rural a couple of railway houses and Palm Trees on the platform between the main Line and Howth Branch.


The journey settled down into a steady pattern, with a few people getting on or off at intermediate stations, most were still handling good traffic with wagons in the yards at Portmarnock, Rush and Lusk, Skerries, Balbriggan and even Gormanstown.


The driver saluted the drivers of approaching trains and acknowledged station staff and track workers. In those days a ganger raising his right arm was a signal to the driver that he was aware of the train and everyone in the clear, no high vis jackets or radio communication.


The rides at Butlins were brilliant for 14-15 year olds in the days before theme parks, there were a few anxious moments on the train back to Dublin in an ex GNR corridor coach behind a black and tan B141 we had never been on an express before and wernt sure if we werre going to end up in Belfast, Dublin or Cork or maybe wishfull thinking, we were brought back to reality when the train as checked for about 5 minutes at East Wall Junction nothing ever changes.


Around the same time we explored the Howth branch which at the time did not have the attractions of Bray, Bayside was under construction Sutton and Howth full of GNR atmosphere.


The Hill of Howth car shed still in existance and the yard still in use, Howth had a single platform with run round loop and a siding by the sea wall sleepers covered in sand. The stub of the Hill of Howth Tramway was in use as a private siding into Parsons steel work with a Bulleid open full of swarf and waste steel.


A few years later possibly 1976 I went on an IRRS special behind a 001 Class to Kingscourt, Drogheda was really modellable in those days, natural tree lined backdrop between the station and Buckleys yard, North and South signal cabins, loco depot Buckleys siding, two goods yards and a reversing move to access the Navan Branch.


There was no facing connection from the Down Belfast line to the branch, trains from the South had to set back past the South Signal Cabin over a trailing crossover onto the Up Main before moving forward onto the branch, presumably a single slip formed one leg of the crossover, the Oldcastle trains used to start either from the main line platforms or the present day bay platform.


Another oddity was that the staff for the branch was raised and lowered in a basket from the very tall cabin, the yards were cramped and most shunting moves would have fouled the main lines, the middle road seem to be used to store wagons placed by the yard shunter or pilot loco awaiting pick up by main line trains.


The contrast between the GNR line to Navan and MGWR to Kingscourt was striking, the GNR line had a more main line atmosphere with bullhead rail on chairs and impressive station buildings, Duleek and Beauparc had closed at that stage, though the wooden railcar halt at Lougher was still in existance.


Business at Navan looked healthy with about 20 H vans and a pair of Guinness Keg flats in the yard. Navan had a 16t fixed gantry similar to Tralee, Dromad and other stations, presumably as a railhead for Kells, Oldcastle and possibly Cavan.


The site of Navan Junction was all but obliterated but preparation work had started on the siding to Tara Mines.


At the time the Kingscourt line was still laid with MGWR FB rail spiked directly to sleepers, ballast was not too plentiful, while the line from Clonsilla Junction to Navan was built to main line standards without a single public level crossing, the Kingscourt line is quite the opposite, stations were modest built from the local brick.


All intermediate stations were closed and sidings lifted these stations followed a common platform with a single platform and goods loop serving a loading bank, Nobber and Kilmainham Wood had separate store road.


Kingscourt was pretty much intact with the track layout pretty much as in Midland days with two sidings on the down side in the area now occupied by the Gypsum store. These were connected to the main line by a trailing crossover near the platform end, yard side of the crossover was pure Midland with a double slip similar to Edenderry.


Gypsum was loaded by a turntable arrangement at the North end of the yard sited between the headshunt for the loco release and the one time caattle bank siding. Although the turntable was still in existance the loco shed ws demolished.


Although hopper wagons were normally in use, gypsum for Platin appears to have been loaded out in Bulleid Opens the yard was full of empty and laden wagons. One oddity survived at Kingscourt an ex-GNR 6w ballast wagon which may have been used to carry sleepers.


At one stage bricks from the local factory was an important source of traffic with a loading bank and crane by the running line rather than a separate siding.

Edited by Mayner
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