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SLNCR History

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David Holman
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As some of you will know I am currently building a 7mm scale model of a Sligo Leitrim & Northern Counties Railway [proposed] branch to the Arigna coal mines area.

Neil Sprinks photo album hints at this project, but I don't have his earlier history of the line, which appears difficult to get hold of. However, do have Patrick Flanagan's excellent little book on the Cavan & Leitrim [David & Charles 1966], which goes into considerable detail about proposals for that line to be extended up to Sligo, as well as other places.

During a very enjoyable visit to the area a couple of weeks ago [& getting hold of an appropriate OS map], it seems clear the SLNCR line would have run down the west side of Kilronan mountain, rather than via Drunkeeran & Lough Allen, to reach the Arigna area. So, my question is - does anyone have any details of this, please? Even a vague outline of the route, together with dates of the actual proposals, would help me to construct a fictitious history for my model. I'm sort of thinking that it might have had a bit of support from the Midland & Great Western [maybe even run on a joint basis] & if so, this would be a serious excuse for eventually broadening my loco and carriage fleet - as if one were needed...

 

Thanks!

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Summarised From N Sprinks book - there were a number of schemes the most promising of which, was the approach coming from the Arigna - Dromahair Railway Promotion Committee (1903) which was an independent concern. This approach was not supported by the railway due to low capital but the slncr did offer to work it. In 1907 the independent Sligo and Arigna was set up which the slncr initially opposed, but later due to better mutual understanding they withdrew their opposition. However this line would have as you said gone west and headed south east to collooney joining the mgwr at the townland of toberscanavan (1 mile south of collooney). Surprisingly it seems that the MGWR agreed to this, though due to its position would be worked probably exclusively by the MGWR giving little excuse for mixing with the SLNCR.

In my opinion if you want to mix it about, have the line built to link in with collooney and operate it as a joint concern. Sprinks does note that proposals to run from Arigna to collooney continued to 1914, until after ww1 where the C&L got in on the act and as they say the rest is history.

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I'd recommend getting hold of Tom Ferris' witty and brilliant The Trains Long Departed. For instance, a caption beneath a photograph of one of the SLNCR's tricomposite bogies quotes "This line was a law unto itself in many ways. On every railway carriage in which I ever travelled the door handles were on the right; on this line they were on the left"

 

That should start as a benchmark for the peculiarities of this much loved and slightly odd railway line, as it was not assisted by Government guarantees or baronial assistance, as many previous lines had been in the earlier fervour of railway building. It had been built by the generous landowners for the locals because of local necessity, names including the Gore-Booths, Hazelwoods and Lurganboys, whose names adorned some of the locos. The whole operation teetered on the brink of insolvency for it's first 20 years of existence and in 1894 government officials engaged in negotiations with the MGWR and GNR so HM treasury could get their money back. The directors fought back, since the nearby Claremorris to Collooney line was being given handouts by the shovel load, and so, in 1897 the board had their payments reduced and interest rates rescheduled.

 

When the nearby neighbours opened their railway, they approached SLNCR to run it, but the scheme was abandoned. Eventually the Waterford & Limerick Railway got to operate it, who later became Waterford, Limerick & Western. This led to the third station in Collooney, mashing the previous two along with the MGWR all in one little geographical confluence.

 

There was the idea of the Ulster and Connaught Light Railway in 1903, which planned for a narrow gauge running from Newry to somewhere in Galway. There was also a river shannon branch planned at Rooskey which would have absorbed the Nerwy & Bessbrook Tramway and the Clogher Valley and the C&L. This crackpot idea actually had quite a bit of logic, but the Great War put paid to it. To quote Ferris once more "Even the most fanatical of railway enthusiasts might have shuddered at the prospect of having to spend maybe eight hours in a rattling narrow gauge carriage to make an unlikely odyssey from Newry to Rooskey"

 

In the early 20's, Independent promoters drew up a proposal for a broad gauge branch from Dromahair to Arigna to tap the coal mines of the valley. The SLNCR offered to work it, but no government money was forthcoming, and so the C&L had that monopoly which kept it on life support until the late 50's. One thing that struck me about the chapter is how "the Englishman loves his roast beef" and that kept the traffic flowing for the SLNCR from out west to the cattle sidings of GSWR Cabra. On closure, half the goods vehicles were cattle wagons. Wagons would transit onto Enniskillen to be distributed via the GNR to Derry, Belfast or Greenore in time for overnight sailings to England and Scotland.

 

According to the book, "at different times, other types of locomotives were tried, usually 0-6-0's or 4-4-0's, hired or bought second hand from the GNR, and new engine orders always went to Beyer Peacock. There is mention of incidents during the Civil War, which destroyed a number of vehicles, and required urgent replacements. Possible scope for foreign ladies and carriages?

 

Richie.

Edited by Glenderg
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Entertaining stuff Richie

 

I always loved the discription of the SLNCR as a Pirateering Railway handing its doors on the opposite side to everyone else, fighting against overwhelming odds to remain in business and ordering its final pair of locos from Beyer Peacock when it was virtually broke.

 

The SLNCR remained independent mainly because of Sligo business opposition to a Midland & GNR take over, apparently the take over would have given the Midland a strangehold of Dublin-Sligo traffic and they knew a thing or two about running a monopoly.

 

Besides cattle traffic to the North East the SLNCR & GNR competed with the Midland and its successors for Dublin-Sligo freight traffic and cement from Drogheda to Sligo and the North West.

 

Although both the SLNCR and C&L made a lot of noise about capturing the Arigna coal traffic, neither was willing to risk money on a line to the mines.

 

The Arigna Valley Railway and the Wolfhill and Deerpark lines in Leinster were built by the Government near the end of WW1 to support the war effort. While Iron making had taken place at Arigna it could not compete with mainland iron manufacturers, the coal was not great as one C&L driver told Mr Leyden (the mine owner) "this stuff wont burn even if you pour petrol on it."

 

The upper section of the Arigna Valley line was abandoned less than ten years after it was built when some of the mines played out, traffic from Leydens mines was spasmodic, probably the main reason why the GSR did not standard gauge the line or install mechanical exchange at Belturbet or Dromad.

 

Besides the ex GNR hand me downs a pair of very small 4-4-0s and a trio of small 0-6-0s, in the 1940s the SLNCR seriously looked at a Beyer Garratt articulated loco as an alternative to ordering Lough Erne and Lough Melvin the final Leitrim tanks.

 

An interesting might have been is what would have happened if Stormont had adapted the 1957 proposal of retaining Enniskillen-Omagh as a goods siding presumably worked by the SLNCR in order to retain the West of Ireland-Belfast cattle traffic.

 

UTA atempts to capture the traffic by road largely failed and CIE had to introduce a new Sligo-North Wall shipper and extra goods trains on the Sligo line to handle the additional traffic.

 

`

Edited by Mayner
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What was the story with the ownership of Lough Derg/Lough Melvin. AFAIK they were never the outright property of the SL&NC, carrying plates stating that they still belonged to Beyer Peacock. One was sold recently...

 

'This locomotive makers No 7138, is the property of Beyer Peacock & Co Ltd., Gorton, Manchester, England from 0-6-4T loco 'Lough Melvin' supplied by Beyer Peacock in 1949 under a hire-purchase agreement to the SLNCR rectangular, 33x10 cm in original condition, front and back, the name L. Melvin is also chalked on the back, SRA311 £1000

 

I presume BP were paid off when the UTA got them?

Edited by minister_for_hardship
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What was the story with the ownership of Lough Derg/Lough Melvin. AFAIK they were never the outright property of the SL&NC, carrying plates stating that they still belonged to Beyer Peacock. One was sold recently...

 

'This locomotive makers No 7138, is the property of Beyer Peacock & Co Ltd., Gorton, Manchester, England from 0-6-4T loco 'Lough Melvin' supplied by Beyer Peacock in 1949 under a hire-purchase agreement to the SLNCR rectangular, 33x10 cm in original condition, front and back, the name L. Melvin is also chalked on the back, SRA311 £1000

 

I presume BP were paid off when the UTA got them?

 

The SLNCR seems to have ordered the engines after the war and hadn't the money to pay for them on completion in 1949, eventually a hire purchse agreement was sorted out with the Northern Ireland Government paying 2/3 of the initial down payment of $3000 allowing delivery in 1951.

 

Presumably Beyer Peacock received marginally more than the scrap value for the locos from the UTA, there was not exactly a ready market for small 5'3" gauge steam locos in 1958.

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Well, that got things going!

 

Wonderful stuff - many thanks everyone. The idea of an Irish Garrett sounds splendid, but more to the point, the fact that anything goes is encouraging.

Managed to get a copy of The Railways of Fermanagh when I was at the Finntown Railway a couple of weeks ago, so will keep looking for the other tomes. Already knew about the coast to coast 3' gauge line and great is the temptation to model part of it. Methinks that the likelihood of many of the larger NG engines finding a place on it would be high, especially the Swilly giants. One of my favourite pics is H C Casserly's one of a 4-8-0 at Burtonport. One day - maybe even in Gauge 1 on 32mm track...?

Finn Valley staff were lovely, running the train for just my wife and I. four of them to two of us. My delight at riding a Donegal railcar knew no bounds.

While over there, visited the Arigna mining experience, which is also well worth the time. Must say that the coal samples they had on display looked pretty good to me - very hard and shiny. Liberated a small piece, to be crushed somewhere on my layout, or maybe a loco bunker.

Your contributions are very much appreciated.

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As readers will know, the SLNCR's Railcar "B" is at Downpatrick, having been acquired from IE a few years ago. The eventual aim is to have her running again. An appeal was launched at the time for funds for restoration, and with this funding DCDR was able to acquire a second hand engine for her, of identical type, as the original one in her is, well, very ill!

 

A quotation was sought about six years ago from a bus restoration business in England, who have a proven track record in restoring both old buses and Mk. 1 carriages for preserved railways in that neck of the woods. If and when DCDR can secure suitable funding - not easy these days - she will be packed off to have this work done.

 

Anyone who has seen "B" either at Downpatrick before it went under a tarpaulin, or at Inchicore where it languished for some years before that, will be aware that its restoration is a very big job. However, it's actually not as bad as it looks and vehicles in far worse condition - believe it or not - have been successfully restored to full operational use in the past.

 

Here's hoping.

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