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Rpsi press release

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In 1879 the Great Southern and Western Railway of Ireland took delivery of a Liverpool-built, fairly basic steam railway locomotive. Little did they think that it would still be working hard to earn a living 134 years later! This remarkable steam locomotive doesn’t have a fancy name, it is simply known by its number, No.186 and it is approaching retirement at the end of the year.

To celebrate its many years of faithful service, owners, the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland, are giving the public a special chance to see, hear and smell this gem on Sunday 13th October.


On that trip, No.186 will haul passengers on a tour of the Belfast Central - Larne railway line, the first time a steam train has been in Larne Harbour for 7 years. This will be a leisurely afternoon romp, befitting a locomotive with such vintage. Whilst the locomotive does all the hard work at the front of the train, passengers will enjoy autumnal views of Belfast Lough, pass through towns with a strong railway heritage, like Carrickfergus and Whitehead before gliding past Islandmagee to Larne. For anyone who feels peckish or thirsty during the trip, the train will contain a Dining Car, complete with full bar and kitchen serving hot and cold snacks and drinks.


No.186 has hauled thousands of passengers over the last 10 years, but it is now time for a well-earned overhaul which will take many years and hundreds of thousands of pounds. RPSI Operations Officer, Mervyn Darragh, explains: “No.186 has been the mainstay of our steam trains in Northern Ireland since 2004. She has given fantastic service and is very powerful for her small size. Passengers with us on 13th October will enjoy hearing her climb the stiff hills around Greenisland. With Halloween and Santa steam trains coming up, we thought it was important that we had a calmer, less formal farewell for this old locomotive”.


“It is remarkable to think that No.186 will be pulling us to Larne in much the same way she pulled passengers and freight all over Ireland well over 130 years ago. Although the locomotive was based in the Cork area for much of that time, there is a possible Belfast connection as she may well have pulled goods or passengers to meet the Titanic when she docked in Cobh in 1912.”


RPSI volunteer, Philip Lockett, one of the RPSI’s steam locomotive crew members, commented: “We have had 10 wonderful years with 186. We have travelled all over Northern Ireland in this Victorian machine and she has given us great service. Crew comfort was not important back in 1879 and there is no doubt that the crew is quite exposed on cold winter days. But I’m sure many an old railwayman would be proud to think of us still operating the locomotive today. When it comes to the end of the year there will be many of us who will miss 186 and be sorry to see her retire. They don’t make them like they used to!”


Tickets are strictly limited for this afternoon of nostalgia. The 13th October train is called Larne Lough and tickets are on sale now, costing £15 adult and £8 child.


The Larne Lough starts from Belfast Central Station at 12:30 and will call at Larne Harbour, Carrickfergus, Whitehead Excursion Station and return to Belfast Central at 17:10.


Tickets are available from:


Belfast Welcome Centre

Donegall Place



+44 28 9024 6609




* No.186 is the oldest survivor of the most numerous class of locomotive (diesel or steam) ever operated in Ireland and is by 25 years the oldest steam locomotive currently passed to operate on a mainline railway in the UK. Her overhaul in 2004 marked her own 125th birthday and the 40th birthday of the RPSI.

* The RPSI were donated locomotive No.186 by CIÉ in 1966.

* The locomotive is a major film star, being on the big screen alongside Sean Connery in the blockbuster “The First Great Train Robbery”.

* In 3 months No.186 will be taken out of traffic. A major overhaul, costing approximately £200,000, will be required. All work is undertaken at the RPSI workshops at Whitehead, unique in Ireland and largely carried out by volunteers.




the old girl is one of my favourite engines and no dought she will be sadly missed - will she ever return to steam? i hope so as she looks and sounds magnificant..........



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It is fairly certain that she will remain out of traffic for at least 10 years,(probably 15 or 20) however by the end of this year she will require some major boiler surgery which is very expensive and is getting no cheaper. But from analysis of the last 5Ft3 mag in the next few years as Garfield says 85, 4, 3BG, 171, 131? will/may be overhauled. This list does not include retubes (every 5 years on average), new superheater elements, worn chimneys, running repairs, carriage repairs, outside contracts etc.

Also from 5ft3 186 is not suited to long operations on the main railway, due to capacity, timetables, speed etc however she has put in several fantastic runs of late (the cultra charter being one) and is ideal for short haul (santa trains) or sunday afternoon excursions.

85 will not be featuring on the 13th and will not feature on the broomstick belle judging by the requirement for adequate running in and remaining work to be done.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Unfortunately it will be a while before 171 is in steam again, however 85 may make an appearance before the end of the year though it is looking less likely as time moves on, as it will require extensive running in prior to hauling timetabled trains.

As regards 131 it is most unfortunate that in its life between Dundalk and arrival in whitehead a few bits have gone missing/ deteriorated to nothingness which while not impossible to replace will add to the time and cost of the project.

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