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1921 Ardfert hold-up.

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I've had this query from a friend -


i hope this e mail finds you well. I'm still recovering after a bout of pneumonia so getting there slowly.

i am carrying out research for a new book and I was hoping that you may be able to help me.

In July 1921 three auxiliary police officers were on a train from Tralee to Dublin. the train was held up by the IRA in Ardfert.

They wanted the mail but the police officers managed to shoot it out with the attackers and managed to drive the train out of the station,

saving the mail. Very little is known about this but the officers all got the constabulary medal for their actions.

I am looking for info on the following.

What would the carriages and the engine have been like in 1921. what was the layout of the interior of the carriages

why would the train have been in Ardfert if it was going from Tralee to Dublin. Looking at it

on a map, Ardfert seems out of the way. what was the route?

is it difficult to drive a steam engine (one of the officers was an engineer in civie street)

any help on this would be greatly appreciated



-any thoughts on this, chaps?

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Maybe it was because Mallow viaduct had been blown up and the North Kerry line was the only way to get to the likes of Tralee, Killarney and Cork.



The Mallow viaduct was not until 9th of August 1922, it may well have been that the standard route of this mail train was up the North Kerry line to Limerick and on to Dublin from there.

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There is a report of the incident on page 121 The North Kerry Line Alan O'Rourke the train appears to have been the 6pm Limerick-Tralee." 6 auxiliaries (Black & Tan's) on board two on the footplate one of whom was killed, the other forced the driver (who was wounded by a bullet) to put on steam".


The regular passenger service in GSWR & GSR days seems to have been three Limerick-Tralee passenger and a daily goods each way with a short Limerick Newcastle passenger which was extended to Abbeyfeale in GSR days.


There seems to have been a daily Limerick-Tralee passenger,sometimes no regular services during the War of Independence, some of the passenger trains would have carried Limerick and cross-channel mail traffic for Waterford and Rosslare.


Passenger and goods trains seem to have been mainly worked by J15s in GSR days, though GSWR and WLWR 4-4-2T also used. The 4.40 Tralee-Limerick mixed was involved in an incident in Dec 1922 when Ex WLWR 0-6-0 222 and its train ran down the headshunt at Abbeydorney and derailed the driver possibly nervous to get away. The train seems to have been made up of 6 coaches & some vans. Two thirds, a composite, brake third, fish van, passenger van, two laden wagons and a brake


The North Kerry was used as a diversionary route after Mallow Viaduct was blow up in 1922 with a Dublin-Cork ad Dublin-Tralee goods running over Barnagh.

Edited by Mayner
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The train make up would probably be three six wheel coaches - a first, second and third class; or a first and two thirds. This would be followed by a passenger brand van, with the mails in another similar vehicle, either just behind the locomotive or behind the passenger vehicles. There could even be a couple more. The train would have changed locomotives at Limerick, where further vehicles would have been added; further again (probably) at Ballybrophy and / or Portarlington.


There could have also been goods trucks and a guards van bringing up the rear, at least as far as Limerick.

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.... and liveries. The locomotives would have been either all-over grey, as the GSWR started painting them line this about 1915/8. An unrepainted loco would be (by now work-stained) black lined in red. Carriages were a very dark maroon colour - as seen on Downpatrick's 836. Goods stock was an extremely dark grey, much darker than locomotives, almost black. Some older ones were black, though in 1921 any like this would look very shabby.

Edited by jhb171achill
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Just to clarify, 'Black and Tan' is usually a cover-all term for both 'Temporary Constables' and the later 'Auxiliaries'.


Due to a shortage of police uniforms, the TC's were generally supplied with a mixture of army khaki and bottle green (bordering on black) RIC uniform, when uniform supplies normalised, the full dark green uniforms were issued but the B 'n T nickname stuck and was used to refer to both forces.

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