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The Balligo Divider Tour

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Well they had 428 (currently in Dunsandle), 430 (which they soon cut up), the mighty 613, their CSET Ruston 148DS (damaged in a fire in 1990 that destroyed 3205 and 1923, cut up after in 2005 90's salvation and the removal of the rest of the other stock in 2004), and of course, 90, aquired from Mallow in 1987 and running on the mainline by September 1990, which is currently at Downpatrick along with 613. They also had MGWR steam crane 3M (Broadstone?) that I assume was cut up around the same time as the Ruston.

 

I believe the only items of non-loco stock that survive are composite corridor 2159, (I think) a beet wagon, and the remains of a brake van and a tank wagon at Dunsandle. As well as this, GSWR plough 8472 is at Downpatrick as well.

 

They had their own livery which was used on 613, 428, and I think the Ruston in the beginning - maroon all over with cream pick-outs and stripes (and lining? On the Ruston anyway, if it did carry it) - as well as, "Overhead Wires," warning stickers.

Some of their coaches were turned out in their own fantastic livery too - the same maroon with cream window surrounds, which went to all-red to cover brake compartments, like on 3205 (tailboard were diagonally striped black/white) :D It'd be great if 2159 carried it.

One or two of their green coaches had full yellow ends too - not as attractive, really

 

Sorry, someone else can inform you better on coaches and dates!

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It was very sad the way that things turned out - full of promise but unable to deliver - no doubt some will say that IR/IE played a part by the rundown of the Athenry-Claremorris line - when Tuam ceased to be a block post, that had the effect of denying Westrail access to the network or have I got it all wrong?

 

Stephen

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IE decision to pull out the points at Tuam was the end of WR. Note how pro preservation IE were back then when they didn't even discuss this with WR but went in on a Sunday and pulled the points out to the yard!

 

It was good while it lasted and they achieved significant milestones in running steam and Diesel tours with small resources, and keeping the Athenry - Claremorris section alive also.

 

I've seen some of their extensive archive footage and its fascinating viewing!

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The Westrail excursion train operation at Tuam evolved out of an unsuccessful attempt to re-open the Loughrea Branch.

 

The original mainly volunteer lead West of Ireland Steam Railway Association (WISRA) planned to re-open the branch in stages working South from a base at Attymon Junction with the intention of leasing the line from CIE.

 

The change in direction came about as a result of a combination of CIEs decision to close Attymon as a block post severing the main line connection, the realisation of the enormity of funding and restoring even a short section of line together with little support for the scheme at the Loughrea end. The local mart built an access road through the station yard before the line was abandoned and track lifted in the 80s.

 

Few suitable main line coaches were available when the society made its first purchases, most of the coaches and engineers stock were pre-amalgamation in Departmental use requiring major restoration work, nearly impossible without a decent engineering base.

 

The Tuam operation was more pragmatic and achievable than Attymon, but dependent on the continued operation of the Limerick-Claremorris line and the goodwill of IE for access to the network.

 

Initially the outlook looked good as large numbers of ex-main line coaches in reasonable condition became available to preservationists following the commissioning of the DART and introduction of the MK3 coaches.

 

No 90 was restored to operation and re-boilered in the early 1990s, agreement appears to have been reached for the long term loan of ex SLNCR 0-6-4T Lough Erne to provide a more suitable & powerful loco for main line operation.

 

The tipping point appears to have been the temporary closure of the Ennis-Claremorris line in the early 1990s lead to the cancellation of the established Galway operations.

 

During the final season of operation No 90 operated between Cork & Cobh in connection with the Cobh Heritage Centre. The operation does not appear to have been a financial success with disappointing passenger loadings and a higher cost structure than Galway with hired IE coaching stock and staff accommodation and travel costs.

 

IE disconnecting the yard at Tuam seems to have been the final straw, having been through a similar situation with CIE at Attymon 10 years earlier.

 

In retrospect it would be difficult to see the operation continuing unless Westrail had the resources IE and Galway County Council backing to take over the maintenance of the Athenry-Tuam line.

 

From a railfans point of view the original WISRA rolling stock was more interesting and varied than the more uniform Westrail MK2 Bredin stock.

 

The original coaches were mainly ex-GSWR stock demoted to departmental use, along with the usual opens and vans wagon stock included some unique items including the last GNR Bulk Cement wagon, MGWR & GSWR ballast hoppers, a MGWR rail wagon, a pair of Shell-Mex Class A (Petrol) tank wagons and last but not least the ex-GSWR 12t brake van regularly used on the Loughrea Branch.

 

The preservation of G613 was significant the first diesel loco to regularly work the Loughrea Branch. Others were harder to explain the survival and presentation of Sulzer B113 Ireland's 1st Main Line diesel electric locomotive to the UFTM is probably down to WISRA who reserved the loco but CIE were unwilling to tow the loco on the main line.

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