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Tuesday 16 September 2014

Railway enthusiast Charles Friel on track for BEM in honours list

Published 02/01/2013 | 10:15

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RAILWAY ENTHUSIAST Charles Friel, who has been awarded the BEM in the New Year Honours list, is well known in known among fellow enthusiasts in Dundalk.

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Charles, who was born in Enniskillen, brought up in Portadown, and now lives in Belfast, has most recently been involved in a book called 'Across the Tracks, Reminisences of working on Dundalk's railways' which was published before Christmas.

The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland is delighted to that Charles has featured in the New Year's Honours list. Charles has been awarded a BEM (British Empire Medal) in recognition of his services to the RPSI.

RPSI secretary Paul McCann said: ' This is a well-deserved accolade for Charles and recognition of the tremendous effort he has put into advancing the causes of railway enthusiasm in general and the RPSI in particular over so many years.

'Charles is a familiar face to so many RPSI members in his various roles as organiser of the Belfast meetings, official RPSI photographer, Society archivist, steward on the Whitehead-based steam trains, noted railway author, and former editor of our magazine - the list goes on and on.

'Every year he compiles the brochure for the our international railtour and these well-illustrated booklets have turned into collector's items, eagerly awaited by tour participants and packed full of information.

'In common with so many people who are involved in the RPSI, his work is entirely voluntary, which makes his contribution all the more noteworthy.'

Mr Friel, a retired civil servant who now lives in Belfast, is well known in Enniskillen - the town in which he was born - for the work he has put in to bringing together former railwaymen and for the film nights he has presented at the Ardhowen Theatre.

His lastest book 'Across the Tracks' has just been published. It contains interviews with 28 former railway men (and one woman) from Dundalk, and gives a valuable insight it gives into the railway operation of the 1950s and 1960s.

Mr Friel said: 'Over the years I have had many roles within the RPSI. I love the experience of travelling behind steam - the sights and sounds.

'My fascination with trains does not stop with the actual mechanics or make-up of them, I also have keen interest in the social issues surrounding what was at one time the most popular mode of transport, what positive and negative differences a railway line made to an area.'

Mr Friel also acted as an adviser to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum when it was developing its railway gallery in the early 1990s.

He is currently recording memories of railway men from around Dundalk for the Netwell Centre, part of Dundalk Institute of Information Technology, funded by EU Peace III and co-ordinated by Diversity Challenges.

He was co-author of 'An Industrial Heritage Survey of Railways in Counties Monaghan and Louth' with Fred Hamond.

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