Saturday 20 January 2018

End of the line for luxury presidential rail travel

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

SO this is how the other half travelled.

Deep-pile carpets, leather sofas, Waterford Crystal light fittings and wash basins cast from Connemara marble were the comforts of successive heads of state travelling on board the presidential train.

But those days come to an end in just over a week when the state coach is officially taken out of service and passed on to the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland for safe-keeping.

The carriage used as the presidential train since the 1970s -- number 5408 -- will be joined by its predecessor number 351 on public display at Dublin's Heuston Station from October 28.

Former Iarnrod Eireann press officer Cyril Ferris travelled with every president since Eamon de Valera and saw first hand what life was like on board.

"The president would arrive at the station and be met by the CIE chairman or a senior official and escorted to the train. They'd be met at the door of the train by the station master in full uniform and, obviously, there'd be a red carpet.

"Presidents mostly did the same thing. They would sit at a coffee table and go through the day's papers.

"Lunch would be served about 12.30pm, which would be a starter, maybe something like smoked salmon, followed by a steak, it was good quality cuisine.

"Some presidents would eat by themselves, but Esrkine Childers liked to hold court. He would often discuss cabinet rows that had happened not long before."

The original state car was highly ornate and was built in 1902 by the Great Southern and Western Railway at Inchicore for the state visit of King Edward VII the following year.

It officially became the presidential saloon in 1961, and those who travelled on it include Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Dr Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and US President Dwight D Eisenhower.

It continued in use until it was replaced by a newly built saloon, called a Mark II, in 1977.

The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland runs the older state coach a couple of times a year. It is available for hire, costing about €2,000 a day.

"It seats 18 people and is great for something like a corporate bash," spokesman Chas Meredith said.

"Every country had a royal or presidential train. It comes out of CIE in very good condition. It's wonderful that it's compatible with the rest of our fleet."

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News