Monday 23 April 2018

Magic of the railway lives on

Eva and Mark Hughes at the Steam Engine visit to Bray Rail Station
Eva and Mark Hughes at the Steam Engine visit to Bray Rail Station

On the Island of Sodor, the steam engines Thomas, Percy, Gordon and Co. are constantly beset with problems caused by everything from the antics of Troublesome Trucks to coal on the line.

Thankfully the Wicklow coastline proved safer than that fictional land, with just as many young Thomas fans paying attention to the steam engines which made their way along the tracks last Sunday.

It's the 50th anniversary of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland this year and the magic and popularity of the vehicles doesn't seem to have faded in the imaginations of trainspotters of all ages.

'I don't know why it's great, but it is!' said musician Rónán Ó Snodaigh of the band Kíla, who took the train from Bray to Wicklow last Sunday afternoon with his son Fionnán. 'It's just a train, but it's pure magic,' said Rónán.

He spoke about the joy of going on a journey for its own sake, rather than rushing to get somewhere in particular.

The preservation society is there to preserve in working order steam locomotives and other rolling stock from the railways, with their engines and carriages dating back as far as 1850.

They want to keep the steam railway heritage of this country operating for future generations to enjoy.

Run on a completely voluntary basis, those hard-working volunteers were manning the carriages at the weekend. One man in a delightful home-knit train jumper was selling tickets for a raffle - with one catch ... 'everybody wins!' There were toys, train memorabilia and books about the railways for everyone who took part.

Along the route, people the train passed waved from the beaches of Wicklow, and the passengers waved back.

Startled animals such as horses, cows and sheep, fled in fright from the strange being making such a racket compared to the modern commuter trains.

The experience was as real as one would imagine, with the carriage filling with smoke when the train ploughed through a tunnel.

This year marks the 160th anniversary of the arrival of trains in Bray courtesy of William Dargan, memorialised on the wall of Bray Train Station in a series of murals.

The metal-frame carriages packed with sightseers last weekend were more modern than the 1922 steam engine pulling them, they having gone out of commission in the 1960s. However the society does have some old wooden carriages, including the beautiful and luxurious State Coach first used in 1902.

Meanwhile, there was a bar serving draught Guinness amongst other things, as well as a restaurant car serving delicious freshly made sandwiches as well as tea & coffee and other treats.

Conor Dalton (7) who has just completed Senior Infants at Valleymount was one of the passengers on board.

He and his mum Sandra went up to the pedestrian bridge at Wicklow station to see engine 461 switch ends, with a lot of steam and a hearty 'peep peep' as it passed the crowd watching over the line. A fan of the aforementioned Thomas the Tank Engine, Conor agreed that the train was excellent, and he was enjoying his day.

A group of women from Wicklow Town gathered at the station dressed in traditional Victorian garb, waving their tissues and handing out sweets.

Cllr. Pat Kavanagh explained that the idea sprang from a facebook page called 'Brainstorming Wicklow.'

This was 'Trainstorming Wicklow' and the ladies had gathered to welcome their visitors and give them information about the town.

Meanwhile, the team of railway men were working hard to prepare the locomotive for its return. They shovelled coal, checked pressure and generally got their clothes dirty to ready the train for departure following over half an hour in Wicklow.

Bray People