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150 years down the line

A look back: Mallow to Killarney Rail Line's birthday celebrated in style in 2003

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Attending the 150th anniversary of the Mallow-Killarney Rail Line were Pat O’Brien, Deputy Mayor of Mallow; Frances Horgan, Irish Rail; Richard Dempsey, Irish Rail, Mallow and Seán Kelly, former GAA. President. Picture John Tarran

Attending the 150th anniversary of the Mallow-Killarney Rail Line were Pat O’Brien, Deputy Mayor of Mallow; Frances Horgan, Irish Rail; Richard Dempsey, Irish Rail, Mallow and Seán Kelly, former GAA. President. Picture John Tarran

Attending the 150th anniversary of the Mallow-Killarney Rail Line were Pat O’Brien, Deputy Mayor of Mallow; Frances Horgan, Irish Rail; Richard Dempsey, Irish Rail, Mallow and Seán Kelly, former GAA. President. Picture John Tarran

IarnrÓd Éireann and the communities its serves in the south west had 150 reasons to celebrate on the 150th anniversary of the Mallow to Killarney rail line during a warm summer's day during 2003.

A century and a half of change, growth, achievement and progress was feted as brilliant weather brought young and old out in force to Mallow, Banteer, Millstreet, Rathmore and Killarney for a special birthday.

Eurovision winner Niamh Kavanagh, former GAA President Sean Kelly and Iarnród Éireann Chief Operating Officer Richard Fearn were amongst the dignitaries celebrating 150 years of history as the unveiling of commemorative plaques evoked nostalgic memories. Piped music, pageants and an art competition summed up a day to remember for stations, employees of Iarnród Éireann and communities in North Cork and East Kerry.

A pioneering concept, the construction of the rail line between North Cork and Killarney became a role model as it was completed within budget - the most economical railway line built in Ireland and Great Britain costing just over £5,000 per mile to complete.

Constructor William Dargan employed upwards of 1,000 men at various stages during the project with 300 involved in cutting the famous Bower near Rathmore. In the aftermath of the Great Famine, the employment was hugely welcome but pay was as little as a few pence a day.

A giant step forward in time to 2003 and Iarnród Éireann joined with local communities to acknowledge a remarkable contribution to the economic life of the region enhancing the tourism offering for Cork and Kerry.

Newly appointed Chief Operating Officer Richard Fearn spoke of the special occasion to honour 150 years of outstanding service and he looked back with great pride to the people involved in the building, maintaining and operating the line over the previous 15 decades.

"But we must also look forward at the positive role railways can play - the heritage of the past must be developed as Ireland needs its railways," said Mr Fearn.

From its opening in 1853 under the Great Southern and Western Rail, stations along the track from Mallow were Lombardstown, Banteer, Rathcoole, Millstreet, Rathmore, Freemount, Headford and Headford Junction. In the early days, Banteer Station was known as Kanturk until 1889 when a nine mile branch opened serving Kanturk and Newmarket but that closed in 1963.

Between Millstreet and Rathmore lay a loop and sidings for the Fry Cadbury Chocolate Crumb Factory operating to 1980.

And in recent years, Iarnród Éireann confirmed its commitment to the railway, evident from ongoing investment on the Mallow-Killarney-Tralee line through track upgrading and improvements.

That rubber-stamped Iarnród Éireann's commitment to enhancing its infrastructure and customer facilities which essential to help develop a rail service for the decades ahead.

Corkman