THE new Kanturk link road will tip a nod to north Cork’s lost railway network through the construction of a roadside monument made from old railway sleepers found during construction work.
A Cork County Council official said the salvaged sleepers will be placed on a plinth with an accompanying information board telling the story of Kanturk’s railway heritage.
The information has been provided through a number of sources including Walter McGrath’s book ‘The Kanturk and Newmarket Railway’, Eddie Walsh & Kanturk Tidy Towns and Dermot Mullane, a former CIE worker who was on the last train from Kanturk to Banteer when the line closed down.
From the 1840s onwards a series national and county rail links were created across Cork, opening up more areas of the county for the distribution of goods and the mass movement of people.
The 14km line from Banteer to Newmarket via Kanturk on the Mallow-Killarney line was opened up in 1889 by the Kanturk and Newmarket Railway Company, which was comprised of prominent local landowners and wealthy businessmen from Cork City under chairman Col R.W. Aldworth of Newmarket Court.
His wife, Lady Mary Aldworth, daughter of the Earl of Bandon, was so supportive of the undertaking that people from the locality referred to the line as ‘Lady Mary’s Railway’.
The contractor for the project was Robert Worthington, who had already undertaken other railway contacts around the country including Tullow (1886) and New Ross (1887).
Said to have cost £63,000, the line was opened on March 30, 1889, with the last spike being driven into position by Lady Aldworth herself.
The speed on the line was restricted to 25 mph (40kph) and it was anticipated it would serve approximately 29,000 passengers per year.
Over the years the branch line served three or four trains per day and while popular with passengers it was even more popular with goods traffic. In fact an official at Banteer Station noted ‘there were more wagons going up the branch to Kanturk and Newmarket, than going out the entire Kerry Road’.
Kanturk Station itself was noted as being ‘very spacious’, consisting of a platform on the eastern side, a lengthy loop with a short spur siding and two goods sidings and a long line to the livestock bank.
Along with other rural Irish railways, the line saw a steep decline in its use during the mid-part of the 20th century as cars became more affordable, eventually closing to passenger traffic on January 27, 1947.
The end of the line finally arrived when the goods service was closed down on February 4, 1967.
While very little evidence of the line now remains, its operation for close to 75-years will remain in memory, a distinctive part of the rich heritage of Kanturk and the surrounding region.