Railway group on track with funding plan
A group of local train enthusiasts are hoping to purchase several hundred metres of railine with the bold ambition of getting tourism to Belturbet town back on track, some 60 years after the railway station there closed.
Belturbet Heritage Railway (BHR) this month launched a GoFundMe page in the hope of raising €20,000, money to be used to purchase railtrack (including haulage) from Bord na Mona.
The funding appeal, to which more than €1,000 was donated on its first day, was unveiled alongside an exciting set of plans to run 100 metres of narrow gauge rail-line adjacent to the main station platform.
Afterwards a much larger project is envisaged, involving laying a further 500 metres of narrow gauge rail, as well as 500 metre of broad gauge Great Northern track from Irish Rail.
The BHR also hope to purchase 500 metres of Velorail, capable of running of pedal powered carriages, on the historic narrow gauge track.
“We have been allocated one kilometre of narrow gauge track, there for us whenever we get around to paying for it. Initially we'd like to start with 100 metres, and build from there,” explained BHR treasurer Tony Prior.
To run on the track, BHR have a greyish-blue Ruston Hornby narrow gauge engine, purchased in 2018 for €500.
BHR already had ownership of a broad gauge Ruston Engine, which arrived in the early 1990s from Mallow in Co Cork, complete with flat-bed carriage and a unique Guard's Van.
The group also have in their possession a shawley wagon, as well as the shell of a good's vans ready for renovation, and a Royal Carriage.
Opened in 1885, Belturbet had been a terminus to both the 4¼ mile Ballyhaise to Belturbet branch of the Great Northern Railway (Ireland) line, and the Cavan and Leitrim (C&L) 3ft narrow gauge line, which linked to Arigna Mines, through Ballinamore.
GNR passenger traffic ceased in 1957, but goods traffic continued for two more years before the station closed completely.
In 1993 the old Railway Station in Belturbet was purchased by Belturbet Community Development Association, and from 1996 to 1999 its buildings were lovingly restored. This includes the main building itself, as well as the Station Master's house, which is available to rent.
BHR hope with the addition of a working railway, Belturbet Railway Station will become a landmark visitor attraction in the town.
BHR took their fundraising efforts online after the COVID-19 pandemic put paid to tours of the Railway Museum, a main source of income for the group's endeavours.
In total it could cost in the region of €100,000, including the €20,000 to be spent on track, for BHR to realise their ambitions.
However, Mr Prior is confident, once up and running, that it will place Belturbet Railway Museum firmly on the tourism map.
He thanked people in the community for their "incredible" response to the fundraising call.
“This has been a long time in the works. It will be very unique, there will be nothing like it in the country once we get it up and running, to have the those two experiences, GNR and narrow gauge running side by side. It's very exciting,” concluded Mr Prior.