Ferry port Greenore -- what was the point?

Discussion in 'Railway History & Nostalgia' started by Calthrop, 13 Mar 2019 at 12:01.

  1. Calthrop

    Calthrop Established Member

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    This is prompted by the "Railway History & Nostalgia" thread "...Woolwich Arsenal to Stranorlar..."; am making a new thread rather than risking derailing that one.

    In discussion of how the grandfather of that thread's OP may have made his way home to County Donegal in 1919, mention is made of the Irish Sea ferry route which then existed between Holyhead, and Greenore in County Louth: connecting there with the Dundalk, Newry & Greenore Railway (this post -- should there be any need -- "legitimised" as being OK here, as opposed to belonging properly in the "International" section: by a portion of the DN&G's trackage being in County Down -- thus in the UK post-1921, and the line's former route still in the UK today :smile: ).

    I've always found the DN&G -- an Irish and Irish-gauge branch-line "outpost" of the LNWR, including saddle-tank locos of an LNW design and class -- very interesting; but the "how-come?" of Greenore's being developed as a cross-Irish-Sea ferry port, has always eluded me. Mention is made in the "Woolwich -- Stranorlar" thread, of the LNWR's "Greenore Boat Express" having been withdrawn as a consequence of World War I, and never reinstated; but my understanding is that the Holyhead -- Greenore ferry functioned regularly, essentially from 1873 to 1951. (Presumably between the WWI years and 1951, passengers had to accommodate themselves to what trains happened to be conveniently running between Holyhead and Euston.)

    I understand that said ferry, and the DN&GR, were creations of the LNWR; but wonder why the LNW found this undertaking, worthwhile. Ireland is really not all that big; the LNW already had a "lock" on serving Dun Laoghaire from Holyhead; and serving Belfast, from (then) Fleetwood -- what advantage of any kind, could there have been in their seemingly setting up in competition with themselves, with this intermediate route? "Wild surmises": a more direct connection -- via Dundalk -- than otherwise available, with places "due west", such as Enniskillen / Bundoran / Cavan? Some kind of governmental financial reward for commercial ventures which might be to the benefit of disadvantaged Ireland?

    One presumes anyway, that in 1873, this whole thing made some kind of sense to those involved in promoting it; and for sure, for nearly eighty years it provided for those who liked that kind of thing, a charming transport curiosity -- but certainly from a present-day perspective, it seems strange. Would be interested in any suggestions -- closer to the mark, I'd have no doubt, than my random guesses above -- from informed folks, regarding the point to it all.
     
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  3. krus_aragon

    krus_aragon Established Member

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    I suspect that it was originally done for a greater share of the profit.

    The Chester & Holyhead Railway was built to speed up travel between London/England and Dublin. By the 1840s the Royal Mail service (previously stagecoach to Holyhead and ferry onward) switched to operating by rail to Liverpool, and sailing onward, but it was desirable to reduce the length of the slow ferry journey by extending the railway closer to Ireland. (Note that the LNWR didn't have a monopoly on the Holyhead-Ireland ferries: the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company competed with them for many decades.)

    So prior to opening the DN&G, there would have been two viable routes for travellers to northern Ireland: either by LNWR (and LNWR or CoDSP ferry) to Dublin/Dun Laoghaire, then northwards along the (newly merged) Great Northern Railway, or by LNWR to Liverpool/Fleetwood and LNWR ferry to Belfast. The latter was relatively slow, due to the long ferry crossing, but the former involved the use of a competitor's line for over a hundred miles (and paying them for the privilege). Freight may well travel happily via Fleetwood, but passenger traffic would probably be focused on the fastest route available.

    Operating a ferry from Holyhead to Greenore cut out two sides of a triangle. Even though the ferry route was slightly longer (~80 miles vs ~60 to Dun Laoghaire) you'd cut out at least 50 rail miles, so I'd expect it would be quicker, as well as keeping more of the service (and profit) in the hands of the LNWR.

    Given the reputation of the LNWR for operating express trains at moderate, economical speeds back then, I don't think they'd have been that fussed about speeding up the journey (though their passengers would have approved), more about ensuring that they were operating as much of the direct route as possible.
     
  4. krus_aragon

    krus_aragon Established Member

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    Some additional tidbits:

    Though not opened until 1873, the LNWR had been planning a route via Greenore since the 1860s.

    The LNWR had stopped running a separate Euston-Holyhead express train for Greenore by 1912 (i.e. before the war), and the Irish Night Mail train was sometimes delayed waiting for the Greenore ferry. Complaints were raised in Parliament (remember that the mail service was subsidised by the government).
     
  5. Calthrop

    Calthrop Established Member

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    @krus_aragon: thanks for all the above -- interesting and illuminating. Still find myself -- well -- surprised at the LNWR's seemingly waxing so covetous over, if I measure rightly, at the max. 100 miles as the crow flies, all in the hands of Irish railway companies -- and seeing them as competitors (I suppose it was all one nation then, even if on two gauges); anyway, I have "no head for business".

    Prompted perhaps by the endless "yap" about the current great issue of the day, and its Irish ramifications: it occurs to me to wonder whether the Greenore ferry route was adversely affected by the 1921 partitioning of Ireland; in the shape of border-and-customs-checking bother, if one were travelling between Great Britain and the Six Counties? -- or was there maybe a special deal by which UK citizens doing just that, strictly in transit, were sped through with minimum trouble, involving the few miles in the South between Greenore and the County Down border? Also, with the situation in World War II: through which, one gathers, the ferry service and the DN&GR kept running -- perhaps more of same, special-deal-wise?

    It's quite widely reckoned, I think, that partitioning as happened in 1921 was a rather sub-optimal solution to the "Irish Question" (and if those responsible, had been granted a prophetic vision of "what might be going to happen" a hundred years on...); but from the narrow point of view of our hobby, it had the agreeable side-effect of prolonging for a generation -- and in part, for another ten years after that -- the pre-1920s colourfulness of multiple railway companies; re those all in the Six Counties, and those cut by the border. The DN&G was one of the latter, and remained "its own outfit" until closure end-1951 -- notionally at any rate; I gather that in its later years it was run by, and to all intents and purposes an integral part of, the GNR(I). I'm wondering whether anyone has written a book on the DN&G -- would amply merit it; should such a book exist, I'd seek it out.
     
  6. Elwyn

    Elwyn Member

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    According to JWP Rowledge “A regional history of railways Vol 16 – Ireland,” the LNWR backed plans for a deepwater port at Greenore with the intention of diverting traffic, particularly livestock, coming from the Irish Midlands and North West, away from Dublin. A report to shareholders in 1863 said it could be done using existing ferries and without any financial outlay. This proved to be wildly inaccurate. The line became a huge burden for the company, rarely covering working expenses and never yielding any return on its shares.

    Partition of Ireland aggravated the losses and the travel time was never less than that via Dublin, so it had very little economic benefit and no saving in time. The passenger service stopped during the general strike in 1926. (Passengers never very much liked mixed boats which contained cattle as well as passengers). Freight continued till 1951. In 1951 the costs were 4 times the receipts. It’s closure was inevitable.

    So a bit of a white elephant that made a significant loss all through its working life.
     
  7. krus_aragon

    krus_aragon Established Member

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    Interesting, it was the opposite of my suspicions (passengers via a faster Greenore route).

    @Calthrop The amount of competition between railways for traffic, paricularly in the pre-grouping days, is immense. Large companies would fight against allowing others running rights (generally granted by Act of Parliament) on their own metals if they could, and build parallel routes of their own to avoid depending on a competitor, they would. The South Wales Valleys is a prime example of this: you'd have competing lines going up either side of a valley, there were three different east-west cross-valley routes trying to muscle in on the action, and the entire existence of the Barry Railway Company was down to coal mine owners wanting to circumvent the rates charged by the existing railways.

    In Anglo-Scottish traffic, you had a slightly different situation, with two pairs of allies forming (GNR/NER vs LNWR/CR) for the Race to the North, and then competing against the opposition. But that wasn't the usual case elsewhere in the country.
     
  8. Calthrop

    Calthrop Established Member

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    Thanks -- had no idea that the passenger ferry service ceased w.e.f. 1926. The "mixed boats" matter -- I wonder whether this in fact had a positive aspect for a number of passengers: the business of trying to keep the kids entertained might be helped a bit, by taking them to see the cows? :smile:

    Point taken: cut-throat stuff indeed. I get the picture that the complexity of the S.W. Valleys rail scene, is pretty much unique: combined factors of geography, and intense railway competition.

    A highly-trivial trivia thing about the DN&GR: one notes that in its official title, the names are not in geographical order -- geography-wise, Greenore was in the middle, Dundalk and Newry one at either end. There's a similar thing, with the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch: one suspects that in both cases, geographical precision was sacrificed to having the names in an order which sounded better than any other would have done !
     
  9. Elwyn

    Elwyn Member

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    I don’t know about the Greenore boats but I have read accounts of the sailings from Belfast to Glasgow and from Londonderry to Glasgow in the 1800s. They too took huge numbers of cattle, and the passengers were seen as top up revenue rather than the core business. As a consequence the passenger facilities were pretty basic (though the fares were also very low) but if it was busy some passengers sometimes had to sit on the open deck, where they could enjoy the smells wafting up from the cattle underneath them. Not much fun on an overnight sailing in the rain.
     
  10. krus_aragon

    krus_aragon Established Member

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    Competition was heightened in the Valleys due to the immense quantity of coal and iron to be carted about, but it existed elsewhere, too. Some other examples off the top of my head include:

    Blaenau Ffestiniog. The Ffestiniog Railway were already well entrenched, but the LNWR supported the nominally independent Conway and Llanrwst Railway, and then extended the branch to Betws-y-Coed and up the Lledr valley before digging a long tunnel to get at the slate traffic it coveted. From the south, the GWR supported the Bala and Ffestiniog Railway, as well as the Ffestiniog and Blaenau Railway to get at the prize. The Ff&B was built as a narrow-gauge line, but the Act of Parliament specified that all the earthworks, bridges etc. were to be built large enough so that it could be relaid as standard gauge. Unsurprisingly, the GWR bought them out and did just that.

    Rhyl. One would think that this was a bastion of LNWR territory, but at one point the GWR almost ended up with running rights along the Vale of Clwyd Railway and the Denbigh, Ruthin & Corwen Railway up into Rhyl itself! Encouraging new, independent railway companies to build new branch lines suited the big railways, as it meant that their shareholders' capital was not at risk. To this end, they often supported their bills through Parliament. But there was then the risk that once built, a competing railway might enter into agreements with them, or buy them out completely, giving greater market share to the opposition, and "invading" their own territory.

    The railway was originally the "Newry & Greenore Railway", but the name was changed shortly after opening. Perhaps it was easier to just paint a "D" at the front of the initials? ;)
     
  11. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

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    Holyhead was the LNWRs principal port for Ireland, and got the investment. Of the others, Liverpool didn't have any meaningful quayside rail connection, Fleetwood was on the joint Preston & Wyre, two-thirds owned by the L&Y, with the LNWR a minority one-third owner. Heysham was Midland, and Barrow was on the Furness Railway. Stranraer was an even less share of joint ownership. So Holyhead was the obvious departure point.

    Over in Ireland in LNWR times, Dublin was the capital but Belfast, and to an extent all Ulster, was the industrial centre, for shipbuilding, textiles, etc. A lot of the export cattle trade also seems to have come from this part of Ireland. Dun Laoghaire was the LNWR's port, OK for Dublin but south of there and an inconvenient rail route to Belfast, involving two companies. Greenore was an attractive point to run from Holyhead to, with access on the GNR to Belfast and Londonderry (via Portadown). It just needed a branch to the new port.

    The "cattle boats" did carry a lot of passengers, at low fares. Labourers coming over to work on construction or agriculture in England (and Scotland) were a significant proportion of the foot passenger traffic in those days, passengers the railway was perhaps glad to keep off the Irish Mail. Certain parts of Ireland, such as Donegal, had a long tradition of this - and that's more readily accessed through Greenore than through Dun Laoghaire.
     
    Last edited: 14 Mar 2019 at 20:44
  12. ChiefPlanner

    ChiefPlanner Established Member

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    Splendid post - the Irish business was deemed in the 19thC and 20thC to have sufficient potential for a massive investment in Fishguard and connecting railways such as the Swansea District line (admittedly with half an eye on possible Transatlantic calls) - most of which was unrealised.

    Even the "not very well off" Cambrian tried an Irish service from Aberdovey. Not a success.

    Back to Greenore - am advised there was a Station Hotel , which offered golf and (if required) hot sea water baths. I do like the sound of that - presumably there was a special facility for the latter , as opposed to a couple galvanised buckets nicked off an engine and warmed on the boiler top.
     
  13. Calthrop

    Calthrop Established Member

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    I remember a caption in a short photo section on the DN&GR, in an "album"-type book on Irish railways back when that scene was a thing of wonder. It referred to the photographer's visit to the line in its last, post-World War II years; and to the pleasures of his staying at the Station Hotel at Greenore, taking a bath (whether sea water, or just ordinary, I forget) while listening to the sounds of a (5ft. 3in. gauge) LNWR-type 0-6-2ST doing some gentle shunting at the adjacent station -- and looking forward to a better dinner than he could have expected in the rationed UK.
     
  14. ChiefPlanner

    ChiefPlanner Established Member

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    That book is where I got the knowledge from ! - I did a little research on the Hotel , and it was not listed and demolished in the early 2000's. The loss of the railway and the decline in the port generally makes the town a bit of a backwater by some accounts.
     
  15. Calthrop

    Calthrop Established Member

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    Well -- the very same book ! Greenore, and its general neighbouring areas, give appearance of being altogether an intriguing bit of human and natural geography. A few years ago, I took a holiday in Northern Ireland with various briefish poppings-in vis-a-vis the Republic: we had hopes of taking a look at Greenore and the region around -- in the event, unfortunately, time didn't allow it.

    A thing which occurs to me from the map, hereabouts (in the absence of any seeing at first-hand), concerns the seaside resort of Warrenpoint, terminus of a GNR(I) branch which lasted longer than many. The map would seem to suggest that Warrenpoint looks like a rather poor apology for a seaside resort, tucked away at the very upper end of a sea-lough. As said, have not been to the place: I could be totally wrong, and Warrenpoint delightful in assorted ways.
     
  16. mailbyrail

    mailbyrail Member

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    The LNWR tried to develop Greenore as a destination resort in its own right - it built the Station Hotel in the town in 1873 with its own 18 hole golf course and then added holiday bungalows in 1903. The GNR(I) took over in 1933 and ran the hotel until it closed in 1951 along with the railway.
     
  17. ChiefPlanner

    ChiefPlanner Established Member

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    I am sensing a visit at some time. Something about these places. No hot sea water baths alas. Must have been something the gentry liked in the 19thC , the Ffestiniog carried in a specially built tank wagon - sea water to Plas Tanybwlch for the benefits of the Oakley family. Sort of Californian "hot tub" treat , presumably without recreational stimulation and activity !
     
  18. mailbyrail

    mailbyrail Member

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    The coast around the Mourne Mountains had a number of railway hotels. The GNR(I) purchased the Beach Hotel in Warrenpoint in 1899 as well as two hotels in Rostrevor - the Beach hotel and the great Northern Hotel. Rostrevor was linked by a 3ft gauge horse tramway from Warrenpoint. Just up the coast the Belfast & County Down railway opened the Slieve Donard Hotel
     
  19. Calthrop

    Calthrop Established Member

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    Re the last, I'm not so sure: by some accounts, those Victorians could be pretty "frisky" behind the facade of strict propriety...

    A bit of Irish 3ft gauge about which we don't hear much; of course, horse-worked lines tend to be regarded as a separate deal of their own.
     
  20. RT4038

    RT4038 Member

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    Went to Greenore a few years ago. In Euston Road there is a Co-op store/ tearoom, which has a railway/maritime museum on the 1st floor. All very interesting, with lots of photographs and memorabilia of the Dundalk, Newry & Greenore railway.
     
  21. Calthrop

    Calthrop Established Member

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    Nice, and very suitable, that Greenore has -- still -- a Euston Road ! The museum and its venue -- I'm wondering whether this is a characteristic north-of-Ireland thing? In "N.I. and the odd adjoining Republic bit" a few years ago; at Ballyshannon, we looked in at a modest department store, part of one floor of which houses a general museum about the area: all most interesting, with a considerable amount of material on the 3ft gauge Donegal system (nothing, that I recall, about the GNR(I) Bundoran branch). In Enniskillen there is, of all things, a barber's shop which incorporates a small museum about the local railways, closed these 60+ years past -- we unfortunately didn't have time to visit this one.
     
  22. ChiefPlanner

    ChiefPlanner Established Member

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    https://discovernorthernireland.com...3/?s=4FA6B8DA99B393163B65891436C42F4ECC7217BF
     
  23. Calthrop

    Calthrop Established Member

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    "Headhunters" -- that's it -- thanks ! (You can rely on hair-care establishments, and fish-and-chip shops, for far-fetched wordplay.) Will regard it as part of the incentive to revisit those parts -- I found Fermanagh totally delectable.
     

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