The West Clare Railway

Discussion in 'Railway History & Nostalgia' started by rogerfarnworth, 12 Apr 2019.

  1. rogerfarnworth

    rogerfarnworth Member

    Messages:
    302
    Joined:
    21 Feb 2018
    This thread is the result of reading another article in The Railway Magazine, this time from the May 1951 edition!

    This time we are in the Republic of Ireland, specifically in County Clare. The May 1951 edition of the magazine carried an article on the 3ft gauge light railway which ran from Ennis to Kilrush and Kilkee. The total length of the railway was about 53 miles.

    The first post gives some consideration to the history of the line and then looks at the section of the journey between Ennis and Corofin.

    http://rogerfarnworth.com/2019/04/08/the-west-clare-railway-part-1-ennis-to-corofin
     
    Last edited: 13 Apr 2019
  2. Registered users do not see these banners - join or log in today!

    Rail Forums

     
  3. Altfish

    Altfish Member

    Messages:
    961
    Joined:
    16 Oct 2014
    Location:
    Altrincham
    I'm fascinated by the Irish narrow gauge railways, this looks like a fantastic article that I will read when I have time. Thanks for posting.
     
  4. Calthrop

    Calthrop Established Member

    Messages:
    1,347
    Joined:
    6 Dec 2015
    A very full and scholarly compilation -- thanks.

    The thing which always comes first to my mind on mention of the West Clare lines -- not mentioned, I think, in the linked material (some of which, so far, I've read through only rapidly): is the episode involving them and the late 19th / early 20th century songwriter / singer / comedian Percy French -- creator of a number of much-loved Irish songs of a humorous bent. The West Clare Railway in its early and independent days, had a period of being run with quite shambolic inefficiency. French, inconvenienced thereby in getting where he needed to go, lampooned the line and its failings of this kind, by writing the song "Are Ye Right There, Michael?"; which probably made the West Clare more widely known than any other Irish narrow-gauge railway -- though "for the wrong reason", and without imparting to the hearers, the details of the situation.

    At one time I had a friend who was Irish, and an amateur folk-singer of some talent. On my once mentioning to him "Are Ye Right There, Michael?", his response was: "Ah, that one; a bit wet, isn't it?" Of course, he wasn't a railway enthusiast...
     
  5. rogerfarnworth

    rogerfarnworth Member

    Messages:
    302
    Joined:
    21 Feb 2018
    You are right Calthrop. It is not mentioned. It probably will be in the next post as I think the occasion which led to the song happened at Ennistymon.
     
  6. hexagon789

    hexagon789 Established Member

    Messages:
    4,165
    Joined:
    2 Sep 2016
    Location:
    Glasgow
    You are not alone in that, whenever the West Clare comes up in think of "Are ye right there, Michael? Are ye right?"

    The line featured in some programme many years ago, and a rendition of the song was included! :lol:
     
  7. 341o2

    341o2 Established Member

    Messages:
    1,052
    Joined:
    17 Oct 2011
    Shortly after this article was published, the West Clare was deiselised, railcars resembled the County Donegal units. This didn't prevent the line closing in 1961, the last of the Irish 3' lines. Steam loco No5 had been preserved on a plinth at Ennis station, since then a preservation group have aquired the station at Moyasta and relaid part of the line. No5 was restored and returned to service in 2009, two other WC steam locos have survived.

    Regarding the early West Clare, it was certainly better than other lines, such as the Tralee and Dingle, part of the problem was that the original four locos were underpowered. Being in a tourist area, this attracted the likes of French - I can't see him aboard a cattle special to Dingle, reminded that the Southwold's idiosyncracies, plus a few more, were depicted in the Reg Carter postcards likewise
     
  8. 341o2

    341o2 Established Member

    Messages:
    1,052
    Joined:
    17 Oct 2011
     
  9. Calthrop

    Calthrop Established Member

    Messages:
    1,347
    Joined:
    6 Dec 2015
    Those postcards are rather delightful, aren't they? -- cartoons showing the Southwold Railway (charming, but not the best-equipped or most efficiently-run light railway that there ever was) in various embarrassing predicaments preventing it from furnishing its advertised services. With, in the West Clare saga, the railway company attempting to sue French re his defamatory song, but losing the case in court -- I wonder whether the Southwold Railway's management were tempted to take the same tack with Mr. Carter? One would figure that that would not have been the English way: if they'd tried for legal redress, they'd have made themselves yet more of a laughing-stock; nothing for it, but to at least make a pretence of being good sports and of enjoying the joke themselves.

    Some years ago, the Welshpool & Llanfair Railway Society produced a set of cartoon postcards, generally modelled on the old Southwold ones; showing various comical bucolic-light-railway mess-ups happening, with the present-day W & L's services. A thing which didn't sit well, anyway with me -- it just felt phony, not corresponding to the situation which produced the Southwold originals: felt like stuff done "for yuks", by a (basically perfectly efficient) preservation outfit, re itself -- not ringing true, not really very funny.
     
  10. rogerfarnworth

    rogerfarnworth Member

    Messages:
    302
    Joined:
    21 Feb 2018
  11. Calthrop

    Calthrop Established Member

    Messages:
    1,347
    Joined:
    6 Dec 2015
    Endlessly interest-packed -- thank you. And thanks for the full tale of "Percy and the WCR", and the whole of his famous ditty. One feels that he might perhaps have accorded the railway a little forgiveness, for his problems with it having inspired a song which must have contributed a good deal to his fame and fortune.

    So it was the dodgy supplementary loco water supply at Ennistymon, which kicked the whole business off. I love the bit about the small building housing said equipment; occupation of which, gave the staff a chance to "goof off" at length -- keeping watch for the superintendent, out of the convenient holes. Human nature is pretty much the same, at most times and places...
     
  12. 341o2

    341o2 Established Member

    Messages:
    1,052
    Joined:
    17 Oct 2011
    Most interesting. I welcome something similar on the Tralee & Dingle. The L&LS would be another contender, as one engine derailed and ended up in a peat bog. When the L&LS asked the Co Donegal for the loan of a locomotive, the reply was that with the irregulars of Burtonport and the bog at Dungloe, there would be little chance of it being returned. So, no thanks

    One point touched on was that many locomotives and rolling stock on the Irish 3' ended up on different railways and to avoid confusion had la letter added to the number, thus Cavan & Lietram became 1L etc while the Tralee & Dingle became "T". In fact, on the final day of the C&L it was worked almost entirely by ex T&D locomotives.

    With Percy French, I read that the "brand new" no5 broke down, and was rescued by No4, a loco already proven to be underpowered for the line. Did this compound the problem?
     
    Last edited: 16 Apr 2019
  13. rogerfarnworth

    rogerfarnworth Member

    Messages:
    302
    Joined:
    21 Feb 2018
    I guess the rescue locomotive contributed to a slow journey but the major factor appears to have been the time it took to arrive.
     
  14. Calthrop

    Calthrop Established Member

    Messages:
    1,347
    Joined:
    6 Dec 2015
    There was a brief 1940s moment when this scenario might have come about, verily "in spades". I learnt of it, I very much think in an article in an issue of the Narrow Gauge Railway Society's journal, some two or three decades ago -- annoyingly, I no longer possess said issue of that magazine. The situation arose in early 1941, after British forces had taken Eritrea from its Italian colonisers. The country's 950mm gauge railway had taken a heavy pasting in the fighting, with bad damage to much of its motive power. With its being wished to get the line back into commission as soon as possible, to serve further military ends; those in the UK who planned such matters, considered the idea of trying to acquire from Ireland, a number of 3ft. gauge steam locos in going order, to send to Eritrea for use there (only a small regauging operation would be needed: 3 feet = 915mm). The article gave details of which classes from which lines, came thus under consideration: to my regret, I forget the details here; but I recall that locos / lines of several railway administrations were considered: more than one, in or partly in Northern Ireland -- but the Republic's Great Southern Railway (predecessors of CIE) were also approached. In this latter case, complications re the Republic's being neutral in World War II would have had to be sorted out; but one gathers that could quite likely have been accomplished.

    In the end, this project proved not to be needed: more could be done than originally envisaged, re repairing locos of the Eritrean line on the spot -- and a diesel-worked 950mm gauge line which the Italians had had in Somalia (also taken by the Allies) was scrapped, and its diesel locos transferred to Eritrea. Eritrea's railway is of course big on the heritage-steam scene nowadays: after being put out of action in more recent wars, it is now operational again, marginally -- its only traffic being chartered railway-enthusiast and tourist specials, worked by the line's characteristic Mallet 0-4-4-0T's. A slight pity, I feel, re "what might have been": enthusiasts going to Eritrea for its railway joys, can't experience the additional one, of the odd active once-Irish 3ft. gauge steam loco -- departed from its homeland some eighty years ago.

    (I'd be most interested if anyone has any further details about this tentative 1941 scheme; or is, even, in possession of the journal article mentioned.)
     
  15. 341o2

    341o2 Established Member

    Messages:
    1,052
    Joined:
    17 Oct 2011
    Sounds like it had to be fired up from cold.
    Thank you for your many informative posts, I never have considered how Percy French came to lampoon the West Clare
     
  16. rogerfarnworth

    rogerfarnworth Member

    Messages:
    302
    Joined:
    21 Feb 2018
    Thank you both for your comments. I have nothing to add, Calthorp, on the issue you raise. Sorry.
     
  17. Calthrop

    Calthrop Established Member

    Messages:
    1,347
    Joined:
    6 Dec 2015
    It's a pretty abstruse one ! I greatly regret losing the mag with the article concerned; but sometimes, these things happen. (Googling yielded nothing.)
     
  18. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

    Messages:
    3,566
    Joined:
    1 Aug 2013
    The all-time classic for this was the 1930s "Toonerville Trolley" in the USA, a long running newspaper cartoon which spawned cinema cartoon shorts, and parodied dilapadated US electric short lines of the era.

     
  19. Calthrop

    Calthrop Established Member

    Messages:
    1,347
    Joined:
    6 Dec 2015
    Thanks for the cartoon film -- splendid nonsense !

    West Clare, and Southwold, were identifiable real railways; but Googling has not suggested any comparably precise location, for the Toonerville operation -- "generically fictitious", one feels -- (I love, though, Wiktionary's words re "Toonerville Trolley": "A trolley, especially one in need of modernization"). It seems that Colorado, Kentucky, Missouri and Pennsylvania all have within their bounds, small communities named Toonerville; but nothing to suggest factual association of any of those, with any electric local line. One learns also, that there is a Mexican street gang active in Los Angeles, called Toonerville Rifa 13. It would be pleasant to discover that they were fanatically in favour of reinstatement of the L.A. area's superb system of electric interurban and streetcar lines, which obtained in the first half of the 20th century (subsequently swept away in favour of motorways / freeways); and prepared to shed blood in the furtherance of that cause <D .

    A good many years ago, I was visiting the Ffestiniog Railway, reaching it via Llandudno Junction and Blaenau Ffestiniog; on the journey, encountered a chatty and agreeable American tourist, who referred to the Conway Valley line's two-car DMU, as a "Toonerville Trolley". He didn't mean this in any snide way -- he was delighted with the whole experience; one figures though that British Rail, as it was then, might have felt less than flattered by the reference.
     
    Last edited: 17 Apr 2019
  20. Calthrop

    Calthrop Established Member

    Messages:
    1,347
    Joined:
    6 Dec 2015
    Further to "Toonerville" -- a question posted on a US-based message board, has brought me information that the eponymous Trolley was just one feature in a long-lasting (circa 1905 -- 1955) American cartoon saga -- "newsprint" strip cartoons, joined later by the animated cartoon films; about the fictitious small town of Toonerville and its eccentric inhabitants. An earlier version, it would seem, of the gag in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? , about the "ghetto" in Los Angeles called Toontown, where all the cartoon characters ("Toons") live.

    http://www.toonopedia.com/toonrvil.htm
     
  21. matchmaker

    matchmaker Member

    Messages:
    895
    Joined:
    8 Mar 2009
    Location:
    Central Scotland
    As I've said in another related thread, the now out of print "The Irish Narrow Gauge in colour" by Norman Johnston is a terrific read. Quite a number of photos of the West Clare in railcar days.

    As an aside, West Clare is one of my favourite parts of Ireland!
     
  22. rogerfarnworth

    rogerfarnworth Member

    Messages:
    302
    Joined:
    21 Feb 2018
    I am enjoying the trip along the line particularly with Eddie Lenihan.
     
  23. rogerfarnworth

    rogerfarnworth Member

    Messages:
    302
    Joined:
    21 Feb 2018
  24. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

    Messages:
    3,566
    Joined:
    1 Aug 2013
    There's mention above of the poor service, basically one mainstream through passenger train a day, and this being due to the WW2 coal shortage in Ireland. Actually this was a standard arrangement on many secondary lines, 5'3" as much as 3', from not long after independence, even more common during wartime, and not reinstated even after dieselisation, which surprisingly came to much of Ireland before the UK. It does seem that after such a thin service, most of the population had found alternative ways to get around. Or just didn't travel.

    The daily train was commonly in to the junction or main city in the morning, and back out in the late afternoon. Despite this, the various wayside stations seemed well provided with passing loops, and staff, to the end.

    A similar once-daily structure applied to Irish country buses, with a large number of routes which started in the morning way out in the west and laced through various combinations of villages to all arrive in Dublin pretty much together at lunchtime. A couple of hours for a break and refuel, and then they set off back home mid-afternoon. Six days a week, no service on Sundays, and the same driver and conductor, paired from some remote village, would be on the same run every day for years, for passengers and a lot of parcels as well. Small children would be sent unaccompanied, in the care of the known conductor, to be met by a distant relative in Dublin.
     
  25. rogerfarnworth

    rogerfarnworth Member

    Messages:
    302
    Joined:
    21 Feb 2018
    Thank you, Taunton.
     
  26. Calthrop

    Calthrop Established Member

    Messages:
    1,347
    Joined:
    6 Dec 2015
    Thanks for this gen. It was largely me who raised this matter of sparse services: I'd thought that it was a consequence of the fuel-related woes from the early 1940s onward, and had no idea that -- as you recount -- it was a pattern which had started out in the Free State, almost from the beginning of that entity's existence. On reflection, it would seem of a piece with the Great Southern Railway (formed 1925, from all railway undertakings whose systems lay totally in the Free State) being generally described -- one gets the picture -- as, overall, in the main a rather drab, grey, unenterprising and apathetic outfit. And one learns that CIE, its successor from 1945, acted similarly -- and not just because of the coal problem.

    Interesting that on the whole, the same picture remained for rail passenger services after dieselisation. I was aware that CIE went diesel a while earlier than British Railways -- if I have things rightly, very little CIE steam working was left by the end of the 1950s, in just a very few spots. Had had the pic. that after the coal horrors of WW2 and aftermath, CIE's management had concluded that becoming reliant on a different sort of fuel, equally got totally from sources outside their island, could at least not be worse than the previous situation (they'd given a good try, to turf as a fuel for steam locos, and concluded that it just could not be efficient in that capacity).

    I recall mentions-in-passing in Bryan Morgan's The End Of The Line -- which I know I tend to regard as "Holy Writ" in matters of this kind -- referring to the then Irish transport situation (I have the impression that Morgan liked Ireland just fine, but didn't have a lot of use for its railways): he expresses fears re his beloved France showing, in the early 1950s, a strong tendency toward ongoing lessening of public passenger services -- rail and road -- country-wide, so as to threaten to make such facilities or lack thereof, as bad as was the case in the Irish Republic.

    Ireland of course, has had the additional oddity that because of its partitioning, and how things were implemented re same: with the Great Southern involving only undertakings "south of the border", all railway undertakings totally in the Six Counties, or with sections either side of the border, continued "as they had been" -- a scene comparable to that of pre-Grouping Great Britain, continuing in a several decades' "time-warp". With things thus -- largely because of the existence and geography of the Great Northern Railway of Ireland -- for a long while, some two-fifths of the island as a whole, was rail-served not by the GSR and subsequently CIE. Am I right in reckoning that these, other, systems, had throughout better and more frequent passenger services, than "further south and west"? (I'm aware that the Ulster Transport Authority, quite shortly after its formation in 1949, carried out a closure-holocaust of pretty well all its lesser lines; but one envisages the UTA maintaining a decent service on the parts which it did keep on.)
     
  27. hexagon789

    hexagon789 Established Member

    Messages:
    4,165
    Joined:
    2 Sep 2016
    Location:
    Glasgow
    I think the early (compared to Britain) demise of southern Irish steam can be highlighted by the use of the ex-GSR 800 Class 4-6-0s.

    The largest steam locos built in Ireland and designed for the Dublin-Cork mainline. The 3 entered service between 1939 and 1940 but the ensuing coal shortages meant they never really had the chance to demonstrate their full potential (nevertheless one was recorded at 96mph and there are many rumours of making the 'ton').

    The A Class introduction in 1955 made them practically redundant, Tailté being withdrawn in 1955 and scrapped in 1957.

    Maeve and Maca remained in service hauling goods and light passenger trains. Both were withdrawn from traffic in 1962. Maca was retubed and hauled an IRRS tour in 1964 after which she was scrapped.

    Maeve was thankfully preserved and resides at the museum in Cultra, Northern Ireland.
     
  28. Calthrop

    Calthrop Established Member

    Messages:
    1,347
    Joined:
    6 Dec 2015
    That damned war ! Though one has to agree, I think, that its largely putting the kibosh on the 800 class's career was in the general scheme of things, one of its less dire features...

    I seem to recall from childhood, that the 800's were in favour around the early 1950s, for representing Ireland in rail-themed picture books for kids which ventured to show material from further afield than Great Britain. I saw Maeve in the Cultra museum a couple of years ago -- magnificent machine.
     
  29. hexagon789

    hexagon789 Established Member

    Messages:
    4,165
    Joined:
    2 Sep 2016
    Location:
    Glasgow
    I can understand why they would be used to represent Ireland, very handsome and impressive looking locos!
     
  30. 341o2

    341o2 Established Member

    Messages:
    1,052
    Joined:
    17 Oct 2011
    And way out in front regarding being modern. The situation in the ROI regarding its railways in 1948 was dire.verging on a total wreck. One spot check revealed that 28% of the locomotive fleet was out of action awaiting repairs. (The Southern at that time averaged 15) 102 locomotives were 60 years or older and 23 classes consisted of a single engine. Apart from the 800s the newest locos dated from 1936.

    With respect, it's Macha

    Edit - classes should be 23 not 25
     
    Last edited: 23 Apr 2019
  31. hexagon789

    hexagon789 Established Member

    Messages:
    4,165
    Joined:
    2 Sep 2016
    Location:
    Glasgow
    Sounds like a very mixed fleet! There was a good video on YouTube of Irish steam and certainly there looked to be a wide variety but I didn't realise how many single class locos there were.

    Apologies, but I wasn't even sure if I'd remembered the accent on Tailté correctly.
     

Share This Page