Trains in Northern Ireland

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Chapeltom

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Hi all

I've been put in charge of planning a trip around Ireland next year, one of the aims is to travel round the North for a couple of days. Is it worth attempting to cover the whole rail network in Northern Ireland? Has anyone attempted it and is it interesting at all? Are places like Bangor, Londonderry and Larne interesting at all?

Not bothered so much about trains, we'll be wanting to do the Portrush branch for Giants Causeway and will be travelling south onwards to Dublin I reckon by train.

Cheers

Tom
 
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MidnightFlyer

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Hi all

I've been put in charge of planning a trip around Ireland next year, one of the aims is to travel round the North for a couple of days. Is it worth attempting to cover the whole rail network in Northern Ireland? Has anyone attempted it and is it interesting at all? Are places like Bangor, Londonderry and Larne interesting at all?

Not bothered so much about trains, we'll be wanting to do the Portrush branch for Giants Causeway and will be travelling south onwards to Dublin I reckon by train.

Cheers

Tom

Did it last year myself, had an absolutely fantastic time. All trains over there now should either be C3K or C4K (Class 3000 / Class 4000), a lot like a cross between a 170 / 175 in British terms. The 450 Class trains (used on the Portrush shuttle and Larne line services) I think have all gone, they were a lot like 150/2s over here. You can do all lines in the country with ease in two days, certainly everything between Newry-Larne / Bangor in one day. Note that the Londonderry line is shut between Coleraine and Londonderry from 29 July for 9 months, which is a shame because it is an absolutely stunning line, one of the best in the UK (I believe some have even said the world!). Trains aren't too busy off-peak, even the Portrush shuttles were quiet to / from Coleraine (though those ex-Belfast, which should happen for the whole duration of the Londonderry closure, are busy at times.

Edit - I think Portrush is a nice little town, though it is beginning to look tired. Bangor station is quite impressive, though I can't comment for either it or Larne's town centres.
 

Ivo

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Northern Ireland is a lovely place to visit and I cannot recommend it enough. The entire network can be done in one day, although this is not recommended because you lose the chance to explore, as I did in Londonderry and Bangor (the latter has a large ASDA very close to the station). And Belfast is a beautiful city as well and has one of the UK's best bus networks.

An iLink card, is a massive help. For £15 (well, it was last year anyway!) you can travel anywhere in NI by bus or train for one day, although I'm not sure about the Enterprise. One thing that is valid on the latter however, as far as Newry to the south, is the amazing value Sunday Rover (or something like that), which permits unlimited train travel throughout NI - for £6. Assuming it still exists of course! :p

As Matt says, all services should be operated by C3K and C4K units, which from an interior perspective look a lot like 332s and 333s over here (no doubt because at least some of their design and manufacturing was undertaken by CAF, who built the C3K and C4K.

If you want to know more specific information, the folks of this forum who live over there will surely be able to help you more, as can 4SRKT.

Note that the Londonderry line is shut between Coleraine and Londonderry from 29 July for 9 months, which is a shame because it is an absolutely stunning line, one of the best in the UK (I believe some have even said the world!).

An absolutely amazing line. England's best, such as the Settle & Carlisle, pale in comparison. One of the great railway journeys.
 

Chapeltom

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Well were not doing it till next June at the earliest, probably July. Gonna be over 5 days I reckon, start in Northern and move south. Sounds good, just needing a few good ideas and with a Travelodge in Derry it sounds like we'll head there for a night.
 

89-763-733

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The 450s were all withdrawn in March

The ilink ticket (valid on all trains and buses) is still £15

The Sunday rail only ticket is now £6.50

The Travelodge in Londonderry is near Foyle Street Bus station If you arrive by train get the (free) railink bus to there. Come out of the bus station and turn right and walk straight on for about 1/4 mile
 
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4SRKT

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Those shots somehow really capture for me the grimness of Northern Ireland as I remember it back then. There was somehow a permanent undercurrent about the place that was at its most austere on a grey day like this, but never went away even on a sunny day. Almost impossible to recapture now in the modern NI, and probably a good thing too!
 

Techniquest

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I highly recommend a trip to Northern Ireland, although as others have said it's better to do over two days as then you can actually see some of the places. I regret not having a look at Bangor when I went there, and only saw a small bit of Londonderry, but it was still a good time. Not done the Giant's Causeway or the little railway up there, just never had enough time to do it when I last went to Portrush.

As for Coleraine to Londonderry being one of the best railway journeys in the world, I can't agree. It's nice, but I'd still put journeys such as Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh, Fort William to Mallaig, the Highland Main Line when it's been snowing, the Heart of Wales, the WCML north of Oxenholme, the ECML north of Manors and the Settle and Carlisle (just to name a few) above Coleraine to Londonderry.
 

4SRKT

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On the subject of interest in the towns in NI itself the picture is pretty dull. Belfast is just a Victorian industrial city inexplicably dumped down in the Irish countryside. If you like Manchester or Glasgow then you'll like Belfast but it's not a beautiful city in the sense that most people mean that (e.g. Bath, York, Edinburgh). Its interest comes from its recent rather harrowing history and this is true of most places in Northern Ireland. Derry is worth a look as the only complete walled city in Britain and Ireland, but again it's the fascinating recent history that makes it worth a visit. As for the other towns in the place, they are almost universally dull (equally true of most towns in the Republic except Dublin and Cork). Bangor, Antrim, Ballymena, Lisburn, Coleraine, Portadown; you name it, it's a small town with an identikit main street and surrounding housing. At least Carrickfergus has a castle. As for Larne and Lurgan; avoid!

Apart from the euphemistically named 'Troubles' it's the gorgeous countryside that makes NI special. Get the the train to Derry (Definitely better than the ECML north of Manors Techniquest. What were you thinking when you wrote that? ;)), the main line south to Dundalk, the Larne line north of Downshire, the bus around the coast road from Larne to Portrush or over the Glenshane Pass to Derry, a bus from Ballymena to Carnlough past Slemish mountain. All fabulous and very cheap due to the i-Link card.
 
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4SRKT

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Feel free. The Hunslet ones are particularly treasured. I lost them for years then they turned up in a big brown envelope with a couple of hundred other missing railway shots from between 1985 and 1995. Magic!

Here's another picture taken about that time. Shots of the not-at-all-missed Belfast York Road in its last couple of years are surprisingly hard to find on the internet in my experience.
 

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4SRKT

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458 about five years old when that shot taken! Standing where the buffers inside the newer part of York Road depot are now.
 

4SRKT

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And continuing the theme, the last 70 class set (in 4-car formation with power car 75 'River Maine' leading) seen at Downshire two weeks before withdrawal in the summer of 1986. Some 450s were already in service by then IIRR, and by my visit next summer the 4SRKTs from these two power cars would also be powering 'new' 450s.
 

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Ivo

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Go on then - I'll add mine. This album consists of photos taken last May but is actually only three weeks old.

http://www.railforums.co.uk/album.php?albumid=383

And continuing the theme, the last 70 class set (in 4-car formation with power car 75 'River Maine' leading) seen at Downshire two weeks before withdrawal in the summer of 1986. Some 450s were already in service by then IIRR, and by my visit next summer the 4SRKTs from these two power cars would also be powering 'new' 450s.

I recognise that picture :lol:
 

PFX

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4SRKT - some more great shots and some very true words for visitors to the north though the trains have certainly come on somewhat since the time of the photos!

It's disappointing that photos from the 80s and before seem so rare, especially ones of the 70 class. I think I have only ever seen 3 or 4 good pictures of the class and of course, the surviving intermediate at DCDR.

I always thought that the starkly industrial appearance of the cab fronts on the old NIR stock adds to the vaguely depressing feel that shots of the period have?
 

4SRKT

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I always thought that the starkly industrial appearance of the cab fronts on the old NIR stock adds to the vaguely depressing feel that shots of the period have?

I'd not thought of that, but it certainly makes sense. Particularly the MPDs. Redolent of the old Irish tradition of making do and mend, all these trains converted from hauled stock looked home made and cobbled together. Even the 80 class, although brand new, had the blunt PEP front on the power car and just a piece of wood over a mk II gangway at the other: very functional.

Partly I think of course that it's the association of the Northern Ireland of that period with violence and everything being run-down that makes shots from the period seem grim and depressing. Somebody looking at the shots who hadn't been there or who didn't know Northern Ireland's recent past wouldn't feel the same about them as someone who had experienced it. I've been visiting NI all my life (my father comes from N Belfast), and studied/worked there from 1990 to 1993, so my own impressions of the place are formed from the mid-70s onwards. I actually took a long time to get used to the place not being full of soldiers, road blocks, bomb scares etc! The DEMUs provided the last link with that period of history as far as I was concerned.
 

PFX

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I'm only a few years in Belfast though I passed through often enough when I lived in Dublin for a couple of years and there were still the odd combined army/police patrols on the streets, however the checkpoints were gone both at the border and in the city. The armoured Landrovers are still around but in a far more 'customer friendly' white instead of the previous battleship grey drab. Even from the little I saw then, Belfast is a very different place now.

I remember coming across pictures of hitherto unseen NIR 80 stock when dial up was still quite a novelty. Being used to seeing the fairly ubiquitous 156s and 158s on the Scottish network, they were a stark contrast. It was many years later, when I saw a 450 that things looked a lot more familiar and the internet was a lot faster.

Bizarely, I never saw a 111 until I moved over here and didn't realise NIR operated them despite having seen the Iarnród Éireann 071s in Dublin years previously. The relentless march of the railcar is fast leading to predictable monotony across the whole island now however.
 

4SRKT

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I'm only a few years in Belfast though I passed through often enough when I lived in Dublin for a couple of years and there were still the odd combined army/police patrols on the streets, however the checkpoints were gone both at the border and in the city. The armoured Landrovers are still around but in a far more 'customer friendly' white instead of the previous battleship grey drab. Even from the little I saw then, Belfast is a very different place now.

I remember coming across pictures of hitherto unseen NIR 80 stock when dial up was still quite a novelty. Being used to seeing the fairly ubiquitous 156s and 158s on the Scottish network, they were a stark contrast. It was many years later, when I saw a 450 that things looked a lot more familiar and the internet was a lot faster.

Bizarely, I never saw a 111 until I moved over here and didn't realise NIR operated them despite having seen the Iarnród Éireann 071s in Dublin years previously. The relentless march of the railcar is fast leading to predictable monotony across the whole island now however.

I remember the 111s coming in and being very excited about these rugged and very ugly machines. I was only 10 at the time and had never been to the Republic (another 5 years would pass before I did so) and this was the first time I'd ever seen an American loco. Being used to the clean lines of modernisation plan diesels I couldn't get over this hulk of power, with bits apparently just bolted on and everything easily accesible for maintenance. Years later when the 59s came out the influence of British design sensibilities was obvious and that continues into the 66s and 201s. There's never been anything else like the 071s/111s in these islands and they are waaaay up there in my list of favourites.

More pictures, this time including some Big GMs. My favourite is 112 at City Hospital. http://www.railforums.co.uk/album.php?albumid=187

The shot of the 450 class at Portrush 2 years ago taken from exactly the same spot as the one of 99 21 years ago in the other album makes for an interesting contrast. The track's been relaid, but it's been at least 19 years since the canopy saw a lick of paint!
 
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Techniquest

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Gotta share my lot then too!

http://s6.photobucket.com/albums/y207/43019/Techniquest in Ireland/

One of my favourites from Dhu Varren:

 

4SRKT

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In my yoof I spent a week's family holiday in that house on the left of that shot at Dhu Varren. A thrashtastic week indeed!
 

Cyberbeagle

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Hi all

I've been put in charge of planning a trip around Ireland next year, one of the aims is to travel round the North for a couple of days. Is it worth attempting to cover the whole rail network in Northern Ireland? Has anyone attempted it and is it interesting at all? Are places like Bangor, Londonderry and Larne interesting at all?

Not bothered so much about trains, we'll be wanting to do the Portrush branch for Giants Causeway and will be travelling south onwards to Dublin I reckon by train.

Cheers

Tom

Yes, it's possible to do the NIR network in a day, with the obvious exception of the Lisburn-Antrim branch (unless you are lucky and can time the trip to coincide with a service diversion!) but you'd be better taking two or three to actually see Northern Ireland. Plus you'd miss out on our heritage offerings!

For instance, you can get the No. 15 or 215 Ulsterbus from Great Victoria Street to Downpatrick, if you're going to the Giant's Causeway get off the bus at Bushmills Station and take the tram up there, of course the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is a short walk up from Cultra Station, as is RPSI from Whitehead though probably best to check with them beforehand. And if going to L'Derry the Foyle Valley Railway Museum might also be open. Always difficult to tell with this one just what is happening there!
 
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citybus

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I've no idea what the lifespan of the current track & trains on the Coleraine to Portrush line is, but when it is due for replacement would it be worthwhile to convert the branch to tram? The main advantage as I see it would be so you could cheaply build several overtaking lanes (it's currently single track with a poor service frequency) as well as diverting the passengers to a new halt at the university's front door rather than in the middle of nowhere. Longer term you could extend it further into Portrush peninsular, maybe further into Coleraine, or even Portstewart (all via on street running).

I know with Portrush & Coleraine's tiny populations this kind of project wouldn't have a great business case, but if you were to take that line of reasoning to it's logical conclusion you would have closed this branch decades ago. As I said though, when the rails are due for replacement... maybe a few second hand luas trams would be for sale?
 

MidnightFlyer

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AFAIK the track up to Portrush isn't in that bad a shape, I think Londonderry is the last line that needs work. At the moment the service is roughly 1tph, split into 45-75 minute splits. In the summer it gets direct trains through from Belfast, and until next spring will get them all year round on the account of Londonderry's closure. It is well patronised from what I can see, however never enough in a million years to justify throwing millions upon millions at conversion. I don't think the frequency needs improving, even in high summer it seems to cope, especially with the new C4K trains replacing the old 450 Class. Tram conversion would be expensive, overkill and ultimately pointless - the numbers would nowhere near justify the cost, especially in the winter, plus you'd lose the well patronised through service from Belfast. It's totally illogical from what I can see.
 

citybus

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Fair enough if you think it's a solution looking for a problem. But would you say the same 20, 50, or 100 years down the line when the rails will inevitably need replaced?

Anyway, the reason why I came up with the idea is because there's a branch line in the outskirts of London which is probably going to be converted into trams as it's seen as a cheaper way of building the desirable passing places needed to make the frequency more substantial.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbey_Line

The three major differences between it and Portrush though are that it's already electrified, there is no through route to elsewhere, and the population is much higher.
 

citybus

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It can still be seen in the entrance to Central Station, no doubt that orange marble is bomb proof, and the entrance building is separate from the taller main building so it protects the latter

 
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