The Belfast & County Down Railway (David & Charles)
The most easterly county in Ireland has at its north-west corner the estuary of the River Lagan. There stands, at what was 'the ford of the sandbank', the city and port of Belfast. In 1848 the infant Belfast & County Down Railway thrust along the shore of a sea-lough. then extended through the hinterland. It had three objectives: to reach a potential cross-channel seaport where Donaghadee seemed to be another Dover, to gain the county town of Downpatrick and the spa of Ballynahinch. and to take tourists to the Mourne Mountains.
The County Down suffered repeated disappointments and the expectations of Donaghadee and Downpatrick were unfulfilled. Compensation came with the phenomenally rapid growth of Belfast as a manufacturing city whereby the railway reaped an income from commuter traffic - hustling people to and from the shipyards. the mills, and the offices in rattling convoys of uncomfortable six-wheeled carriages. But the railway was not unadventurous and it ran its own paddle-steamers as a microcosm of the Clyde. and built a huge red-brick hotel. Less happy was the ill-advised purchase of four massive, coal-hungry, Baltic tank engines, used on stopping trains, for they were unsuited to the main line.
After withstanding two decades of shrinking profits, the system suffered much damage from the German air-raids in World War I I, and was expected to carry heavier traffic than ever before. Then, in the last winter of black-outs, the company was beggared by having to compensate the victims of a disastrous collision in 1945. Five years of under-utilisation followed that tragedy. Much of the system was closed in 1950, but the oldest fragment is now integrated with the rest of Ireland's railways.
Hardback, 48 pages, black & white photographs, maps
Condition: Good/Very Good with some fading to spine
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Updated: 29 December 2022