Remembering the Ballinrobe to Claremorris Railway

2019 marked the 60th anniversary of the closure of the Ballinrobe to Claremorris Railway. The Ballinrobe and Claremorris Light Railway Co. Ltd was formed in 1884 and was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1885. Previous unsuccessful proposals had been made to extend the Limerick line through Ballinrobe onto Ballina and to extend the Claremorris line through Ballinrobe to Cong. In April 1885, engineers were appointed and plans drawn up. The Mayo Grand Jury guaranteed to pay shareholders a dividend of 4%, with the local baronies covering any cost overruns if the line was not profitable.

History of the line

In 1889, the contract to build the line was awarded to Worthington Company and construction began to extend the line from Claremorris to Ballinrobe through Hollymount. The course of the river Robe made the task of bringing the line to Hollymount village (seat of Lord Fitzpatrick) very difficult. It was agreed to construct the station in Roundfort instead, thus avoiding three additional bridges. As an appeasement to Lord Fitzpatrick, the station was still named Hollymount.

By the end of 1890, over 200 men were employed working 72 hours per week for 14 shillings. During construction, the bog at Derrymore was drained and ground level reduced by three feet. Cuttings were created at Caltra and Kilrush with a three arched bridge constructed at Caltra and an Iron Bridge also built over the Robe River. The line from Claremorris to Ballinrobe, via Hollymount, was opened on the 1st of November 1892.

What the line was used for

Ballinrobe was to become the largest livestock forwarding station in the west which was a large source of revenue to the local area. With a large Army garrison in Ballinrobe the station was regularly used for the movement of troops and supplies, with specials trains running from the North Wall in Dublin bringing 300 tons of the fuel for their use on the last day of each month. Town deliveries to various wholesalers, businesses and shops were by a horse drawn, flat-bedded float with some of the drivers being Jim Monaghan, Davy Murphy, Stephen Burke and Michael Coyne.

The importance of the railway for tourism

Ballinrobe train service contributed to an increase in tourists in the area and one important guest was the Prince of Wales, later King George V of England in June 1912 who stayed at Ashford Castle in Cong. There were regular arrivals and departures of tourists, with many fishermen coming to fish on Lough Mask and Lough Carra.

Line closure

In October 1959, notices appeared in the daily papers announcing the  imminent closure of the Ballinrobe line. Despite representations and protests from public representatives, local farmers, traders and exporters, the line was closed on the 31st of December, 1959. The closure marked the end of an era for this area. The line served this community for 72 years but now is largely overgrown and forgotten. The Hollymount station building, however, has survived and is now the beautiful home of the Fox family.

Commemorative plaque at Lehinch school

To mark the 50th anniversary of the closure, a plaque was erected at Lehinch School beside the Lissatava railway crossing. Those who grew up in the area recall the train passing by the school and Mrs Murphy opening the gates. Denis Murphy, who grew up in the house at the Lissatava crossing, kindly provided this photo of the lines being lifted at Lissatava very soon after the lines closure.

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *