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County Donegal Railways Joint Committee

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The County Donegal Railways Joint Committee operated in north-west Ireland during the 20th century.

It was incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1906 which authorized the joint purchase of the then Donegal Railway Company by the Great Northern Railway of Ireland and the Northern Counties Committee.

The lines controlled by the Joint Committee were:

  • The Finn Valley Railway (FVR). This was the first railway in County Donegal, running 14 miles (22 km) from Strabane – on the Londonderry and Enniskillen Railway (L&ER) (later part of the Great Northern Railway of Ireland) – to Stranorlar. Built to the Irish standard gauge of 5 ft 3 in (1600 mm), it opened on 7 September 1863, with the L&ER supplying the rolling stock. (Original station stops: Strabane, Clady, Castlefin, Liscooly, Killygordon, Cavan, Town Bridge and Stranorlar)
  • The West Donegal Railway: a narrow-gauge (3 ft; 914 mm) extension to the FVR 18 miles (29 km) in length from Stranorlar to Donegal (station stops: Stranorlar, Derg Bridge, Barnesmore, Lough Eske, Clar Bridge and Donegal Town)

In 1892 the two railways were combined to form the Donegal Railway Company, and the standard-gauge section was converted to narrow gauge. Further extensions followed, when a Government grant of £300,000 allowed the Company to build lines between:

  • Stranorlar and Glenties 24 miles (38 km), opened 1895 (station stops: Stranorlar, Ballybofey, Glenmore, Cloghan, Ballinamore, Fintown, Shallogans and Glenties)
  • Donegal Town to Killybegs 19 miles (30 km), opened 1893 (station stops: Donegal Town, Killymard, Mountcharles, Doorin Road, Inver, Port, Dunkineely, Bruckless, Ardara Road and Killybegs)

and the following extensions were built subsequently:

  • Strabane to Derry 14 miles (22 km), opened 1901 (station stops: Strabane, Ballymagorry, Ballyheather, Donemana, Cullion, New Buildings and Derry Victora Road)
  • Donegal Town to Ballyshannon 16 miles (26 km), opened 1903 (Station stops: Donegal Town, Drumbar, Laghey, Bridgetown, Ballintra, Rossnowlagh, Creevy and Ballyshannon)

The total mileage was now 105 miles (168 km); on 1 May 1906, the Joint Committee was set up. With the addition of a new line from Strabane to Letterkenny, 19 miles (30 km), (station stops: Strabane, Lifford, Ballindrait, Coolaghy, Raphoe, Convoy, Corngillagh, Glanmaquin and Letterkenny) opened on 1 January 1909, the final total mileage was 111 miles (178 km).

During the 1930s the County Donegal Railways became pioneers in the use of diesel traction. The first diesel railway was built in 1930 (the first diesel railcar anywhere in either Ireland or Britain), although two further petrol-engineed railcars were built before standardisation on diesel traction in 1934. Eight articulated diesel railcars were constructed by Walker Brothers of Wigan between 1934 and 1951, by which time virtually all passenger services were operated by diesel railcar. The railcars were capable of hauling trailers or freight waggons. A diesel locomotive named Phoenix (converted from a steam locomotive) was also used.

Upon closure at the end of 1959, the two most modern diesel railcars were sold to the Isle of Man Railway.

Details on this, and those above, taken from Railway Year Book 1912 (Railway Publishing Company)

Locomotives and rolling stock: 21 locomotives; 56 passenger vehicles; 304 goods vehicles Head offices, locomotive works etc at Stranorlar

The Glenties branch closed in 1947, the Strabane-Derry line closed in 1954 and the rest of the passenger services ended on 31 December 1959. Much of the railway was closed completely on 16 February 1960. The Donegal Railway Centre is being set up to contain historic details and artefacts of the CDRJC.

See Also


Sources of Information