Irish Bog Railways—Part 3, March 2, 2013

Bord na Mona trains
A pair of Bord na Mona laden peat trains revese upgrade on temporary track near Annaghmore, County Longford. To maintain adhesion, sand is applied to the rails.

Saturday, March 2, 2013, some of my Dublin friends and I made another foray to County Longford to explore Bord na Mona’s Lanesborough/Mountdillon narrow gauge railway network. As I mentioned in Irish Bog Railways; Part 2, this is one of several extensive Bord na Mona narrow gauge railway systems. This one primarily serves the Lough Ree Power Station along the River Shannon. (Last autumn, we explored Bord na Mona’s network focused on the Edenderry Power plant, see Irish Bog Railways; Part 1)

Bord na Mona
A coupled pair of laden Bord na Mona trains struggles upgrade, laying sand down as they ascend a short steep grade on the run back toward Mountdillon. This is the same stretch of track pictured in Irish Bog Railways–Part 2.

Unlike Irish mainline railways, Bord na Mona operates on very lightly built track. Temporary spurs are laid out on the bog for loading trains with harvested turf. While these temporary tracks may only stay in place for weeks or months, Bord na Mona main trunks are well established, with some in place for five decades. Key routes are built with broadly spaced double-track The nature of the operation requires that trains are run cautiously, and rarely exceed 15 mph. Typically peat trains operate in pairs to assist with loading and reverse moves. At times these may be coupled together. In addition to trains of peat gather rakes, Bord na Mona also runs a host of maintenance trains, including fueling trains used to supply machines working in harvesting areas.

Bord_na_Mona_hedgerows_double_track_Lanesborough_IMG_0444
A bustle in the hedgerow; near Lanesborough on March 2, 2013.

The railway’s setting ranges from bucolic rolling woodlands to other-worldly landscapes consisting of heavily harvested bog lands. Trains announce their presence by a distinctive clattering that pierces the relative serenity of the bog. The combination of diminutive locomotives, track panels with steel sleepers, short trains and sections of hastily built temporary track, makes the whole operation seem like a vast, but delightful model railway.

Irish narrow gauge turf railway.
Gatekeeper gives a laden train a wave on March 2, 2013. Catching the flashing lights on the gates requires a bit of practice. Exposed with a Panasonic Lumix LX-3.

Saturday began dull and misty, but brightened toward the end of the day. I made several hundred images with my digital cameras, while exposing more than a roll of Fuji Provia 100F with my Canon EOS 7D. Our conversations with Bord na Mona staff, found them hospitable and knowledgeable. We returned to Dublin, happy with our day’s efforts while formulating plans for our next adventure on Ireland’s elusive 3-foot gauge railways.

Bord na Mona bridge at Mountdillon.
Bord na Mona bridge at Mountdillon.
Train driver holds recent issues of the Irish Railway Record Society Journal. This compact magazine covers contemporary and historical Irish railway topics including Bord na Mona operations. It is available through membership of the IRRS.
Train driver holds recent issues of the Irish Railway Record Society Journal. This compact magazine covers contemporary and historical Irish railway topics including Bord na Mona operations. It is available through membership of the IRRS. See Irish Railway Record Society
Bord na Mona
Empty train negotiates a tight curve on the double track Bord na Mona line between Lanesborough and Mountdillon on March 2, 2013. Exposed with a Canon 7D.
Lough Rea Power Station
An afternoon view finds soft light on the Lough Ree Power Station at Lanesborough, County Longford. Bord na Mona’s operations on its Lanesborough railway network are largely focused on delivering peat to this plant. Other activities include operation of an ash train that takes away waste ash from the plant.
Some blooming gorse adds a splash of color to a bleak landscape. Loading areas on the bog, offer open views of the trains in an austere otherworldly environment.
Some blooming gorse adds a splash of color to a bleak landscape. Loading areas on the bog, offer open views of the trains in an austere otherworldly environment.
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