Irish Rail Bray Head, Co. Wicklow, 4 July 1998

Looking Back on Irish Rail.

Fifteen years ago today, I exposed this image of Irish Rail’s empty Ammonia train at on the South Eastern route Bray Head (former Dublin & South Eastern Railway, nee Dublin, Wicklow & Wexford Railway).

Train at Bray Head, Ireland
Irish Rail empty ammonia works around Brayhead, County Wicklow. Exposed on Fuji Sensia 100 with a Nikon F3T fitted with an f2.8 135mm lens. Exposed calculated manually with a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld light meter.

At that time, there were three daily ammonia trains between Marino Point, County Cork and Shelton Abbey near Arklow, County Wicklow. The trains operated to tight schedules and were among the most predictable freight trains on the Irish Rail network.

For me the Ammonia was a bonus. I was actually out for a Railway Preservation Society Ireland (RPSI) steam special running with engine 461. To make the most of the morning, I taken the first southward Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) run from Pearse Station (Dublin) to Bray, then walked roughly two miles to this location in anticipation of catching the regular passenger trains and the empty Ammonia.

The line itself was in transition. If you look carefully, you’ll see the electrification masts along the line, as Irish Rail was preparing for extension of DART services to Greystones (the next station south of Bray).

The run around Bray Head is one of the most scenic on Irish Rail. Here the line clings to cliff and passes through several tunnels all the while in view of the vast expanse of the Irish Sea.

It was my first July 4th outside of North America. Irish Rail’s ammonia traffic ceased in 2002, when the fertilizer factory at Shelton Abbey closed. Today there’s no regular freight traffic on the South Eastern route.

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