Heeding a prophecy of doom: Irish Rail 129 at Wellingtonbridge, Co. Wexford.

December 23, 2002 was a cold, wet, dark and mucky; in other words, typical sugar beet weather.

We were visiting the cabin at Wellingtonbridge, watching the machine load beet into ancient-looking four-wheel corrugated wagons. A steady ‘thump, thump, thump’ as the roots plopped into the wagons.

It wasn’t great for photography. But the driver of the laden beet (soon to depart Wellingtonbridge for Mallow, Co. Cork) said to me, ‘Get your photos now, this is all going away . . .’

Sadly, his prophecy came true. Old 129, a class 121 diesel built by General Motors at La Grange, Illinois in 1961, was cut up for scrap only a few months after I exposed this black & white photograph.

Exposed on black & white film with a Rolleiflex Model T.
Exposed on black & white film with a Rolleiflex Model T.


Irish Rail’s sugar beet traffic carried on for a few more years (three more than I thought it would). The last laden beet train departed Wellingtonbridge in January 2006. Afterwards, it was a downward spiral. Today, the wagons and loading machine are gone; the cabin is closed and the line rusty.

Yet, in the intervening months and years, I returned dozens of times, and made photos at all times of day and night. By the time the last beet train turned a wheel, I’d made hundreds of images of operation.

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