Back then, Irish Rail operated three daily ammonia trains between Marino Point, County Cork and Shelton Abbey near Arklow, County Wicklow. These were tightly scheduled and normally operated with the common 201-class General Motors diesels.
I was tuned into these trains, and made an effort to catch them in interesting locations. The traffic ended with little warning in 2002, so the photos I made are now prized images!
In addition to color slides, I exposed thousands of black & white images of Irish railways on 120 size film between 1999 and 2005 (and a few here and there since).
Most of these photos have never seen the light of day. This rare photo of the Ammonia train was just one of several exposures I made on that bright May afternoon in 2001.
Why didn’t I make a color photo? And who said I didn’t? Must color and black & white be mutual exclusive? Why not make a color photo and convert it later? Why color anyway?
I’ve often worked with multiple formats at the same time. Black & white has a number of advantages and I’ve long prided myself on mastering this archaic image-making process.
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).
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.