Bord na Mona (Irish peat board) operates an extensive network of narrow gauge industrial railways in the Irish midlands.
It has been nearly two years since I last explored this fascinating diminutive railway in action.
It helps to have the sun to photograph Bord na Mona, as the bog can be outright dreary on a dull wet day.
The sun seemed to have emerged from the lingering blanket of dampness that lately has prevailed across Ireland, so Denis McCabe and I made a foray to Shannonbridge, County Offaly location of the busiest Bord na Mona railway operation.
Bord na Mona trains come clattering along, often running in pairs or groups, but patience is often needed to find trains on the move.
Check out Tracking the Light’s archives for previous posts on the Bord na Mona.
Last week, Mark Healy and I made a foray into Irish bog lands searching for narrow gauge peat trains operated by Bord na Móna (Peat Board). We’d been watching the weather closely and tried to time our visit for a bright clear day.
We got it wrong. Despite a rosy sunrise in Dublin and generally good forecast, we faced fog, cloudy and just general overcast in County Offaly.
After more than a half dozen visits to this rarely photographed industrial railway, I thought I was beginning to have an understanding of their operations.
I got that wrong too! While, we’d photographed a dozen trains by the end of the day, actual operations were quite different than what I expected.
Initially we worked the lines radiating out from Shannonbridge. Our first train was the ever-elusive ash train. That was a bonus for us. After about five hours, having photographed several loaded and empty trains, we decided to head east toward Edenderry, which is the focus of another of Bord na Móna’s networks.
On the way we stumbled upon an obscure Bord na Mónaoperation. Driving east on highway R357 east of Cloghan, Mark noticed a level crossing. “Hey! There’s a pair of trains.” I mistook these for trains heading to Shannonbridge
My error was corrected when we chatted to one of the drivers. Turns out these were empty trains heading out loading to bring peat to the Derrinlough briquette factory. Just dumb luck to catch this operation.
We finished the day inspecting operations near Mt Lucas and Edenderry. Pity about the lack of sun.
I’ve dealt with Bord na Móna several times in previous posts.
Summer offers more pleasant temperatures and longer days, but also brings more foliage, taller grass and other challenges that I didn’t experience in February!
I think its safe to say that I didn’t get bored with Bord na Mona. From the first moment trackside, the railway seemed to be buzzing with trains. The section of double track running east from Lanesborough toward Mountdillon was especially busy.
I even had another opportunity to catch one of the ash trains on the move. (See: Bord na Mona’s Ash Train). Perhaps my bold proclamation of its elusivity has tipped the scales in my favor—a sort of reverse jinx, as it were.
Or maybe, its my persistence. It’s nice to get a lucky catch, but likewise, the more time spent trackside, the better the odds of seeing the unusual, as well as the elusive, the rare, and the obscure. Having a better sense for when trains run helps too!
For me anyway! On Saturday, August 3, 2013, I scored a few photographs of Bord na Mona’s ash train on the move near Shannonbridge, County Offaly. (Yes, and by the way, that’s ash train, and not ASH TRAY. Just to clarify.)
Now, someone at Bord na Mona might read this and say, “Elusive ash train? Why that’s scheduled to run every day at 2 pm.” Or, perhaps, it is scheduled to run every third Saturday after the first full moon on months that don’t end in ‘R’. (But, none-the-less, scheduled).
Irregardless, so far as I was concerned, photographing the ash train on the move was a real coup! In the last year, I’ve made a half dozen ventures to photograph Bord na Mona’s narrow gauge lines, this was the first time I’d seen an ash train on the move. Certainly, I’ve seen them before, just not rolling along out on the road.
Yet, I’d call it elusive! It’s all a matter of perspective. More on elusive (or at least unusual trains) in future posts.
Incidentally, unlike elusive trains, Tracking the Light regularly posts new material almost every day! So, to use an obsolete cliché, stay tuned!
It was fifteen years ago that I made my first acquaintance with Ireland’s bog railway, a narrow gauge network operated by Bord na Mona (peat board). At that time, a tourist train run as the Clonmacnoise & West Offaly made regularly scheduled trips from the Blackwater depot near Shannonbridge in County Offaly.
As I recall, it was an oppressively damp day. Having arrived under swollen skies, I checked in at the booking office, skeptical if the line was even in operation, only to learn that not only was it running, but that the first couple of trains were sold out!
Using the time between tourist trains, I made some black & white photos of the peat trains, then returned to ride the line.
On another occasion two years later, I returned with my father, and family friend Tom Hargadon, and made another spin out on the bog. Since that time, the Clonmacnoise & West Offaly excursion has been discontinued.
A Busy Irish Narrow Gauge Industrial Railway.
In early August 2013, I reacquainted myself with Bord na Mona’s Blackwater network, having explored other of Bord na Mona’s railway operations in recent months. See earlier posts:
Blackwater is from my experience, by far the busiest of Bord na Mona’s operations, as the West Offaly power station at Shannon Bridge has the most voracious appetite of the peat burning plants served by Bord na Mona narrow gauge railways. Quite simply there were trains crawling everywhere I went.
The day featured a rapidly changing sky. This made for some wonderful lighting and visual effects, but also resulted in me getting unexpectedly soaked when the sky suddenly opened up. One minute it was sunny, the next there was near horizontal rain! On my next visit I’ll bring plastic bags and a jumper!
See tomorrow’s post for more Irish Bog Railway photos!