Last Friday, Denis McCabe, Stephen Hirsch and I paid a visit to Bord na Mona’s (Peat Board) three-foot gauge industrial railway feeding the Lough Rea Power Station at Lanesboroughin County Longford.
My first visit to Lanesborough portion of the extensive Irish Bord na Mona network was back in 2013. This is my favorite Bord na Mona operation for a variety for a reasons. It’s the most accessible by road, by far the most scenic (as bog railways go), and has great variety.
By virtue of its operations, Bord na Mona peat trains tend to operate in pairs. This suits both loading and switching, since trains often need to reverse into or out of temporary loading spurs.
So, when one train appears, its ‘buddy’ is usually close at hand. Sometimes these operate very closely, often only a few yards apart, other times they might separated by five or ten minutes.
Mid-morning, laden trains return toward Lanesborough while empty train prepare to head out to loading areas in the surrounding bogs. The result is that a parade of trains tend to converge on double track sections near the Lough Rea Power Station.
Once the loads are in and the empties have gone out, the line is again quiet, although maintenance trains will occasionally appear during these lulls. After lunch the whole sequence repeats.
For the photographer the bursts of intense action is both opportunity and a challenge. Everything seems to happen at once, making for chances to catch two or more trains in a photo. However, if you are out of position, you could miss everything.
Headlights are often not illuminated in daytime and sometimes it is the sound of a train that gives you advanced notice.
The bogs are quiet enough. Listen for the sounds of Wagon Master locomotive roaring along with a syncopated clatter of wagons. The trains don’t travel very fast, but you need to be ready for when they arrive.
See yesterday’s post for more on Bord na Mona’s Lanesborough netwrok:
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.
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!