Tag Archives: River Shannon

View from King John’s Castle, Limerick—I photographed a train by accident.

Standing upon the wall of King John’s Castle in Limerick, I made this photograph looking in a northerly direction.

I found that I could just see the top of Irish Rail’s bridge on the Limerick-Ennis Line (top right). (Not to be confused with the prominent non-rail spans over the River Shannon at the top left).

I was about to consult my phone to see when the next train was scheduled, when I noticed a Ennis-Limerick railcar rolling toward Colbert Station. ‘Poor timing’ I thought, ‘I’ve just missed a train.’

No, actually the timing was perfect. So perfect in fact I didn’t even know I’d caught the train until I inspected my results later in the day.

The old castle walls offer a commanding view of the Shannon. If you look carefully immediately to the left of  church, you might just notice a two-piece Irish Rail silver and green railcar crossing a green bridge.
Here’s an enlargement of the image.

Wait! You don’t believe me do you? Admit it, you think I sat upon that wall in anticipation, all the while poised waiting for the train to appear!

As they say in Philadelphia, ‘Uh uh.’

Next time, I’ll bring a big telephoto lens.

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Further Adventures with Irish Narrow Gauge.

Bord na Mona, September 2014.

Bord na Mona loads near Blackwater, September 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.
Bord na Mona loads near Blackwater, September 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 40mm pancake lens.

I’ve received great interest in my various previous posts on Ireland’s Bord na Mona narrow gauge turf railways. [See: Irish Narrow Gauge: Bord na Mona Approaching SunsetBord na Mona, Lanesborough, August 10, 2013Irish Bog Railways—Part 4, August, 2013.]

In summary: After a decade of my relative neglect, in the last two years I’ve made a dozen or so excursions to explore and photograph Ireland’s Bord na Mona railways.

These consists of several rather extensive three-foot gauge networks largely focused on the delivery of milled peat to electrical generating stations in Ireland’s midlands counties.

The largest and busiest network is that focused on the Shannonbridge power plant along the River Shannon. Although this network demands the most amount of turf and in theory runs the most number of trains, it is one the more difficult systems to photograph.

This is partly a function of the bogs served by the railway, which are largely inaccessible by road. Also, some of the trains cross the Shannon by a bridge, and there is no comparable road bridge, so it makes following these trains very difficult.

However, I’ve found that using good maps and remaining patient pays off. On this September afternoon about a month ago, Denis McCabe, Colm O’Callaghan and I visited several locations on the Shannonbridge system.

Based on previous experiences, we aimed for known good locations. While we only found a few trains moving, the photography was successful. This a sampling of my recent results.

Hunslet builders plate on a old Bord na Mona locomotive. Lumix LX7 photo.
Hunslet builders plate on a old Bord na Mona locomotive. Lumix LX7 photo.
Bord na Mona locomotives at Shannonbridge. Lumix LX7 photo.
Bord na Mona locomotives at Shannonbridge. Lumix LX7 photo.
panel track trucks. Lumix LX7 photo.
panel track trucks. Lumix LX7 photo.
Bord na Mona empties approach a grade crossing near the Blackwater depot. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Bord na Mona empties approach a grade crossing near the Blackwater depot. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Bord na Mona loads catch the evening sun near Blackwater, September 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.
Bord na Mona loads catch the evening sun near Blackwater, September 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens.

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Irish Bog Railways—Part 3, March 2, 2013

Bord na Mona trains
A pair of Bord na Mona laden peat trains revese upgrade on temporary track near Annaghmore, County Longford. To maintain adhesion, sand is applied to the rails.

Saturday, March 2, 2013, some of my Dublin friends and I made another foray to County Longford to explore Bord na Mona’s Lanesborough/Mountdillon narrow gauge railway network. As I mentioned in Irish Bog Railways; Part 2, this is one of several extensive Bord na Mona narrow gauge railway systems. This one primarily serves the Lough Ree Power Station along the River Shannon. (Last autumn, we explored Bord na Mona’s network focused on the Edenderry Power plant, see Irish Bog Railways; Part 1)

Bord na Mona
A coupled pair of laden Bord na Mona trains struggles upgrade, laying sand down as they ascend a short steep grade on the run back toward Mountdillon. This is the same stretch of track pictured in Irish Bog Railways–Part 2.

Unlike Irish mainline railways, Bord na Mona operates on very lightly built track. Temporary spurs are laid out on the bog for loading trains with harvested turf. While these temporary tracks may only stay in place for weeks or months, Bord na Mona main trunks are well established, with some in place for five decades. Key routes are built with broadly spaced double-track The nature of the operation requires that trains are run cautiously, and rarely exceed 15 mph. Typically peat trains operate in pairs to assist with loading and reverse moves. At times these may be coupled together. In addition to trains of peat gather rakes, Bord na Mona also runs a host of maintenance trains, including fueling trains used to supply machines working in harvesting areas.

Bord_na_Mona_hedgerows_double_track_Lanesborough_IMG_0444
A bustle in the hedgerow; near Lanesborough on March 2, 2013.

The railway’s setting ranges from bucolic rolling woodlands to other-worldly landscapes consisting of heavily harvested bog lands. Trains announce their presence by a distinctive clattering that pierces the relative serenity of the bog. The combination of diminutive locomotives, track panels with steel sleepers, short trains and sections of hastily built temporary track, makes the whole operation seem like a vast, but delightful model railway.

Irish narrow gauge turf railway.
Gatekeeper gives a laden train a wave on March 2, 2013. Catching the flashing lights on the gates requires a bit of practice. Exposed with a Panasonic Lumix LX-3.

Saturday began dull and misty, but brightened toward the end of the day. I made several hundred images with my digital cameras, while exposing more than a roll of Fuji Provia 100F with my Canon EOS 7D. Our conversations with Bord na Mona staff, found them hospitable and knowledgeable. We returned to Dublin, happy with our day’s efforts while formulating plans for our next adventure on Ireland’s elusive 3-foot gauge railways.

Bord na Mona bridge at Mountdillon.
Bord na Mona bridge at Mountdillon.
Train driver holds recent issues of the Irish Railway Record Society Journal. This compact magazine covers contemporary and historical Irish railway topics including Bord na Mona operations. It is available through membership of the IRRS.
Train driver holds recent issues of the Irish Railway Record Society Journal. This compact magazine covers contemporary and historical Irish railway topics including Bord na Mona operations. It is available through membership of the IRRS. See Irish Railway Record Society
Bord na Mona
Empty train negotiates a tight curve on the double track Bord na Mona line between Lanesborough and Mountdillon on March 2, 2013. Exposed with a Canon 7D.
Lough Rea Power Station
An afternoon view finds soft light on the Lough Ree Power Station at Lanesborough, County Longford. Bord na Mona’s operations on its Lanesborough railway network are largely focused on delivering peat to this plant. Other activities include operation of an ash train that takes away waste ash from the plant.
Some blooming gorse adds a splash of color to a bleak landscape. Loading areas on the bog, offer open views of the trains in an austere otherworldly environment.
Some blooming gorse adds a splash of color to a bleak landscape. Loading areas on the bog, offer open views of the trains in an austere otherworldly environment.
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Irish Bog Railways—Part 2 February 16, 2013

Ireland’s Bord na Móna  (Peat Board) was the topic of my post, Gallery 8: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1 in November 2012. Yesterday, February 16 2013, I made another exploratory trip into the bog. Where previous investigations focused on operations at Edenderry, County Offaly, this trip was to the network that serves the Lough Ree Power Station along the River Shannon at Lanesborough, County Longford. Among the peculiarities of Bord na Móna’s narrow gauge operations are its temporary sidings laid out on the bog for the purpose of loading trains. Until put in place, these tracks resemble those of an oversized model railway and are in fixed sections held together by steel sleepers (ties), and often stacked in piles awaiting installation. The bog itself is spongy and wet, thus ill suited to permanent infrastructure. Since temporary track is only used at very slow speed for short periods of time, niceties normally afforded railway lines, such as grading, leveling, and drainage, aren’t considered.

wavy tracks
Bord na Móna feeder for temporary track near Mt Dillon, County Longford; exposed with a Canon 7D with f2.8 200mm lens; ISO 400, f4.5 1/640th second.

This telephoto view exaggerates the undulating quality of a roadside Bord na Mona spur used to access an area of bog ready for harvesting. This particular section of track may be left in place for years to tap short-lived harvesting spurs.

This photographic adventure is among my works in progress; I plan to display more images of Bord na Móna in upcoming posts.

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