Tag Archives: Shannonbridge

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 Narrow Gauge: Bord na Mona Approaching Sunset

Empties Climbing Away from the River Blackwater at Corbane.

In August 2014, Denis McCabe and I continued our on-going exploration of the Bord na Mona (Irish Peat Board) narrow gauge railway network. (see: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1More Adventures with Ireland’s Bord na Mona—September 2013, and Bord na Mona’s Ash Train, among other previous posts).

We followed a pair of empties from Shannonbridge, eastward toward Ferbane. Access is limited, owing to the nature of the bogs. Toward the end of the day, we set up at the N62 highway overpass, where the Bord na Mona’s line climbs away from the River Blackwater.

Bord na Mona's three-foot gauge tracks looking west toward Shannon Bridge in August 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Bord na Mona’s three-foot gauge tracks looking west toward Shannon Bridge in August 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

My challenge was making the most of the backlit scene. The sun was setting almost immediately behind the train. I opted for my 200mm lens in order to compress the perspective, eliminate the sky, and minimize the effects of flare. I positioned myself near post on the side of the road to help shade the front element of my lens.

Here the effects of backlighting combined with the long telephoto lens make for a cinematic look; the exhaust of the locomotive is more pronounced, the wavy condition of the tracks are exaggerated, and the pastoral scene made more impressive.

Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with f2.8 200mm lens set at 1/500th of a second at f5.6. Front element of the lens was shaded from direct sun.
Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with f2.8 200mm lens set at 1/500th of a second at f5.6. Front element of the lens was shaded from direct sun.

I particularly like the silhouette of the train driver in the cab, which emphasizes the human element.

My only disappointment with the photos is that the following train hadn’t effectively enter the scene. (Often Bord na Mona trains working in pairs follow one right after the other. In this situation, the following train was just around the bend.) But, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to make images with two or more Bord na Mona trains, so I’ll settle for this one of a lone train.

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More Adventures with Ireland’s Bord na Mona—September 2013.

 

Shannonbridge and More!

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.

Bord na Mona
Trailing view of Bord na Móna’s Shannonbridge empty ash train returning to Shannonbridge, County Offaly, Ireland. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Bord na Mona
Laden peat train near Shannonbridge, September 2013. Exposed with a Lumix LX3.
Laden trains approach Shannonbridge. Canon EOS 7D photo with f2.8 200mm lens.
Laden trains approach Shannonbridge. Canon EOS 7D photo with f2.8 200mm lens.

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 Móna operation. 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.

Level crossing gate.
Closing the level crossing gates on Ireland’s R357 east of Cloghan, County Offaly. Canon EOS 7D 7D photo with f2.8 200mm lens.
Rare photo of briquette train.
A Derrinlough-based Bord na Móna train near Cloghan, County Offaly. Canon EOS 7D 7D photo with f2.8 200mm lens.
Bord na Mona.
A Derrinlough-based Bord na Móna train crosses highway R357 near Cloghan, County Offaly. Lumix LX3 photo.
Bord na Mona
Trailing view of Derrinlough-based Bord na Móna trains near Cloghan, County Offaly. Canon EOS 7D 7D photo with f2.8 200mm lens.

 

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.

Gallery 8: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1Irish Bog Railways—Part 2 February 16, 2013Irish Bog Railways—Part 3, March 2, 2013Irish Bog Railways—Part 4, August, 2013; and Bord na Mona’s Ash Train.

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Bord na Mona’s Ash Train

An Elusive Catch.

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.)

Bord na Mona, ash train.
Bord na Mona’s laden ash train works east from the West Offaly power station at Shannonbridge. The ash train carries waste ash (left over from the burning of peat) for disposal back into the bog. Canon EOS 7D photo.

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.

Bord na Mona, ash train.
Trailing view of Bord na Mona’s ash train near Shannonbridge. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Bord na Mona, ash train.
The laden ash train roars along at a walking pace near Blackwater. Lumix LX3 photo, contrast modified in post processing.

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!

Bord na Mona, ash train.
Bord na Mona ash train near Blackwater, August 2013. Canon EOS 7D photo.

 

 

Irish Bog Railways—Part 4, August, 2013

 

Bord na Mona’s Blackwater Network Revisited.

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.

Bord na Mona narrow gauge.
My August 2013 visit to the Blackwater network found the bog under rapidly changing skies. Lumix LX-3 photo. Contrast modified in post processing.

 

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:

Gallery 8: Irish Bog Railways—Part 1

Irish Bog Railways Part 2 

Irish Bog Railways Part 3 

Bord na Mona narrow gauge.
Empty Bord na Mona narrow gauge train heading out to be loaded. August 2013. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens.

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!

Bord na Mona narrow gauge.
In addition to laden and empty peat trains, Bord na Mona operates various type of maintenance  trains. Many of these are hauled by older and more eclectic looking locomotives. August 2013. Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens.
Bord na Mona
Bord na Mona trains are loaded with peat. A section of temporary track sits in the foreground. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 28-135mm lens.
Bord na Mona
A sudden downpour drenches the boglands near Shannonbridge. Canon EOS 7D photo.
Bord na Mona
A laden Bord na Mona train crosses the Shannon near the West Offaly power plant. Discharge from the plant warms the river making it ideal for lilly pads to grow. Lumix LX3.

 

See tomorrow’s post for more Irish Bog Railway photos!

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