Irish Peat Blog

Updated 5 January 2014

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Exploring the Irish Narrow Gauge Peat Railways operated by Bord na Mona and private contractors

There is now a second page here starting with the 23 May report.

I have now added an overview.

16 May

The plan was to go via the Ffestiniog and WHR to the ferry. Sam, one of the C2 project members and a Ffestiniog driver, arranged a footplate pass for us on Blanche which was a very nice way to start the trip.

17 May - First look (barely awake!)

We had a long morning to pass after getting off the ferry and before checking in so we explored our first bog and found a number of locos and trains on the Blackwater system which supplies milled peat to the West Offaly power station at Shannonbridge. Everyone seems friendly but today we will approach one of the bigger offices at Shannonbridge to see how much access they will give us to yards and depots. Although we applied for a permit, it hadn't arrived by the time we left the UK. However, the expert says, 'I've never had one'. We shall see.

Wagonmaster LM 396 (modified as a diesel hydraulic) heads for the loading area following 2 trains propelled and pulled by the second loco in the middle of the whole lot. The shunt operation (as follows), allowed the two locos to move round to the front of the trains for the return trip. First loco detached and moved foward on the main line. Second loco propelled the first train and hauled the second train onto the bog for loading. First loco then reversed and followed behind onto the bog. Both locos are now in the right position for the return working.

Brilliant sunshine and gorse near Blackwater as a loaded train heads for Shannonbridge. Unfortunately, I wasn't really awake and missed the best sequence on the video.

18 May - Blackwater system

A full day on the Blackwater system starting at Shannonbridge power station and finishing at the Ballyduff peat centre to the north we visited on our arrival day.

We saw a wider range of vehicles today including an original rod-driven Wagonmaster complete with its curved Wagonmaster plate on the side and a Hunslet plate on the front, a track maintainance vehicle and a converted tractor.

We were also able to prove that scenic shots are possible if you have enough time to research the places.

Two trains visible in this picture.

Two trains plus a bog vehicle are in this one.

The route back from the bogs is not all flat and not all bog. The last 3 shots were taken in an area known as The Pinnacle

19 May - Derrygreenaugh/Edenderry system

We visited the Derrygreenaugh/Edenderry system and caught up with some of the older classes of loco (but mainly OOU or parked up).

Two Diemar long out of use at Derrygreenaugh

Ruston (for scrap?) at the same location

Ruston on a service train at Rathvilla

Railcar destined for Ted MacAvoy awaiting collection at Derrygreenaugh

When wagons have problems (in this case, axle failure), they are tipped off the track

Hunslet diesel hydraulic LM382, the fore-runners of the modern Bord na Mona and Wagonmaster conversions

Sod peat, the traditional way of drying peat to be used as fuel

20 May - Significant structures - Lift Bridge, Croghan Tippler and Rush Hour near Edenderry

We headed back to the largest system to see two impressive structures, the Grand Canal lift bridge and the viaduct. We called first at a tea centre linked to the viaduct only to find one loco failed and nothing happening. Heading next to the lift bridge, we got lucky with 2 trains of empties. The lift bridge operator was surprised by their arrival so they may have been diverted because of the loco failure.

Following lunch, we visited the viaduct but trains on here would not show up well on a still due to the width of the bridge and the height of the parapet, although a video may work to some extent.

We then headed for Croghan Tippler where milled peat is transhipped to lorries to speed the peat to Edenderry or reduce traffic on the railway which is almost at capacity. We saw 9 trains in a very short space of time at the location below outside Edenderry.

Still looking for scenic locations, we returned to Croghan Tippler for these last 2 shots of the day.

21 May - Sod peat, briquettes and back-end tipplers at the Attymon Peat Co-operative

We started the day heading west from Athlone on the new M6 motorway to junction 16 where we found a small broad gauge preservation site at Dunsandle on the site of a former CIE station.

Loco E428 at Dunsandle - a coach and some stock is also here but very limited track

We were heading for the Attymon Peat Co-op system (taken over from Bord na Mona when the bog was almost worked out) with their Ruston fleet. In the event, we found nothing moving but the two sites Laragh and Clonkeen were both of interest. Clonkeen may be working 'tomorrow' but our host at Laragh said the tippler was last used in October 2009.

The back-end tippler at Laragh

The tippler at Clonkeen

Loco No. 4 has no windows in the cab and no seat and would have to be driven by standing on the running board or walking along beside the loco. This Ruston is still active when the tippler is in use.

This Ruston at Laragh is more conventional and still shows its Bord na Mona number LM128

Thatched pub at Kiltullagh looked inviting - unfortunately it was around 10 am and a bit early for a beer

A thoroughly 'narrow gauge' notice to drivers - focussing on the type of driving conditions they face - seen in the Ruston on the tippler at Laragh

At Clonkeen we begged a souvenir briquette. Sod peat is often turned into briquettes for use in modern homes. The Co-op equipment is all ex-BNM.

22 May

Saturday only gives guaranteed action on lines serving power stations so we headed back to Shannonbridge with a plan to also visit the Blackwater Works and the museum collection there. First we got lucky with two trains at The Pinnacles in great light. After visiting Shannonbridge and Blackwater we finished off with 2 trains from the bog before end of work at 3 pm. There will be no further peat trains until Monday.

The bridge to the south system at Shannonbridge

Former Clonmacnoise & West Offaly Railway loco and coach in the museum line up at Blackwater. This tourist operation once took tourist out onto Blackwater bog.

Wickham railcar

Railcar in good condition

Some obsolete peat digging equipment is also on display

Line up of derelict Deutz with a Gleismac on the right

This page is now getting too long so I will start a second page for our final 6 days. For the second page, click here.

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