London Area Meetings

The London Area of the IRRS provides a welcoming forum in England for those who are interested in Irish transport, particularly railways, both past and contemporary. From October to the following April, meetings are held in central London. Well attended and featuring interesting & expert presenters, many of whom travel from Ireland, the talks are an opportunity for our speakers to impart specialist knowledge and information. London Area programme for 2018/19 can be downloaded here / see London Area’s website.

London Area – 2018 / 2019 programme

18 October 2018
  • “Valencia Harbour Branch” by Barry Carse 

Longstanding Irish enthusiast and regular contributor to the Journal, Barry Carse, revisits the London Area with fascinating new research about the Valencia Harbour branch. Building on a recently discovered report, “Closing of Unremunerative Branch Lines” written by railwaymen rather than accountants, he will describe the branch, its history and its steam and diesel locomotives, finishing with railcar trials and GAA specials. The talk will be illustrated using many photos from the IRRS archive not previously seen and collated in high digital quality by the IRRS photo archivist, Ciaran Cooney. This most westerly and scenic Irish line had a character all of its own.

15 November 2018
  • “Current and Future Fleet development on Irish Rail” by Peter Smyth (Chief Mechanical Engineer, Irish Rail)

Peter has principal responsibility for the procurement, maintenance and overhaul of all rolling stock operated by Irish Rail. He will not only cover day-to-day operations but, with continuing pressure to drive down costs, will look at many recent innovations including remote diagnostics, condition monitoring, acoustic monitoring of bearings, automatic wheel measurement and other measurement systems. He will also take a look forward to consider what form future Irish rolling stock might take, and how it might be operated and maintained.

6 December 2018
  • “Listowel to Cobh, 1978 to 1986” – Slideshow by Gerry McMahon (+ London Area AGM)

Born into a railway family in Tralee, London Area member Gerry McMahon has a deep knowledge and understanding of the railways in South-West Ireland. He will deal with his home town of Tralee and the south-west during that intriguing period of transition when the loose coupled goods was about to give way to liner trains and steam heated carriages from the 50s formed the majority of the stock. It was the end of the traditional style of railway operation which had endured since the steam age. Included will be beet traffic at Abbeydorney and Fenit; Tralee North Kerry Yard; steam cranes at work; passenger specials at Killarney and Youghal; semaphore signalling and ETS working; and perhaps most interesting, a look at some of the people who worked the system, some undertaking jobs that were once vital but are no longer required on today’s railway. Many of us remember that era – almost hard to believe that is now just a chapter in history, even if a most fascinating one.

17 January 2019
  • “A magnificent folly – the Burtonport Extension Railway” by Roger Crombleholme

Author and enthusiast, Roger Crombleholme, tells how the BER became a legend in its own time for its wayward operation, broken down engines, bad management, erratic driving, poor punctuality, lost goods and a running battle with the Board of Works. But, oh, how we wish we could make that epic journey again on the 3ft gauge from Letterkenny, never mind the four hours on hard wooden seats in unlit coaches, to make the perilous crossing of the Owencarrow valley on a stormy night and arrive on the rocky shores of Burtonport.

14 February 2019
  • “NIR – the Good the Bad and the Ugly” by Colin McVea (Signalling and Telecom Engineer, NIR)

“The good, the bad and the ugly” is a reflection of Colin’s 30 years with NIR, from working on track through to managing staff. The talk stems from a number of accidents and incidents, each of which identified the need for change. Today’s NIR is very different from that of the railway of 30 years ago. The many characters from the old days (and their stories) have been replaced by investment, equipment, safety, performance, competency. Colin describes how the whole culture of the railway has changed and how that has come about.

14 March 2019
  • “Railways of County Wexford” by Oliver Doyle

Former Irish Rail manager and railway expert, Oliver Doyle, explores the fascinating history of Wexford’s railways. This rich agricultural county, noted both for farm produce and manufacturing farm machinery, had a good railway network. There was keen competition to gain rail access to Wexford and Waterford and the GWR, jointly with the GS&WR, became involved with its line from Rosslare Strand – Waterford, over the fine Barrow bridge. Oliver’s talk will take an expert look at the rise and demise of Wexford’s railways and their traffic.

 4 April 2019 
  • “Classic Irish Steam” by Ciaran Cooney

IRRS Photographic Archivist, Ciaran Cooney, has skilfully restored the classic photos of Bob Clements, Denis Morris and J Macartney Robbins. Enjoy stirring shots of 400s, 500s and 800s hard at work. There will be rarely-seen places like Clara Midland and Inny Junction. Then high-wheeled J5s on the Midland doing everything from cattle trains to excursions, and 2-4-0’s in the west.. The talk moves on to the SL&NCR, the GN, the B&CDR, and the NCC moguls, mogul tanks and 4-4-0’s. This is a veritable feast of classic Irish steam.

Meetings begin at 7:00pm and conclude at 9:45pm and entry is £3 members, £5 non-members (except £3 in December). The non-member entry fee is refunded if you join the Society on the night.

London meetings are held in the Function Room, Calthorpe Arms, 252 Gray’s Inn Road, LONDON WC1X 8JR

The IRRS also has regional meetings for its branches in Dublin and Cork.