Derry Central Railway
Derry Central Railway, after being instigated by the Derry Central Railway Act of 1877, was constructed from Macfin Junction (which lies between Ballymoney and Coleraine), to Magherafelt. The train stations along the line were: Knockloughrim, Maghera, Upperlands, Kilrea, Garvagh, Aghadowey and Macfin. Lady Bruce of Downhill dug the first sod on Friday 31st August 1877, at Macfin. The railway line, and stations, took nearly two years to build. The line was officially opened by Lady Bruce on Wednesday 18th February 1880. It began carrying passenger traffic the following day, namely Thursday 19th February. It started to carry goods traffic on Monday 23rd February 1880.
Kilrea Railway Station
There were two local train stations, at a time, not far from where we lived. Kilrea railway station, some seven miles away, was opened on the 18th February 1880 by the Derry Central Railway. In September 1901, the railway station was taken over by the Northern Counties Committee.
And even closer to us, i.e. less than three miles away, was a very small station called Tamlaght Halt. The Tamlaght train station was opened by the Northern Counties Committee on 1st May 1917. It was on the Derry Central Railway, which ran from Magherafelt to Macfin Junction near Coleraine. Tamlaght Halt was only for foot passengers – any goods for transport had to be taken to nearby Kilrea station.
The Derry Central Railway was an Irish gauge – i.e. 5 ft 3 inch wide line. The railway line was instigated by the Derry Central Railway Act of 1877. It was just over 29 miles long (47km), and linked Macfin Junction (between Coleraine and Ballymoney) to Magherafelt. The stops along the line included: Maghera, Upperlands, Kilrea, Garvagh and Aghadowey. Although officially independent, the railway line was funded by the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway.
The line between Magherafelt and Macfin opened in early 1880. But it was never profitable. In September 1901, it was bought by the Northern Counties Committee for £85,000.
In 1936 two trains each day ran from Belfast to Coleraine via the Derry Central Railway line as well as one other train (consisting of two coaches) from Magherafelt to Coleraine.
The train stations at Kilrea and Tamlaght were finally closed to passengers on the 28th August 1950 by the Ulster Transport Authority. Most of the other local stations closed on that dark day as well. However, goods trains continued to use Kilrea for another nine years. But the 1st October 1959 saw the final goods train in the Kilrea station and final closure.
Here is a fascinating newspaper article from February 1880, about the opening of the railway line between Magherafelt and Coleraine.
Opening of the Derry Central Railway – Wednesday 18th February 1880
As the progress and development of the railway system of a country is generally the best evidence of its prosperity, it is with peculiar pleasure that we record the opening of the Derry Central Railway to-day.
That our railway facilities in Ireland have not been so extensive as they might be there is little doubt, as vast tracts of the country yet remain unexplored; where the whistle of locomotive engines have never been heard, and where the civilising and wealth-producing effect of steam traffic are entirely unknown. Any steps, therefore, which would tend to open up new districts and develop the rich natural resources in which our country abounds must be hailed with the greatest satisfaction by all those who have an interest in her prosperity. Although the North has not been the most backward in this respect, yet it must be admitted there are several localities in which the introduction of railways would prove of immense benefit to the parties immediately interested and the country also.
The Derry side of the River Bann was one of those districts; for notwithstanding its close proximity at many points to the line of the Northern Counties Railway Company, yet there remained a vast tract, and that a most rich and fertile valley, which possessed no accommodation for the transit of goods save that by the ordinary road vehicle. With a view to remedy this state of matters, a bill was presented to Parliament some two years and a half ago for the purpose of obtaining permission to open this district from Coleraine to Magherafelt by a line of railway, and this, meeting with no opposition, passed into an act. The work was proceeded with as soon as all preliminary matters had been arranged by Mr. Barton, the engineer.
It is now almost two years since Lady Bruce cut the first sod and from that to the present time the work has been pushed forward with the greatest energy and despatch until it has now reached completion. The severe frosts of this and last year were a great drawback to the contractor, as it interfered with the foundations and cuttings. However, these were borne with, and their influences as speedily remedied as possible, large numbers of men being still kept at work on the line.
Everything having been completed for passenger traffic, the first train passed over the line to-day. In briefly describing the nature of the work done, it may be stated that the entire length, from Coleraine to Magherafelt, is thirty-four miles, four of which is run on the metals of the Northern Counties line, the new section branching off at a place called Macfin, on this side of the pleasant town, on the River Bann.
Only a single line of steel rails is laid the entire way, and they are of excellent quality, being of the Bessemer description, and weighing 65lbs. to the yard. The gauge is the ordinary wide one of 5ft. 3in., and the gradients on the line are of the usual character, one in seventy-five occurring at two different places, being the sharpest along the entire route.
Of bridges there are forty-six, all of which are constructed of solid masonry and ironwork, and are of so substantial a description that it will only be the effect of time which can in any way interfere with their solidity and safety. That over the Bann, a short distance from Macfin station, is a handsome piece of work, the whole superstructure of iron being supported by metal cylinders of massive proportions, filled with concrete driven down into the bed of the river to a considerable depth. The entire span of this bridge measures 150 feet, and the sides are ornamented with beautiful lattice work, which. independent of it’s unquestionable strength and stability, gives it a neat and handsome appearance.
The contractors for all the iron work in the bridges were Messrs. Westray & Copeland, of Barrow, and it must be acknowledged that they have performed their part with great satisfaction to the company, and with the utmost credit to themselves.
OPENING OF THE DERRY CENTRAL RAILWAY FOR TRAFFIC
|Magherafelt to Coleraine|
All trains 1st,
|<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< Weekdays >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>||Sundays|
|Coleraine to Magherafelt|
|All trains 1st,|
2nd & 3rd class
|<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< Weekdays >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>||Sundays|
|Source: The Northern Whig, Thursday 19th February 1880|
There are seven stations along the line, namely, Macfin, Aghadowey, Garvagh, Kilrea, Upperlands, Maghera and Knockloughrim, which are chiefly composed of brick, and have the usual offices for the accommodation of business. The platforms, faced with blue stone, are spacious, and are covered with gravel, presenting a neat and tidy appearance. The contractors far the stations were Messrs. Dixon & Co., Belfast. The signals on the line are on the most improved principle, and were supplied by Messrs. Mackenzie & Holland, Worcester. The general contractor for the whole line was Mr. Chas. M. Holland, of Chester, the work being carried out under the personal superintendence of Mr. Palmer and Mr. Boag, agents, and in such a manner as to convince even Mr. Rich, the Government Inspector, who was over the line the other day, that it is one of the best constructed in Ireland.
It may also added that the contract was carried out at £7,000 per mile, which was within the estimate, there being no great cuttings or embankments. That the Derry Central line will be of great advantage to the district there can be no doubt. It catches the growing and prosperous towns of Kilrea and Maghera on its way, and will form a channel through which the agricultural produce of that county can be easily conveyed to Coleraine, Derry, or elsewhere. It will also form an easy outlet for the several manufacturing industries which are to be found adjacent, as well as for the inhabitants, who may derive large access to the watering-places along the northern coast.
Coleraine to day was en fete in honour of the occasion, a great display of flags and bunting being shown from public buildings, the hotels, and also from the railway station. As previously announced, a large special was prepared at a quarter past ten o’clock to convey the directors and a large number of guests over the line.
The engine, one of the best, in charge of Mr Malcolm, locomotive superintendent of the Northern Counties Railway, who have engaged to work the line for a number of years, was liberally clad with evergreens and flags, and the train was composed of several saloon and first-class carriages. As soon as all were seated she moved out of the station amid the cheers of the large crowd which had assembled. Each station as it was reached was a scene of the greatest excitement, numbers of all ages and of both sexes being present to greet the stranger.
At Kilrea, which, like other stations, was tastefully decorated, a flute band joined the company, and under the influence of its inspiriting airs the remainder of the journey was performed. Magherafelt was reached, and on returning the train slowed to allow the passengers to observe any object of interest, especially the Bann Bridge, which was much admired.
Arriving at Macfin a halt was made, when Mr. Holland, the contractor, addressing Lady Brace said: “Allow me, your Ladyship, to present to you this bottle of champagne, and to ask you to perform the opening ceremony by breaking it on the line. I only hope that the undertaking may be as successful as the proceedings of to-day have been.” (Hear, hear.) Lady Bruce said: “I had the honour of inaugurating this line in the year 1877, and it now gives me great pleasure to take part in the opening ceremony.” (Cheers.)
The bottle, which was handsomely decorated with ribbons, was then smashed by her ladyship, who declared the line open amid loud cheers. The company immediately returned to Coleraine. The train steamed into the station about a quarter-past two, when the company proceeded direct to the Town Hall. At half past two o’clock the directors of the Derry Central line entertained a large number of invited guests (200 gentlemen and ladies) to luncheon in Coleraine Town Hall.
Source: Belfast Weekly News, Saturday 21st February 1880