MONDAY, 30th September, 1957 was a sad day for Enniskillen and for every station and level crossing between Clones and Omagh from the Junction to Bundoran and from Enniskillen to Sligo.
On that day, 60 years ago this weekend, the Great Northern Railway (GNR) (Ireland) and the Sligo Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway (SLNCR) fell silent for the last time.
The closure of the railways in this part of the country meant that many people lost both their jobs and their way of life.
The Great Northern Railway reached the end of its financial resources in 1951 and was bought by the Dublin and Belfast governments who, after 1953, operated the lines through the new Great Northern Railway Board.
Increasing rumours of closure were confirmed in 1956 when Stormont announced that it intended to close the lines between Portadown and Tynan, Newtownbutler and Omagh, and from Bundoran Junction to Belleek.
In June 1957, Stormont announced that the lines would close on Monday 30 September. On 22 July, the Great Northern started a fast diesel service between Enniskillen and Belfast via Omagh which cut over an hour off the journey time to Belfast. The evening return trip was even faster, reaching Enniskillen in only 2 hours 5 minutes. Despite its popularity, Stormont was unimpressed and the closures went ahead.
Enniskillen-born railway historian Charles Friel told the Herald this week that “the loss of so many lines was seen by many as having a catastrophic effect on life in these border counties” and all the more surprising since the then Prime Minister, Basil Brooke was a Fermanagh man.
“While Enniskillen is now almost devoid of traces of the railway, places like Ballyshannon, Irvinestown, Pettigo, Belcoo and Glenfarne still have their station buildings and people who are keen to keep the past alive. For someone like myself, an amateur railwayman looking in on a fascinating world, it is hard to realise that the great closures were all of 60 years ago. I am very glad to have so many fond memories of it.”
Charles will be giving an illustrated talk ‘Steam around Fermanagh’ this Saturday, 30th September at 8pm at the Ardhowen, recreating the railways which disappeared 60 years ago.
Full details of all the commemorative events taking place in Enniskillen this weekend are available on the Headhunters Museum facebook page.
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Posted: 9:02 am September 30, 2017