Dundrum railway signal tablet comes home

Chief civil engineer David Crone holds the Dundrum tablet
Chief civil engineer David Crone holds the Dundrum tablet

The volunteers of the Downpatrick and County Down Railway are celebrating after a little piece of local railway heritage comes home nearly 70 years after the original line closed.

DCDR curator Neil Hamilton explained: “We managed to win this original BCDR single line tablet from the recent auction in Birr of the late John O’Meara’s huge collection of Irish railway artefacts.

The tablet for Downpatrick-Dundrum and Downpatrick-Crossgar railway lines

The tablet for Downpatrick-Dundrum and Downpatrick-Crossgar railway lines

“This tablet covered the section of the old Belfast and County Down Railway from Downpatrick South Junction, near our Loop Platform, to the next major station at Dundrum.”

He explained the purpose of this tablet. He said: “Train drivers needed to be in possession of this tablet in order so their trains could enter the single line of railway track.”

He adds that this Victorian piece of safety engineering had a long self life: “Travellers on the Coleraine-Londonderry rail line may have seen signalmen handing ‘hoop’ type carriers to drivers up until last year - well, this tablet would have been inside the hoop pouch.

“Tablets were issued by the signalmen at either end of the section. Only one tablet could be withdrawn at a time, which provided protection against a head on collision as no two trains could be on the same section of track.”

We managed to win this original BCDR single line tablet from the recent auction in Birr of the late John O’Meara’s huge collection of Irish railway artefacts.

Neil Hamilton, DCDR curator

He continued: “We’re delighted that we were able to save this for people to see in our museum for years to come. It would be a real shame to lose such gems as this from the museum sector into private collections.”

If you have an item of railway memorabilia that you would like to donate to the DCDR, or help with any project at the DCDR and you are thinking about joining as a volunteer contact the Downpatrick Tourist Information Centre on 028 4461 2233 log on to the railway’s website at www.downrail.co.uk or find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/downrail follow on twitter @downrail.