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Railway Exhibition At Passage West Maritime Museum Starting May 11

Writes Leo McMahon

Opening at Passage West Maritime Museum on Wednesday, May 11th and running until end of July, is an exhibition on Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway which closed 90 years ago.

It’s an opportunity to see for the first time in glorious colour (thanks to colorisation by exhibition curator and museum committee member Joe Healy) 24 posters tracing the tracks and many stories and places associated with a railway that eventually extended for just under 16 miles from Cork to Crosshaven.

The line opened on June 8th, 1850 and was initially a five foot three inch wide track from Victoria Quay Cork (in 1870 from Albert Street) to Passage West, a distance of ‘6 miles 49 chains’ and with stops at Blackrock and Rochestown.

The railway, which changed to narrow gauge (three feet) in 1900, was extended from Passage West to Glenbrook, Monkstown, Raffeen, Carrigaline and Crosshaven between 1902 and 1904 and included a tunnel under the town of Passage West and a viaduct near Crosshaven. There were also halts along the route such as Aghamarta/Frenchfurze.

At its peak, thousands of people travelled by train to and from the city as commuters and many enjoyed day trips and holiday excursions to the Baths in Glenbrook, Monkstown Regatta and the seaside mecca that was Crosshaven. Sections of the mainly coastal line were very scenic and the railway company also operated paddle steamers in Cork Harbour.

The line suffered severe damage during the War of Independence and Civil War and the local company became part of Great Southern Railways in 1925. More rapid passenger and freight road transport eventually made it uneconomic and the final section from Monkstown to Cork closed, despite protests, on September 10th, 1932.

Walks with his wife Eileen along the sections of the line - some of which are today popular greenways - nurtured Joe’s interest in the history of the line and inspired him to set up a CP&BR Facebook page which has over 2,500 followers.

An acclaimed lensman, Joe has expertly colourised and given new vibrancy to many old photographs, some quite rare, such as the first day in 1902 the train on the extension to Monkstown crossed the main thoroughfare in Passage West and entered the tunnel leading to Glenbrook.

A photograph colorized by Joe Healy of the flag-bedecked train at Drake's Pool on the inaugural journey along the new section of line to Crosshaven in 1904. Pics: Joe Healy

The posters feature in pen and pictures, all the stations and several bridges as well as stream engines, carriages, timetables, accidents, war damage and its closure.

Thankfully large sections of the former line have become greenways for walkers and cyclists with plans to link Raffeen with Carrigaline. Hopefully, Cork County Council or the Office of Public Works will consider re-opening the still intact but currently bricked-up tunnel between Passage West and Glenbrook as a greenway that could be illuminated and feature railway photographs and become a unique visitor attraction in the harbour.

Visitors to the museum of course, can still view and admire the outstanding collection of maritime artefacts about ‘the original Port of Cork’ and ‘the birthplace of Ireland’s steamship industry’. The exhibition is a must for anyone with an interest in railways or those who have connections with the CB&PR.

Museum opening hours are 2 to 5.30pm, Wednesday to Friday and 2 to 5.00pm, Saturday and Sunday. Admission €4 (children under 12 free) with group tours available by appointment. Enquiries to 087-1357634. email: Find out more about The Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway on Facebook.

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