Bellaghy Historical Society – November 2007

The Speaker at the November meeting of the Bellaghy Historical Society was Mr. John Stuart, retired Principal of St Louis’ Grammar School Ballymena and current Chairman of the Board of Governors. His subject was a “The Railways of Co.Antrim – an Historical Perspective”.   He explained that he had been fascinated by railways since he was a young boy and in following this interest he had collected a great number of slides of photographs of Railway Stations and trains now mostly sadly defunct. These illustrated the very impressive architecture of some of the old Great Northern Railway stations with their intricate ironwrought arches where the letters G N R had been skillfully incorporated. Lisburn Station was one of the most impressive and the first line to be constructed in Northern Ireland in 1839.   Its line to Belfast and the coastal line from Ballymena to Londonderry were two of the few that had never been discontinued. Many of the old station Waiting Rooms and Railway Houses had been rased to the ground. The last train to pass along the Castledawson -Toomebridge line was a Goods Train in 1959 the passenger service having ceased to operate some years earlier. The coastal train from Portrush to Bushmills still continued to run as a Tourist attraction.   Mr. Stuart explained that the width of the railway lines in Northern Ireland varied from those in England and Scotland and recounted the stages by which the sleepers had progressed from timber to the present steel. In referring to the railways of Co.Derry he urged members to investigate and research what evidence there is of the old local railways lines before it disappears or is forgotten.   Mrs Mary Breslin, Chairperson, thanked Mr. Stuart for his talk commending  his infectious enthusiasm for the subject which made it all the more interesting. She reminded members that the December meeting would be especially entertaining, the subject being”The World of Percy French” when Mr.Bill Moorhead and two colleagues would illustrate with music and verse the wonderful wit and pathos of the writer’s famous songs and poems.

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