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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 October 2007, 19:58 GMT 20:58 UK
Last of the great steam trains
By Julian Fowler
BBC News

Arthur Darragh (left) on steam train
Arthur Darragh (left) drove the last train to leave Enniskillen in 1957
Monday 30 September 1957 was a sad day for people in Fermanagh and the border counties in the west of Ireland.

It was the day the last trains ran on the Great Northern Railway (Ireland) and the Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway.

Many people can fondly recall the sights and sounds of steam, especially those who lost their livelihoods.

The last train to leave Enniskillen was driven by Arthur Darragh, and to mark the anniversary he has returned to the footplate for the first time in 50 years.

He was joined by former colleagues at the Downpatrick Railway Museum, who exchanged stories of a bygone age.

Despite the passing of the years, memories of his youth returned and there was a twinkle in his eye as he took the controls once again.

"I've enjoyed it. I wouldn't want to be back to it but it did bring back memories of hard days and good days and many laughs and many characters who were drivers."

Arthur Darragh
I wouldn't want to be back to it but it did bring back memories of hard days and good days
Arthur Darragh
It may have been a golden age of travel for passengers, but for those on the footplate it was hot, physical work.

Kevin Love was a fireman whose job was to make sure there was enough steam to keep the engine running.

And as he stoked the boiler once more he recalled one particular journey that involved shovelling a lot of coal.

"At Adelaide (Station in Belfast) we worked the 9.30 passenger express train from Belfast to Dublin and back. And on that journey one day I burned 10 tonne of coal - shovelled it.

When we came back to Belfast that night we had nothing left!"


But there were benefits too - like a breakfast cooked on your shovel in the firebox.

"We used to do that in Bundoran. We used to have a fry up - you couldn't have got very much in the north at that particular time and when you went down there you got plenty of sausages!"

Veterans of the old train service
Veterans of the service got together to remember bygone days
Dessie Gorrell, who was a clerk in Enniskillen Station working in the ticket office recalled the darker side of Irish history.

"A lot of passengers in those days were young people coming from the west of Ireland going to London," he says.

"Single to Euston Station was 3 pound 8 shillings and 9 pence. That sticks in my memory."

After the railway closed he emigrated to England, following those he had once helped on their way.

The end of the line was the end of a way of life for many people but 50 years later their memories live on.

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