Page last updated at 05:43 GMT, Friday, 18 July 2008 06:43 UK

Steamy summer on the line for NI

County Down steam train
Steam train enthusiasts are set for a treat

Steam train enthusiasts, history buffs and families looking for a day out could be making tracks across Northern Ireland this summer.

In County Down, volunteer enthusiasts have laid track on the old Belfast and County Down Railway line which was closed and abandoned nearly 60 years ago.

As a result, steam locomotives from the 1920s and 30s, or diesels from the 60s, will take passengers in 50 to 100-year-old carriages past rebuilt railway buildings and into the County Down countryside from Downpatrick to the terminus at Inch Abbey.

On the journey, they will cross the River Quoile on their way to the remains of a 12th Century monastery.

There, a living-history "monk" will greet passengers and tell them the history of the ruins of the abbey.

Meanwhile, a steam passenger train will run from Portadown to Bangor and back for the first time since 1965.

Two weekends have been arranged of steam trains to Bangor, reliving an historic journey to the seaside.

On Saturday 9 August, a train will operate from Portadown to Bangor and on Sunday 24 August, two return "Bangor Belle" steam trains will recreate steam powered excursions from Lisburn to Bangor and back.

Inch Abbey
One of the journeys goes to Inch Abbey

Each train features restored carriages, and passengers can talk to the driver and fireman while on the journey through the north Down countryside.

The weekends have been arranged by the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.

RPSI's Mervyn Darragh said: "Portadown was a very important junction and railway hub in the 1950s and 1960s and we are pleased to be able to bring some of that heritage back to the people of the area, bringing their history to life.

"Lisburn was also a busy junction station and maintains a lot of its historic charm - a great starting point for a trip back in time."

Tickets for the weekends can be purchased by phoning 028 38 394415, or 028 90 246609.

Information on the Downpatrick to Inch Abbey excursion is available on 028 4461 5779.

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