Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The 'Portrush Thumper' Railtour

Power car 83 is on the rear of the 'Portrush Thumper' tour as it waits at Drogheda to be passed by an 'Enterprise' to Belfast

Power car 89 awaits the departure from Dublin Connolly

With the final run of the much-loved class 205 and 207 'Thumper' DEMU's on British tracks in 2004 it was the end of mainline running on the UK mainland. However it was not the end of Thumpers' running in the UK- Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) was still using two classes of 'Thumper', the Mk2 based '80 class' dating from 1974 and the much more modern '450 class' of 'Castles' as they were commonly known, based on the BR Mk3 bodyshell and dating from 1985.
Those lamenting the sound of the 4-SRKT in southern England still could experience their sound, and for many an '80 class' railtour organised by the Irish Traction Group (ITG) and promoted on the mainland UK by Pathfinder tours was the perfect opportunity to head across the Irish Sea to meet these strange Mk2 based 'Thumpers'.

The date was 8th April 2006 and following an overnight ferry crossing from Holyhead to Dublin I made my way to Connolly station to be greeted by the welcoming sound of a 'Thumper'. The sight however certainly took some adjusting to. The Mk2 based '80 class' are very different in aesthetics to the SR DEMU's I was used to both inside and out.

A four car '80 class' set is passed at Coleraine with sets 82 and
98. This train was the day's regular power on the branch line to
Portrush- one of the final booked '80 class' duties.
The railtour itself had originated with the stock from Belfast, but now the majority of tour participants were on board the train with sets 089 and 083 was ready to depart from the Irish capital to take us back to the UK city of Belfast. This full journey is usually only possible on the 'Intercity Enterprise' service offered as a joint venture between Irish Railways (IE) and NIR. Indeed a lengthy passing stop was necessary at Drogheda to allow one of these loco hauled trains to overtake us.

This was my first trip 'abroad' to see trains and they were certainly different to what I was used to. The IE locos by General Motors were certainly 'foreign' compared to anything I had seen back home, and of course the idea of a Mk2 or Mk3 DEMU was something I had never seen before- however there were still many similarities (and the difference in gauge so negligible that one could easily forget it entirely!). Here, despite the garish black and orange livery of IE were trains formed of Mk2 and Mk3 rolling stock- something I would definitely like to see more of.

This trip was supposed to be something of a farewell for the '80 class', their use by this time having diminished greatly following the delivery of new '3000 class' DMU's from CAF in Spain. The class did retain some limited workings, including the short branch from Coleraine to Portrush. The 'Castle' class were still in full squadron service.

Power car 89 stands in a patch of sun at Portrush the days
weather had been somewhat changeable since leaving Dublin.
With such a small network in Northern Ireland the train covered it almost in its entirety, even including the technically closed Lisburn route. The only omission from the schedule was the route from Coleraine to Londonderry.

Amazingly this 'farewell' railtour proved to be somewhat premature for the '80 class' continued in passenger service with NIR until 2011, several units being overhauled and refurbished in the UK to extend their working lives. For me personally this railtour was something of a new adventure, and my first foray into railways overseas (further than the Isle of Wight at least). It was certainly not to be my last- I would return to Ireland the following year for my first full 'rail holiday' abroad.

The sound of the 4-SRKT engines isn't hard to imagine from this view thundering along the Dublin to Belfast main line!

No comments:

Post a Comment