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report from the 30th July 2008
of two newly restored items of rolling stock
Wednesday 30th July was
a fabulous day for the RPSI, because it marked the launch at Whitehead
of two restored items of rolling stock - brake
van Ivan and dining
car 547. More than 100 guests were present, including
of Translink, Iarnród Éireann, local councils and the bodies
which had helped fund the £400,000 project. Around 85 stayed for
lunch on what was, by common consent, an enjoyable and productive day.
here to hear BBC Radio Ulster interviewing Philip Lockett and Mark Walsh
on the morning of the launch.
here to view the press release from The International Fund for Ireland.
Our Mark 2 carriages were
overhauled with part sponsorship from IFI
Our brake van was overhauled
with part sponsorship from the
NIMC, BT plc and a member
View our Helping
Us Page to see how you can volunteer in Dublin or Whitehead and get
were set in place over several months by the RPSI Events Committee and
the weather forecast watched with increasing concern as the big day drew
near. After a period of dry and warm weather, the Whitehead site was swathed
in drizzling rain on the morning of 30th July, and so a decision was taken
to relocate from the proposed open-air setting of the Excursion Station
platform to the interior of the carriage shed.
Friel and his band of helpers got to work, erecting a podium and setting
up the PA system in record time. The plaques were readied for unveiling,
with minutes to spare. Guests began to arrive shortly after 10am and after
registering with Heather Boomer and Christine Friel in
the Whitehead shop they were invited to
the diner to see the reconditioned Enterprise carriage and to enjoy a warming
cup of tea or coffee.
En route, many took the opportunity to inspect No.3BG "Guinness”, crewed
by Phil Lockett and Nelson Poots, and to inspect Ivan. Here, our president,
Lord O'Neill, is seen renewing his acquaintance with the locomotive.
was shunted into position for the launch with some paint still wet!
the VIPs were having media photographs taken on the verandah of Ivan, guests
took the opportunity to make new acquaintances and catch up with old friends.
This picture was published in the Belfast Telegraph on Thursday morning.
it was time for No.3BG, under the guidance of shunter Dermot Mackie, to
ferry the VIPs in Ivan across to the carriage shed, with the rest of the
guests following down the platform and across the track on foot.
chairman Johnny Glendinning called the meeting to order, welcoming guests
to the event and introducing Lord O'Neill, the RPSI president. Lord O'Neill
said he had been coming to Whitehead since around 1966, when the Society
moved into its premises. He recalled having a shovel pressed into his hand
for publicity purposes, but said the extent of his labours was to dig out
one or two sleepers.
Lord O'Neill commended the work of the
RPSI youth wing which had been responsible for the rebuild of Ivan the
brake van, so called because it was a GNR(I) van. He said it was very important
for the Society to bring on young people.
He said one of the founding principles
of the RPSI was that it should be an all-Ireland body, and said this had
proved to be a great strength. Already this year, the Society's trains
had visited places as far afield as Ballymena, Mullingar, Rosslare and
Waterford. None of this would have been possible, he stressed, without
the continuing support of Translink and Iarnród Éireann.
Lord O'Neill expressed the hope that the Society's trains would continue
to be facilitated by the continued existence of various turntables and
The RPSI president said he was pleased
to see the railways enjoying a renaissance north and south and expressed
the hope that some day the Burma Road - the line from Claremorris to Collooney
Junction - would be re-opened.
On behalf of the Society, Lord O'Neill
expressed thanks to the bodies whose funding had helped make the launch
of Ivan and 547 possible - namely the International Fund for Ireland, the
NI Tourist Board and the NI Museums Council. He said Translink's role,
in making the Mark 2 carriages available to the RPSI when they were withdrawn
from service, had also been a key element of the project.
Smith, director general of the International Fund for Ireland, noted that
the shed in which the ceremony was taking place had been funding in 1993
by the International Fund, and it was good to see the relationship being
continued. He said the IFI's ability to help support such projects depended
on the generosity of the fund's international donors, who were still channeling
money in, 21 years after the IFI had been established.
McCauley, director of product development at the NI Tourist Board, said
it was easy for people to under-estimate the level of work and commitment
that went into the restoration of vehicles such as Ivan and 547. She said
the NITB was delighted to see the RPSI prospering, and said the Society's
activities were helping to boost tourism. She closed by wishing the Society
Cosgrove, deputy mayor of Carrickfergus, said the council was delighted
to have the RPSI within its borough. He said the appearance of the diner
and "Ivan the Great" would add to the Society's attractiveness. Praising
the young people who had got involved in the brake van project, he said
it was heartening to see their dedication to something good.
Scott, chairman of the NI Museums Council, recalled visiting the site some
years ago with his son, to travel on a Santa train. He said he particularly
wanted to pay tribute to the young people involved with the Ivan project,
combining their work at Whitehead with their preparation for university
and school exams.
Mr Scott joked that he was a little disturbed
to note that the diner, a vehicle which was two decades younger than himself,
should be considered as a candidate for preservation.
Mason, group chief executive of Translink, said it was a great privilege
to be invited to Whitehead to take part in the launch of the two vehicles.
She said the visit was her first association with steam trains in Northern
Ireland, but told guests that she was a member of the Great Central Railway
in England, which operated a double track line.
Mrs Mason said that with the diner in operation,
there was plenty of scope for the RPSI to develop steam train activity
in Northern Ireland, mentioning the popularity on the Great Central of
ventures such as evening dining trains and all-day breakfast specials.
Mrs Mason said Northern Ireland was witnessing
a real rail renaissance at present, with the passenger figure having grown
from six million in 2000 to an expected figure of 10 million this year.
Importantly, customer satisfaction levels were also on the increase.
Acknowledging that there were some rigorous
rolling stock appraisals to be met these days, Mrs Mason said she was delighted
that the RPSI had risen to the challenges, citing the installation of secondary
door locks on 547, something that was never envisaged when the coach was
originally built. The launch, she said, marked a real step forward.
Mrs Mason noted that the Department for
Regional Development had made a major investment in the railway network
in recent years, and said it was now hoped to proceed with track upgrades
north of Ballymena. Once this was completed, she said, we should see a
return of steam to the north coast.
The Translink group chief executive praised
the young people involved in the restoration of the brake van, and said
it was vital to keep such skills going.
In conclusion, Mrs Mason said she looked
forward to many more years on continued operation of steam trains, and
continued co-operation between RPSI and NI Railways and Iarnród
Éireann. She said steam trains were "great for tourism, good for
the public and good for the railways, too". She said she wanted to reaffirm
Translink's support for the RPSI's activities.
that, Mrs Mason unveiled plaques on both Ivan and on 547.
and Ben, part of the team that restored IVAN, grin for the cameras as Mrs
Mason unveils the plaque on IVAN.
all of the IVAN team posed with their creation along with the RPSI's president
and chairman. From left to right - Lord O'Neill, Nathan, Robbie, Edward,
David, Adam, Mark W, Johnny, Philip and Michael. Standing in the verandah
are James and Ben. Youths missing from the photograph are Phillip and Mark
inside IVAN were some friends and relations (mainly mothers!) of the youth
team. From left to right, Mary, Elaine, Gillian, Kathy, June, Elaine, Janice
and Debra. Christine is just out of sight to the left.
they were invited to board two preserved buses, provided courtesy of Translink
to ferry guests from Whitehead Excursion Station to Whitehead Golf Club,
where lunch was served.
the meal was served, RPSI member Fr Eddie Creamer said grace. The appropriately
composed text read:
"God our Father, We ask you to bless this
food which we have received from your goodness and which we are about to
share, as we acknowledge and celebrate the completion of the restoration
of GNR brake van 81 (Ivan) and the dining car 547.
"May our sharing of this meal together
reflect the sharing of the different skills of the many people and the
generous giving of their time which was needed to successfully finish this
"We pray that the good humoured co-operation
of all who participated in these projects may be seen as an example to
all who work to build a better, new world, while preserving the best of
the old. We pray through Jesus Christ, our Lord."
the meal, Johnny Glendinning invited Mark Cosgrove, deputy mayor of Carrickfergus,
to say a few words. The deputy mayor said that after the events of the
morning, Ivan the Terrible could be better described as "Ivan the Illustrious".
He expressed gratitude to all those who had been involved in building up
the RPSI since it was founded in 1964. The esteem in which the Society
was now held, he said, could be seen by the presence of so many people
at the function.
next speaker was James Friel, representing the RPSI youth team. James,
an engineering student at Queen's University, said he was pleased to be
present at an event which marked the culmination of the Ivan project. He
said the involvement of younger members had been a key element in the project.
But he said Ivan would not have been restored had it not been for the assistance
and guidance of more experienced members, the group memorably dubbed the
"old giffers" by Phil Lockett at the RPSI 40 dinner. James also expressed
special thanks to Mark Walsh, who he said had devoted countless hours to
the Ivan project and to Thomas Charters, who was always available to offer
James Friel said the youth team was already
weighing up various contenders for its next project, and among the options
were the Hunslet diesel engine and Q class No.131. He concluded: "Watch
Ovenstone, who had travelled over from Edinburgh to represent the Heritage
Railways Association, said the RPSI was, as always, at the forefront of
the preservation movement. He noted that the Society had won the HRA award
on several occasions, and praised the Society for deploying its skills
in order to assist kindred bodies.
Working with other groups throughout the
community not only fulfilled the HRA's agenda but helped to meet the needs
of the community as a whole, he said.
Mr Ovenstone highlighted the RPSI's role
which he said was integral to economic development and the promotion of
tourism at Whitehead and across Ireland.
He said that the RPSI was not only a member
of the HRA but also of Fedecrail, a European-wide preservation movement
which represented the 350 railway preservation schemes now in existence
across the Continent.
Ken Bloomfield, the RPSI vice-president, noted that railway enthusiasm
created wonderful alliance, recalling that during a recent visit with his
wife to Krakow, he had ended up chatting about the RPSI with the tour leader,
Vic from Wigan.
Sir Ken praised the role of the International
Fund, a body in which he said during his civil service days he had had
a hand in helping to create. He also highlighted the role of the NI Museums
Council, which he said was keeping cultural development alive.
The RPSI vice-president congratulated
all the young people involved in the Ivan project.
Expressing gratitude to the Golf Club
caterers, Sir Ken said it had, all in all, been a most agreeable day. It
was yet another step on a great journey, and it had been great to hear
the Translink group chief executive showing goodwill to the RPSI and offering
continued co-operation in the years ahead.
In closing Sir Ken thanked all those involved
in organising the launch ceremony and the lunch and said he had felt privileged
to have been involved.
of the workers at Whitehead enjoyed a pint in the golf club before heading
home. From left to right - John, welder of repute, Johnny our chairman,
Joe, expert painter, Bob, stalwart of the workshop, Billy, joiner, and
Stephen, who worked on the CDL project.
then boarded the two special buses to be transported to Whitehead Railway
Station and onward to the RPSI site.
The events of the day were covered on
BBC Radio Ulster (interviews with Mark Walsh and Phil Lockett), BBC Newsline
television (interviews with Peter Scott and Edward Friel), Downtown Radio
and in the press, the Belfast Telegraph, Larne Times and Carrickfergus
So a big thank-you to Robin Morton and
his team for organising the event, to the youth team who did the Society
so proud and showed the older members what is possible with a bit of get-up-and-go.
Also, congratulations to all who worked so hard to get 547 ready in time
for the summer season.
join us as a passenger.
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