The Rail Archive Website

Specialising in railway historical documents and photographs

Railway Histories

The Ballinrobe and Claremorris Light Railway

A short history of an Irish short line

The Ballinrobe and Claremorris Light Railway Company Limited was formed in 1884 with the stated objectives of "promoting, maintaining and working under the provisions of the tramways and public companies act of 1883, a tramway undertaking between Ballinrobe and Claremorris via Hollymount". An act of parliament was necessary to enable construction to commence and guarantees and sanctions were required from the grand Jury of Mayo. The jury guaranteed dividends paid to shareholders. The first meeting of the company took place in the offices of Patrick Daly, solicitor of Ballinrobe in December 1884.

Although the line was called a light railway, the standard 5'3" gauge was used. The Midland Great Western Railway agreed to operate the service provided they received a 50% stake in the company. An all-in price of £71,000 and construction to be undertaken by the engineering firm of Joyce and Townsend, was agreed upon by Robert Worthington of Dublin and London. Work began in May 1891. Over 800 men worked a 72 hour week for 14 shillings wages. Also at this time work got underway on the Tuam to Claremorris line under the Waterford and Limerick Railway Company.

On Tuesday November 1st 1892 the line opened. The first train to Ballinrobe, "The Bat" was driven by Owen Malone. This rail service was to close some sixty-seven years later, on the last day of December 1959 when driver Jack Monaghan, fireman Hughie Dawson and guard Mick Higgins brought the last train to travel the almost thirteen mile journey from Ballinrobe to Claremorris. No longer was the line viable, and so ended the rail method of travel between the two towns. This rail route was one of the last to be built in the 19th century, a century which saw the birth and rapid expansion of the railway system.