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Parsonstown and Portumna Bridge Railway

Rails of the unexpected, number 5 of an ever decreasing series

The brief story of the Parsonstown and Portumna Bridge Railway - One of the shortest lived railways of Ireland.

Illustrated here is a copy of the Directors Report for 1868 from the P&PBR. This is the year that the short 12½ mile branch line off a branch Line opened.

The line ran from the town now known as Birr, but Parsonstown when the Line opened. This small town in County Offaly was itself on a branch from Roscrea. Portumna lies near where the river Shannon enters Lough Derg in Tipperary.

Portumna Castle dominates the small town, whose livelihood depended on the bridge over the Shannon into County Galway and on the local fishing. The most Noble the Marquis of Clanricarde the Castle resident, 14th Earl of Portumna, was a noted eccentric and miser, he successfully (or rather his solicitors) persuaded the Great Southern and Western Railway to subscribe to the P&PBR. A little money came from other local businesses but not a penny from the Earl, even half the cost of construction was paid in shares to the engineers. Opening to a local celebration and half day holiday in Portumna on 05 November 1868, the railway closed for good on 29 November 1879 after just a brief ten years. The agreement signed by the parsimonious Earl, was that the GSWR would work the line for ten years, keeping half the receipts. The running costs during the ten years exceeding revenue by more then 30% and this line was run on half a GSWR shoestring. When the GSWR went to the Earl and asked him to take back the railway, he was in no financial position to accept such a loss maker. The line duly closed. It is not know what became of the line after closure, but Portumna Castle today is an EU funded tourist attraction. I wonder if the EU will see any return on it's investment?