Railway workers recall the days when Donegal had a rail line. The narrow gauge railway closed down in December 1959.
Sam Carse has recreated a model railway of what existed in Donegal in his living room in Ranelagh in Dublin. As most of the actual railway no longer exists this model provides the best idea of what the Donegal lines actually looked like.
The last rail bus arrived at Ballyshannon on new year's eve in 1959. The station is today used as a depot by the Department of Post and Telegraphs.
A whole generation has now grown up in Donegal that never actually knew the railway.
There are still some men who remember the Donegal railway and they shared their memories with Nicholas Coffey. Joe Thompson, who drove the last scheduled rail bus, describes it as "one of the saddest nights" that he remembers.
Larry McMahon's father was the station master at Ballyshannon and Larry still lives at the station house. Larry recalls his memories of the station, which first opened in 1905 for passenger traffic. The railway itself opened around the 1890s. Larry's father had a theory that the Donegal railway was a means by which the British government extended its empire, as it had done in India.
The first railway in Donegal was the Finn Valley which opened under the chairmanship of Lord Lifford in 1863. The line ran between Strabane and Stranorlar. The West Donegal Railway was started in 1879 which ran from Stranorlar to Donegal town. In 1906 the two railways merged to form the County Donegal Railway.
For many small towns of Donegal the railway was their economic backbone and provided direct employed for in excess of a hundred workers. The railway as a way of life came to an end in 1959. Nicholas Coffey spoke to some of the men who worked in the railways about the working conditions and life as a railway worker. One man recalls how,
They come from all over the world to see the Donegal railway.
For railway enthusiasts throughout Europe the Donegal railway is remembered as a trail blazer in the world of rail travel. Under Henry Forbes, a pioneer in rail transport and manager of the Donegal line introduced diesel and then petrol driven rail cars. Many of these trains now reside in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.
This episode of 'Next Stop' was broadcast on 2 March 1977.