The Midlands Great Western Railway

Louisa Bridge, Leixlip Co. Kildare

MIDLANDS GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY - The Midland Great Western Railway Company (MGWR), which once owned the Royal Canal, was established by an Act of Parliament in London in 1845. Its main line ran from Broadstone in Dublin through Mullingar and Athlone and on to Galway, with a subsequent extension to Clifden. At its peak it had built or acquired 538 miles (866 kilometres) of route.

The first usable length of track, from Broadstone to Enfield, opened in 1847. It was then extended to Mullingar. There was great rivalry among the early railway companies in Ireland and a race then ensued between the MGWR and the Great Southern and Western Railway Company (GSWR) to be the first to reach Athlone, with the coveted prize of the route on to Galway. The MGWR was starting from Mullingar and the GSWR from Portarlington. The MGWR won the race, reaching Athlone in 1851. When the GSWR got there, eight years later, they had to build their own station (the current Athlone station) and pay large sums to their rival to use the tracks to Galway.

The extension to Clifden, which was grant-aided, opened in 1895 but a poor route was chosen, it was never profitable and it was closed in 1935. A similar extension from Westport to Achill closed in 1937. But at its peak the MGWR had a network serving Navan, Kingscourt, Athboy, Edenderry, Sligo, Clones, Cavan town, Ballaghaderreen, Westport, Killeshandra, Ballinrobe, Killala, Ballina and Loughrea. In the twentieth century various Irish governments passed legislation consolidating and then nationalising the different railway companies. Today what's left of the MGWR network is operated by Iarnrod Eireann.