Causeway Tram



Station Building 'Shane'  

Giants Causeway tram originally steam powered until hydroelectric was available.. The steam locos  were later used to haul rock from a quarry beside the  River. Bann to the Barmouth moles in the 1920-30's. 

The idea was devised by William Atcheson Traill and Dr. Anthony Traill, who had interests in other Co. Antrim mineral ( mining ) railways/tramways .Shareholders included Sir Wm Thompson ( whose father taught at RBAI in Belfast, which is why his statue is in the Botanic gardens, later Lord Kelvin ), and Dr Wm Siemens.

The first sod cut, was about half a mile from Portrush, by Mrs. W A Traill on 21 Sept 1881. Track reached Bushmills by the end of 1882. The conductor rail was on posts 17 inches above track level, and 22 inches from the inside rail ( ie next to the hedge.) Opened to the public on 29th  Jan 1883, two Wilkinson steam locomotives were used until electrification completed. All rolling stock, including two electric first-class cars, were built by Midland Carriage and Wagon Co.

The official opening, with electric power on 28th  Sept 1883 was by the Lord Lieutenant Earl Spencer ( the late Diana Princess of Wales ancestor ) who stayed the night before with Sir Hervey Bruce at Downhill , then arrived at Portrush RR Station at 12:10 p.m by steam locomotive to car sheds at Portrush ( these basalt-walled sheds were until recently, part of a garage /petrol station  now demolished the  site is now a food-market ) .Steam-powered generators were inspected, then driven in electric tram to Bushmills to the  Walkmills hydro-power station . (The Walkmills  hydro -power station can be found  just past 2nd church on CE road out of Bushmills). Sir Wm Traill. amused himself by standing on a good insulator and holding the 250 volt DC output in one hand, shook hands with everyone. ( Health and Safety ???? )

It has been recalled that out along the track someone ( William Acheson Traill ) demonstrated safety of the live rail by sitting on it. When he got up no one noticed that the seat of his pants was burnet  through .

It ran all through World War 2 ( 1939-1945) but the Ulster Transport Authority also operated buses on the  same route. It was last run on 30th Sept 1949 . Sold to Eastwoods , Belfast ,as scrap, for about £11,000. Prof. Strain of Ulster University Coleraine is married to Eastwood's daughter, who remembers playing in the carriages as a child.  and has newspaper cuttings of sale ( Coleraine Chronicle 17th  June 1995, p3.) It is understood  there is one in the Transport Museum Cultra.

The present steam set No 1 "Tyrone" is from Larne Harbour ( British Aluminium Company ). It was running at Shanes Castle from May 1971.

The Causeway Tramway was re-opened in the Spring of 2002.  The locomotives and rolling stock which operate on the track were once used at Shane's Castle and include a Peckett 0-4-0 WT 'Tyrone' built in 1904 for the British Aluminium Company, Larne, a Barclay 0-4-0WT 'Shane' built in 1949 for Bord -na- Mona (incidentally the same year that the old tramway closed) and a Simplex 'T' class diesel locomotive (Rory). An interesting fact - 'Shane' was one of three locomotives built by Andrew Barclay of Kilmarnock for use on the peat bog rail by Bord na Mona at Clonast and was specifically designed to burn peat.  Prior to the initiation of the original Giants Causeway Tramway in 1883, there had been several meetings, engineer surveys and costing done to evaluate the feasibility of constructing a railway line along the coast from Portrush to Ballycastle, the idea being to link the commercial coal, bauxite, iron, limestone, lignite and basalt industries along the north coast with the commercial harbour of Portrush. The ambitious proposal was shelved due to a lack of finance and doubts about the returns from such an investment. A narrow gauge railway was eventually built from Ballycastle to Ballymoney via Armoy and Dervock. The Giants Causeway tramway  was brought into being by the vision and enthusiasm of Col. William Traill of Ballyclough who himself was a keen advocator of the railway and kept well informed on technological development in engineering. It was this fact coupled with the Siemens Company showing the first electric railway system at the Berlin Trade Fair in 1879, that lead to that company being commissioned to incorporate their technology into the Giants Causeway Tramway system. Col.Traill  built the generating station at the Walkmill Falls (which is still there today but minus the equipment) and installed water turbines to produce the necessary electrical power for the tram line. Sir Macnaghten of Dundarave was very opposed to the construction of the railway to the point that he diverted water from the river Bush above the Falls in an attempt to lessen the flow. However, the tramway opened in 1883 and was hailed as the world’s first commercially run 'hydro-electric' powered tram system. The initial electric cars were Midland Carriage and Wagons which were later followed by GEC and a Peckham car. Although hydro-electric power was used, most of the time two Wilkinson steam locomotives hauled the carriages. It originally ran from Portrush to Bushmills with a later extension added to the Giants Causeway. In 1899 the live rail which ran alongside the track, was replaced by an overhead electric wire, steam haulage ended in 1916. The tramway ran for 65 years before finally closing down in 1949.