The Cashel Extension Railway

Supplement Nationalist Centenary 1890-1990, pp 110-112


There's excitement now in Cashel, 
For the railway soon will run.
There's commotion in the city,
For the line is nearly done.
There's signs and preparations
That were never seen before,
And the rising generations
Sees prosperity in store.

So Francis Phillips, the Cashel bard. wrote in 1904 in anticipation of the opening of the Cashel branch line on Monday, December 19, 1904.

The opening of the Cashel Extension Railway was a great day for the town.  The occasion was used to unveil the memorial fountain at Lowergate erected to commemorate the great services of the Very Rev. Dean Kinane, PP. VG in connection with the Cashel railway project.  In the course of his remarks the chairman of the urban district council, Michael Devitt, thanked the people for giving him the honour of unveiling the memorial.  It was due to the Dean’s energy and perseverance that they had succeeded in getting the extension.  As a result of the extension Cashel would become as prosperous as ever.

There were many historic fights for a railway to Cashel.  On one occasion when the Privy Council rejected the application of Cashel for a guarantee, a riot took place in the streets of the town.  After than many vain attempts were made to obtain railway accommodation.  Then in 1901 Dean Kinane, together with some of the citizens, assisted by Very Rev. Dean White and Rev. Fr. Brenan, C.S.Sp., president of Rockwell College, resolved to approach the popularly elected representatives of the county council.

At that time, the Great Southern and Western Railway Company were undertaking a project of considerable magnitude involving the amalgamation of the Waterford and Limerick system with their own, and the citizens of Cashel pointed out that it would be of considerable public benefit to the town and district and to the South Riding also if a line were constructed to Cashel.

The GS & WR Company considered the matter carefully and promised that if the Amalgamation Bill passed through parliament they would do all in their power to carry out the projected line to Cashel.  In return for this the people of Cashel supported the Amalgamation Bill and on the 11th February, 1901 the county council was approached for a limited guarantee of 4% on a sum of £35.000. The area proposed to be charged in the event of the guarantee coming into operation was the South Riding of Tipperary with the exception of the municipal borough of Clonmel and the urban districts of Carrick-on-Suir and Tipperary. Cashel and Rockwell College estate undertook to pay, if necessary, a tax of 1/-2 in the pound. The result was that the county council granted the guarantee by 15 votes to 9 and the Cashel Extension Railway became a possibility.


Earlier Efforts

Of course Cashel should have had a railway at a much earlier date.  The town was to have been served by a branch from the Waterford / Limerick line planned in 1826.  Then 18 years later the first Act for the Great Southern and Western Railway authorized the main line to go to Cashel.  Later the route was changed but the original intention was retained in the name 'Cashel's,' given to GS & WR ordinary stock on the Dublin Stock Exchange.

Why was the decision made to take a more westerly route to Cork?  A number of reasons is given. In the local folklore there is a belief that the town fathers turned down the idea of the line passing Cashel. It is stated that their reasons were aesthetic: the train was a dirty, noisy monster and the town would be downgraded by its presence. Another version of this story is that some believed that the presence of the line in the neighbourhood would be dangerous for the Rock: the vibration might cause the edifice to collapse?

However there are more practical and credible reasons.  A survey of the original route revealed problems. If the route came by Cashel a bridge would have to be built over the Suir at Ardmayle. The town would also become the junction for Limerick and this would have involved a viaduct at Mantlehill.


Political Clout

A more important reason was the political clout of Maude, Lord Hawarden of Dundrum.  He gave free right to the GS & WR to build the railway through his land.  This was an offer difficult to refuse.  At the same time Cashel’s political clout was weak. As a result of an enquiry into the running of the Cashel Corporation in the late 1830's it was discovered. that the town was in the hands of the Pennyfeathers and their friends and that they had misappropriated public funds. The town lost its chartered status and the·Corporation was replaced by the Town Commission. Michael Doheny was prominent in righting the wrongs done to the people of. Cashel by the Pennyfeathers and their cronies. Through his efforts the family was forced to repay £6,000 to the Town Commissioners.

These matters were agitating the town when the decision was taken to change the route of the proposed railways to Cork to a more westerly one.  The people of Cashel decided to fight the change and they gave Michael Doheny £20 pounds to go to London to fight their case.  However such efforts were in vain. Lord Hawarden got the line through Dundrum and ia station close to his residence. When the station was completed it contained a special waiting room for the Maudes.   Also the signaling system was connected with Dundrum House. When a train left Gouldscross the Maudes, as well as the Dundrum stationmaster, were alerted.  John Knightly recalls using the station in 1949 after coming to Cashel to teach. The Maude waiting room was still in existence, locked and kept in waiting for members of the family if they ever returned.


The Construction

The 5 3/4 mile line from Gouldscross to Cashel was the last branch line to be built by the Great Southern and Western Railway. It was, fittingly, Dean Kinane who ceremoniously dug the first sod at Gouldscross on March 4, 1903. The tracks, ties and other components for the new line were not new but had come from the main Dublin / Cork line at Sallins, part of which had been dismantled in 1900. The biggest engineering feat was the construction of the metal bridge which spanned the Suir between Kilbreedy and Clonmore.  Ardmayle was an intermediate station and there were two level crossings, one that Camas about a quarter-mile from Cashel and a second beside the station at Ardmayle.

Things didn’t go smoothly during the construction. There were labour troubles. The 'Cashel Sentinel' reported on June 20, 1903:  "For the second time the labourers engaged in working on the new railway works from Gouldscross to Cashel have gone out on strike for higher wages. In  the previous strike their wages were increased from three pence to three and a half pence an hour. It was hoped that this would have brought peace but on Wednesday, June 17, they struck again for another halfpenny and invaded the streets of Cashel. Over one hundred and fifty men were involved and they grumbled that the work was too hard and the pay too little." They gained their extra half-penny and went ahead to finish the work.

At the time of the opening the railway had cost £41,602-19-10. It was estimated that further expenditure would amount to £10,500.  The cost of the one rail motor carriage was £1,500-6-6. In 1953 during a tribunal hearing on the future of the branch line the initial cost was given at £58,773.


The Opening

On October 12, 1904, in anticipation of the opening of the railway, a new corn market was opened in the town. Six days before opening day the line was inspected and passed for public use by Col Vandarop, an inspector from The Board of Trade. On the morning of the opening the first train arrived at CasheJ at 8.45 am. It had on board Mr. Bell, the superintendent of the GS & WR; Mr. Cooper Chadwick; Mr. Sides. District engineer; Mr. Bayly, engineer and Mr. Galway, the contractor's engineer.

The platform was crowded, all eager to board the first train and, on its return to Gouldscross, large numbers took a spin there and back. Among the passengers were Very Rev. Dean Kinane, PP, VG; Very Rev. N. J. Brennan, C.S.Sp., Rockwell College; Mr. A. P. Spain, accountant. National Bank; Mr. J. J. Connol1y. agent, Cashel U DC; Thomas Walsh, 'Cashel Sentinel'; Philip Ryan, The Central Hotel; Denis Maher. NT and other notables.

Later that evening after the unveiling of the memorial fountain and the presentation of the address, Dean Kinane told the crowd: "This fountain will remind posterity of the noble feelings of their fathers who erected this monument to a 'Soggarth Aman', who did little but yet did his very best, to improve the temporal as well as the spiritual condition of the people ....' He went on to inform his listeners that he had travelled on the new railway to Gouldscross that day and while in Gouldscross met some navvies who asked him to give them drink. He told them to go to Cashel and they could have plenty of it. They asked him the name of the public house and he told them 'The Gouts' (a watering hole for horses on the Clonmel road) so if any of those present now felt thirsty they could go to 'The Gouts' also.

Francis Phillips caught some of the mood with a poem composed specially for the opening:

Get your tickets on this day
From Thomas J. McQuaid
For the railway will begin
before the dawn.
They'll be crobars in
the air
Picks and shovels everywhere
And the Cashel men will play
tbe 'Rocks of Ban'.


Early Days

The chairman of the UDC, Michael Devitt, prophesiscd at the unveiling of the memorial fountain that Cashel would become a prosperous place as a result of the extension. But his prophesy could not be said to have been fulfilled and the railway, which was never more than a lame duck in the finances of the GS & WR, closed down during the Second World War, resumed partial services in 1947 and was officially closed on January 1, 1954.

Two passenger trains ran daily to and from Cashel and one passenger-cum-goods train, all stopping at Ardmayle. In addition special goods trains were run monthly to coincide with the Fair of Cashel and special excursion trains were run to hurling matches in Thurles and beyond. The timetable for 1947 shows three trains each way on the Cashel branch: way on the Cashel branch: Gouldscross-Cashel at 12.30, 2.30 and 5.00; Cashel Gouldscross at 11.15. 1.30 and 4.00.

Most of these services were hauled by a team engine called locomotive No. 74, which was one of the '47' Class designed at Inchicare. Built in 1887 it was typical of the tank locos which worked many GS & WR branches around the turn of the century. Loco 74 was to serve the Cashel branch line far most of its history. It was replaced by a steam railcar, which seated six first-class and forty-eight third-class but it did not provide for extra passengers when necessary and was transferred to the Drumcondra Link Line. After its departure Cashel trains were usually worked by small 0-4-4Ts or by the ubiquitous standard 0-6-0.


Unusual feature

An unusual feature of Cashel station was its two storey corrugated iron station building. Although the GS & WR favoured this material for building on its branches in Kerry. single-storey structures were more common. In fact the building was temporary because there was a suggestion that the line might be extended to Cahir. It was. however, never replaced by anything more permanent during the life of the branch.

Why wasn't the line a success? Perhaps the obvious reason was that there were never enough people travelling on it and the volume of goods was never satisfactory.  A second problem was a troublesome water' supply. Although there was a permanent water tank at the station an old engine tender and a hand-operated pump were also provided to ease the situation.

John Knightly has an interesting theory on the relative failure of the railway to generate business. He believes it was built at the wrong side of the town and went in the wrong direction! According to this theory the trade and traffic from Cashel traditionally went down the Suir valley to Waterford. For instance, when McCluskeys were at their peak they exported pigs, butter, chickens, even cream, to London via Waterford.




Snippets of History

It is not possible to give the history of almost fifty years in the course of a short article. All that is possible is a few glimpses of the happenings over the period.

1910: the timetable shows an unbalanced service of five trains daily in one direction and six in the other!

1914: for the Munster final at Thurles between Clare and Cork on September 13 there was a special train from Cashel al 12.45 on October 24 of the same year it was reported in 'The Nationalist' that there was a good supply of corn on offer at the weekly corn market. Owing to the depression in the trade, prices were not as high as formerly. However, for barley delivered at Cashel station the quotations were from 13/-9 to 14/-3 per barrel.

1925: All railway companies in south Ireland were amalgamated in one company, the Great Southern Railway. GSW in short. (nicknamed the Great Sourfaced Railway by D.P. Moran). In the same year the 'Handbook On Railway Stations' gave the following information on Cashel - 'Crane power I ton 10 cwts. Accomodation includes goods station,  passenger and parcel station, livestock. horseboxes and prize cattle vans.'

1929: A special train came for the Mass on the Rock of Cashel on the centenary of Catholic Emancipation. John McCormack sang on that famous occasion but refused the Presentation nuns request to sing in the parlour when he paid them a visit. He gave a blank cheque to Dean Innocent Ryan for the.restoration of the Rock, which had to be returned later.

1930's Thomas Rosney, father of Mrs. Lil Burke. was the stationmaster. He came from Claremorris in 1917. Tom Arnold was the scorekeeper and he lived at the Camas level crossing. His wife was killed by a train as she was letting someone over the crossing. Dan Taylor was in the parcels office. Davy Ryan and George Allison were drivers, Eddie Bowen and Jack Ryan, firemen. According to Peter Meskell, Cashel station employed a stationmaster, a platform porter, two goods porters, one checker. one cleaner, one steam riser, two firemen, two drivers and two guards.

1936: For the Munster senior hurling championship at Thurles there was a special from Cashel at 1.30 pm. There was a single fare regardless of whether you boarded at Cashel, Ardmayle or Gouldscross.


The Mystery Tours

1939: During the inter-war years, to cater for the large section of the public for whom the motor car was as yet an expensive luxury, the GSR Company ran a wide range of special trains from Dublin. Particularly popular were the mystery tours and a photograph of such a mystery train was taken in Cashel in May. 1939.

1942: a great shortage of coal led to some branch lines being closed for indefinite periods. In Cashel's case services were drastically reduced.

1946: a report in 'The Nationalist' claimed that there were strong rumours in Cashel that train services would be improved in the near future. This was attributed to the important lobbying done by the Trades Association and the senior curate. Rev. W. English.

1947: The rumour proved unfounded. Because of the fuel crisis the Cashel line was closed completely to traffic on January 27.

1948: this was the year of the ' Blackberry Express', the name the locals gave to the special excursion train for the county senior hurling semi -final between Cashel and Lorrha at Thurles. Dixon Connors was paying 4 / - a stone for blackberries that year and for weeks before the match the locals were out gathering blackberries to make the price of the fare. Neddy Doheny recalls that you could spot a Cashel man anywhere that day because of the blackberry dye on his hands!

1950: services had not been restored. In a report in 'The Nationalist' on March 18 the town clerk reminded the council that as March 26 would fall on a Sunday it would be advisable to have an order made fixing the following day for the old fair. He thought it would also be necessary to remind CIE of the date and of the necessity of providing special train facilities. In April there were excursion trains to Thurles for the semifinals and final of a "hurling tournament for 20 best Blarney No. I worsted suit lengths.' The fare was 2/6. In the following month the Thurles CBS hurling tournament was held and upwards of 500 people travelled in a special from Cashel for the final, which attracted an official attendance of 8,578. Because the special train for the all-Ireland final on September 3 was leaving at 7.10 am, Very Rev Dean O'Donnell arranged for Mass at 6 am summer time.


The Coal Shortage

Another memory from those post-war years was the shortage of coal for the steam engines and the poor substitute turf proved to be. In some cases not enough a steam could be raised to power the engine. Mick Keating remembers the engine failing to make the hill between Ardmayle and Gouldscross on the excursion. The passengers got off and pushed the train to the top. On another occasion, a Munster senior hurling championship game at Limerick, the engine broke down and the passengers didn't get back to Cashel until 1.30 in the morning.


The End

This sporadic service of passenger and cattle specials continued until June 25. 1953 when a tribunal was held at the courthouse Cashel to pronounce on the future of the Cashel branch line. Fr. McAssey. C.S.Sp., bursar. Rockwell College; John Feehan, Maurice O'Connor, John L. Buckley and A.G. Caldwell, the manager of Going and Smith Ltd gave cogent reasons why the service should continue. Mr. D. Stewart, traffic manager, CIE, argued in favour of the closure of the line and staled that the estimated cost of restoring the service would be £6.335.

The findings of the tribunal which was chaired by Dr. Beddy,  appeared in the form of a public notice in the newspapers in December :  'Take notice that on the 15th day of December, 1953 the transport tribunal, in exercise of the powers conferred on them by Section 55 of the Transport Act. 1950, make  the above-mentioned order to come into operation on the 31st day of December, 1953 whereby CIE is exempted from the obligation to operate all services of special trains for passengers and merchandise on the railway line between Gouldscross and Cashel in the county of Tipperary which were in operation immediately before the first day of June, 1950 and whereby CIE is also exempted from the obligation to restore all or any services of trains for passengers and merchandise on the said railway line, which were temporarily discontinued under the Emergency Powers (CrE) Reduction of Railway Services Order, 1944.'


Cattle Specials

Despite the order of closure trains continued to use the line for some while longer. The Cashel correspondent of the 'Nationalist' reported on July 3, 1954: 'Although the branch line between the town and Gouldscross has been officially declared closed, it has, within the past number of months, been opened on a few occasions. At the request of the Cashel Tostal Council, CIE ran a special from Dublin on May 16, the concluding day of the festival. On Monday last Messrs Maurice O'Connor and Sons got a special for the conveyance of a big consignment of cattle to the North Wall. It is understood that other cattle specials are to follow.'

In fact both cattle and passenger specials did follow until July 25. On that day a special to Templemore departed at Ipm for the Mid senior hurling championship game between Boherlahan and Holy Cross. The price was 3/9. It was poorly supported because of a clash with the West senior hurling final at Cashe!. This may have been the last train from Cashel. The local newspapers reveal no more advertisements for them, not even on October 3, when the county finals were played at Thurles. On that day there were specials from Waterford, Nenagh and Cahir but none from Cashel.

And so Cashel's rail link with the rest of the country came to an end almost fifty years after it was opened with such fanfare and promise. The dream of Francis Phillips was unrealised:

And tourists in the summer
on recreation bent
And every ardent lover from
the ancient Orient
Will come and pay's a visit,
and note among the things
A railway line to Cashel,
Old Cashel of the Kings.

Councillor Joe Byrne took a sanguine view of the closure. At the January, 1954 meeting of the  UDC he suggested that in view of the closure the council should get in touch with CIE with a view to purchasing the lavatories at the station, which would be useful if the council should erect a public lavatory. They could be kept until the council decided on a site!

The final chapter of the Cashel Branch Line story was written in 1959-60 when the tracks and bridges were removed. This operation cost more than the original laying of the line. Some years later Cashel station was sold to a Dutch textile company and converted into a factory.

Come down and see the station,
see what labour can control
Hydraulic power and pressure
will bring us to the goal.
With constructive minds and
methods we mastered everyplan,
A pity to prevent us, we'd
railroad Hindoostan.



Report on the Proposed Line of Railway from Dublin to Cashel by John MacNeill, Civil Engineer, 1843 (download PDF file)