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     Memories of the Farranfore to Valentia Harbour Railway
  Construction of the Farranfore to Killorglin railway, twelve and a half miles of track, began on the 1st of July 1882.
The line, constructed by S.G Frazier, was part of the Great Southern and Western railway network and took two and a half years to complete. This was due to bad weather, leading to severe flooding, which resulted in foundations been washed out, several times over. About 250 men were employed on the project. During the construction of the line, workers refused to dig foundations through a ring fort at Cloon, a townland about a mile from Killorglin. This was because they feared supernatural consequences if they damaged a ‘fairy fort’. The problem was solved by bringing in full time GS & WR employees from Killarney, who had no choice but to carry out the task.
Director, in securing funds, to make the project a reality. He along with other dignitaries, including the Knight of Kerry, travelled on the first up train. Large crowds gathered to watch the ‘Iron Horse’ on its first historic run. Hundreds of fog detonators were exploded along the line, to mark the occasion. The rail service was to transform the towns and villages it passed through, both economically and socially. On the down journey when the steam engine left Killorglin, its first stop was Caragh lake. This area, which was renowned for salmon and trout fishing and of course, the Caragh Lake Hotel, established by the GS&WR. The second and shortest viaduct crossed the Caragh River and shortly after, stopped at Dooks Halt, which was added to the line in 1897, to cater for, what was then, a nine hole golf links, nearby. Two miles on, the train stopped at Glenbeigh. Here the steam train took on water, from two water towers. This station was also busy in the summer, with people travelling to Rossbeigh beach, on what were known as the ‘Sea Breeze Specials’. From here the train travelled across the river Behy and onto a ledge, along by the slopes of Curra woods and then began its ascent, to the next station at Mountain Stage. By now the terrain was more open and the views more spectacular. On the next seven-mile stage to Kells, the train travelled for a while on a terrace, cut around the side of Drung Hill, going through two tunnels, bored out of the mountain. The next great feat of engineering was the third viaduct, which crossed a ravine at Gleesk. This was built on stone piers, high over the road and was curved, in order to align to the track on the western side. Magnificent views of Kells and Dingle bay were seen, as the train thundered across the viaduct, before reaching Kells station, which was situated at the highest point of the route.
From here the descent began, as the train crossed the main road and travelled along the foot of Cnocnadobar. By now the train was on the last leg of its journey. Passing ‘Saunders Cottage’, which was a local landmark in Ballydarrig, and soon after, crossed the river Fertha, over the fourth and final viaduct. This girder bridge was much admired by railway enthusiasts down through the years. Caherciveen station was the second last stop on the line and was built alongside the harbour. From here the train trundled along for the last couple
of miles, flanked by the mountains on one side and the sea on the other, before finally grinding and hissing to a halt, at the terminus at Renard Point. This was Valencia Harbour station, the most westerly railhead in Europe. From here, vast quantities of herring and mackerel were taken by rail, to be distributed in the home and overseas markets, as indeed were mussels from Cromane and salmon from the river Laune. Other freight mainly consisted of livestock, turf, agricultural produce and general goods.
managed to stop the trains, in time and so avoided derailment and possible disaster.
Emigration was to blight South Kerry, as elsewhere throughout the life of the line. Great human dramas were enacted on the station platforms. The porter, working from experience, as the train whistle blew, would walk along the platform towards the back of the train, disentangling the outstretched arms, locked in last embraces, as the train pulled slowly away. It’s recorded, that on one day alone, in February 1921, twenty young men and women left Killorglin station, to take the emigrant ship from Queenstown (Cobh), to America.
The line was the first rail in Ireland to open with electric signalling. The train, which after leaving Farranfore, stopped at Mollahiffe, Castlemaine and Milltown, before crossing the bow and string viaduct over the river Laune and into Killorglin station, in Iveragh road. It opened to passenger and freight traffic on the 15th of Janurary 1885.
A tragic incident happened during Puck Fair 1909, when Superintendent Patrick McKinley (GS&WR) a Dubliner, aged 55, who was doing temporary duty at Killorglin station, trying to marshal the crowds, boarding the train. His back was turned to the carriage and as the crowd surged forward, he was pushed off balance and fell between the train and the platform. He was crushed to death by the moving train. Despite this sad happening, the branch line did much in its time to galvanise the popularity of Puck. Special trains ran from towns all over Munster for the three days of the fair.
Another great source of fun and enjoyment was the ‘Ghost Train’, so named, because it travelled over night from Caherciveen to Dublin, for All Ireland final day. Due to Kerry’s habit of making it to Croke Park, on most Septembers, it was always eagerly looked forward to. Sigerson Clifford immortalised it, in his poem “The Ghost Train for Croke Park”. The last ghost train alas, travelled to the All Ireland final in September 1959 and returned with the Sam Maguire cup, much to the dismay of Galway.
The 27 mile extension of the railway from Killorglin to Valentia Harbour (Renard Point) was started in the autumn of 1890, by the engineering firm, T.H Falkiner. Construction was funded by a £70,000 Baronial guarantee and a direct grant of £85,000 from the British government, to encourage the opening up of remote parts of the Country.
On Good Friday night 1916, Republican Con Keating lost his life, when he drowned with two other comrades off Ballykissane pier, Killorglin. They were the first casualties of the Easter Rising. On the following Monday the 24th April, after an official inquest, Con’s body was taken by train, back to his native home town of Caherciveen, for burial.
In 1956 the steam trains, which had faithfully served the line, were withdrawn and replaced by diesel trains. The age of steam was gone, taking with it, the magic and romance of another era.
The beginning of the end came, with the passing of a Transport Bill in 1958. This empowered CIE to close uneconomic routes, namely the branch lines. A dwindling population, due to emigration and the competition from the increase of motor transportation, spelt the end for the line. CIE chairman Todd Andrews, ordered the closure, for January 1st 1960 of the Headford junction to Kenmare branch line and the closure of the Farranfore to Valencia Harbour branch line, one month later on February 1st. The last train travelled the permanent way, on the 30th of January. The train service, which had travelled up and down the line, thrice daily for 75 years, had finally come full circle.
At its peak almost 1,500 workers were employed on the project, which extended into the mountain vastness of the Iveragh Peninsula. Sadly there were two fatalities due to accidents, during construction. The Killorglin to Valentia Line opened on the 12th of September 1893. Canon Timothy Brosnan who was Caherciveen’s parish priest, turned the first sod at Valentia Harbour, this was a fitting tribute to him as he put much time and effort in his role as Baronial
Overall, the safety record for the line was second to none, due in no small part to the professionalism of the staff and not forgetting the ‘Milesmen’ who maintained the track and line. Each group, who usually consisted of a ganger and four workmen, were responsible for the upkeep of four and half miles of track. They were known as ‘permanent way gangs’.
The Railway station at Renard outside Cahersiveen.
by Killorglin historian Patrick (Pa) Houlihan -The Kerry News’s longest contributor.
The Duke and Duchess of York visited Valentia Island in august 1897. They were on a royal tour in Ireland and travelled by train from Killarney to Valentia Harbour, before taking the ferry across to the island, to visit the Knight of Kerry. Some years later in 1910, the Duke was to become King George V of England.
On the other side of the coin, humour abounded. On one occasion, an agitated gentleman, who was running late, asked the station porter in Killorglin about the speed of the train. “Sir” replied the porter, “Only last week, a man from Cromane leaned out the window of the train, to kiss his wife goodbye and sure t’was the station master in Milltown that got the kiss”.
The only incidents of note were two landslides onto the track at Drung Hil, after heavy rain. The first happened in 1944 and the other in 1945. Thankfully, due to the vigilance of the drivers, who
The closing of the branch line was the ending of a lifeline for south Kerry. Over 100 jobs went as well. By august 1962, the entire track had been lifted.
January 30th 2010 will mark the 50th anniversary of the last train journey on the branch line. For those of us old enough to have had the privilege and pleasure of having travelled the line, we can still board the ghost train of memory, taking us down the track once more.
So all aboard...
and here’s wishing you happy
Comedian Bob Hope playing golf in Killarney inj 1968. Picture by Donal MacMonagle
 Elton John Fitzgerald Stadium Killarney 2002. Picture by Don MacMonagle
   travelling and happy Christmas
Killarney’s very own superstar the fantastic Jessie Buckley Picture by Don MacMonagle

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