Railway enthusiasts were treated to a rare spectacle of a steam train departing Cork’s Kent Station on Monday.
Onlookers could have been forgiven for thinking they were watching the Orient Express but the steam train billowing out of Cork was making its way to Kilkenny after an epic around-Ireland trip conveying 200 lucky passengers.
The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland is a voluntary organisation and a registered charity, explained spokesperson Fergus McDonnell.
“We are a North South society with the bulk of the heavy engineering done in Whitehead, County Antrim,” he said. “The Steam Dreams Rail Company from the United Kingdom have chartered our train to take 200 passengers around Ireland.
“We spent two nights in Galway, three nights in Killarney with a local trip to Tralee and Cork, and we are now on our way to Kilkenny for one night, and lastly one night in Wexford before returning to Dublin on Thursday, May 11.”
The classic engine and carriages transport three classes of passenger: Pullman, Premier Dining, and Standard.
Some 75 per cent of the passengers are from the UK with the remaining 25 per cent from the USA.
“We are using Craven carriages built in the early 60's and decorated with curtains, carpets, lamps, tablecloths and antimacassars,” added Mr McDonnell. They were withdrawn in 2006 by Irish Rail.”
The locomotives involved are the No. 85 Merlin, a Great Northern loco built in 1932 and withdrawn in 1963.
It was one of the express engines that ran between Dublin and Belfast. Also, the No. 131 was a Great Northern loco built in 1901 and withdrawn in 1963.