Northern Ireland Railways

A Brief History

The railways operating in Northern Ireland, the Northern Counties Committee (NCC) and the Belfast and County Down Railway (BCDR), were nationalised on the 1st January 1948 to form the Ulster Transport Authority. Ten years later, the Great Northern Railway of Ireland (GNR(I)) was divided, the lines in the south passing to CIÉ and the lines in the north going to the UTA. This state of affairs remained until 1st April 1968 when the UTA was dissolved. The railway operation passed to the new formed Northern Ireland Railways company (NIR). NIR have continued to run the railway service under this name until the 1990's when the privatisation 'fad' hit the province. The Conservative government was keen to dispose of the provinces transport if a suitable buyer could be found. Changes in the organisation ensued resulting in the abolition of the seperate management structures of NIR, Citybus and Ulsterbus, being replaced by a single management structure under one Chief Executive in 1995. Although large chunks of the BR system on the mainland were being leased off, the situation in the province was more difficult, although rumours of a Stagecoach interest were mooted. In the event, this came to nothing and the organisation remains in government control although the various operations were unified under the Translink name in 1997.

The Irish standard gauge of 5ft 3in prevails in this province of Great Britain. Services are mainly suburban in nature serving the north and south coasts of Belfast Lough, to Larne and Bangor. The double track main line from Dublin passes into NIR control just north of Dundalk and continues to Belfast. From Belfast the line continues as a single track up through County Antrim before reaching the coast and turning west to reach Derry/Londonderry.

NIR bought three diesel-hydraulic shunters (1 Class) from English Electric in 1969. In 1970, NIR purchased three Bo-Bo diesel-electric locomotives to relaunch the cross border Enterprise service. These 101 Class locomotives were ordered from the Hunslet Engine Company, but were sub-contracted to BREL Doncaster. The power equipment is English Electric. The other services are operated by a fleet of various diesel-electric multiple units (DEMU). The 80 Class are based on BREL Mk.II bodies with the power car being fitted with a body mounted 4 cylinder diesel generator set. The later 450 Class are based on the Mk.III body. NIR do not have any heavy maintenance facilities and vehicles are either shipped back to England for repair or have been sent to the Inchicore Works of CIÉ. However, as CIÉ has a GM fleet, they do not stock any parts for the non-GM NIR fleet. Subsequent locomotive purchases have been from General Motors. The 111 Class of 1980 are virtually identical to the CIÉ 071 Class. NIR also acquired six of the former CIÉ 201 (C) Class, although none are now in service. In 1994, NIR took delivery of two General Motors 208 Class locomotives for the cross border services. These are identical and form part of the number series of the Iarnród Éireann 201 Class.