Dingle goes to her new home at Blennerville 2013

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Dingle has been placed on permanent loan to the Kerry Model Railway Association, whose base is to be the windmill in Blennerville, Tralee. Billy Nolan and his team have worked incredibly hard to secure the permanent venue for the model exhibits and have managed to convert a tired, worn out area at the back of the windmill into a bright, welcoming and safe environment for the layouts.  A mural along the whole of one wall is expertly being painted by a young local artist with considerable talent (evidence of the preparation for this can be seen in some of the pictures). On Friday 31st May the area was officially opened by Irish Minister Jimmy Deenihan (see pic below) to a packed 'house' of over 300 people playing sardines with glasses of wine and canapes! The layouts (including John and Neils live steam one) ran for the public on the the Friday and on Saturday 1st June, operated by members of Chester MRC, before we ran a 'last train' at the end of the day and reluctantly said au-revoir to the layout.  I say that because, in a climate of goodwill and as Irish Minister Jimmy Deenihan put it, 'cross border co-operation', we hope to return regularly to help oversee the maintenance and future operation of the layout.  Exciting developments include a possible extension and converting it to DCC.  Gene Lacey of the association says:

"First of all I have to say the interest in your exhibit is fantastic ... we hope to be running them [Tralee and Dingle trains] back and forth on your layout so they will be running approx 4 hours per day. As for control we were thinking of going DCC linked to railmaster so it would run itself, this will take a bit of tweaking but I think it is possible, other than that we have volunteers in training at the moment. I hope to run the loco's only when we have visitors in situ."

On the first evening before the meal, I said to the lads I would only be a minute or two as I was just going out to look around Tralee (T&D) Station.  Having had a most pleasant chat with the lady from 'Eleanor's Florists', who showed me round one of the old worker's cottages which formed the distinctive station, she introduced me to the Kellehers who live in the house behind the station.  A very pleasant chat was had and my son was even offered a beer - I cannot fault the hospitality and friendliness of the people over there.  When we finally arrived at the pub for our evening meal, Rob joked that I was late as I'd probably been sitting talking in someone's front room ..... Mrs Kelleher was brought up in the cottage (now back of the florist) and had several memories of the line as did her husband whose father worked the line too. It was good to see them pop in to the exhibition to see what we were all about.

I would like to thank John Campbell for driving the layout and his own display over the Blennerville for us.  There is no truth in the rumour that he enjoyed himself in any way at any time and at no point was the craic such that he, or we, drank excessive pints of a dark coloured, Irish alcoholic drink, at all!  John set up a short length of track on Thursday evening at Gleann na ngealt station and ran some live steam cattle trains up the bank - the first steam trains up there for 60 years. One train consisted of the two coaches /brakes used on the last passenger train to run on the line - a special organised by the LRTL and IRRS on 11th June 1953 - see below for relevant picture. The weather was a little chilled and Mike O'Neill offered us some much needed refreshment at the Railway Tavern, Camp, afterwards.

  Below far left; Jim on the bridge at Gleann na ngealt station.  Next left two; The last passenger train (for real people) to arrive.  The LRTL / IRRS special train as it was in June 1953 (JM Jarvis) and as it was in 2004.   Left centre and centre; the bridge in the background and John and Neil with their toys! Right centre; panoramic view from the station bridge - shame about the weather, but it was still a fine view. Right; original road / railway fencing - should have looked at this a bit more closely, though I don't remember seeing this type elsewhere on the line

 

Friday dawned and final preparations were underway before the grand opening at 6pm. As the time drew closer so the crowds gathered and the heat rose. By the time six o'clock arrived people were fighting to see the layouts and displays and handbags were being carefully watched as they swung dangerously close to the unprotected layout, apart from the corner board where an improved perspex barrier almost certainly saved the signal and gates!  Eventually the crowds died back and at about 8:30 we headed off for tea. Being the opening night we were joined by Billy, Gene, Vincent Harry and few others of the KMRA and failed to reach our beds until gone 1am. A great end to a highly successful launch.  Lets hope it is the beginning of a long lasting revival and the the bankers and politicians don't mess it all up this time. 

Above; a room with a view. Left; Dingle stretches out into the room - the best way of getting it in there. Left centre; Jimmy Deenihan cuts the tape with a crowd of hundreds to celebrate what will hopefully be the start of a tourist boost in Tralee and Blennerville.  The long term aim is to tie in a package of the windmill, railway and wetlands centre.  The railway is the next major project and although it is unlikely to see progress or opening this year, there is a strong work ethic and great enthusiasm behind the group and I wouldn't dismiss even possible opening this year. Mayor Johny Wall on the right. Right centre; the windmill and display room (left).  Right; the operating team, Chris, Jim, Robert and Simon with 'our' last train of this tour.

Below; A variety of views of Dingle taken during the weekend.  On the left, Jim and Robert rest whilst Chris operates the layout  - again!! 

Saturday was a quieter day with plenty of visitors but with room and time to talk.  We were able to visit the shed of 5T and we discussed the problems of its restoration. Gene and Vincent operated Dingle for a while to get used to the controls, even though they plan to DCC the layout, this is in the long term.We though we would be packing away around 5 to help John de-camp to the van, but visitors kept creeping through the doors so we kept going until we felt in need of food, so we ran the 'last train' and they destocked the layout.  It took us about an hour to pack up Johns stuff - very carefully - a bit less packed than when Dingle was in there too!  Not sure anyone took a picture of that - amazing what you get in a long wheel-based transit van!!

Food and drink in the evening was somewhat muted as John and I had to be up driving by 8 the next morning.  Despite this, a few pints were had and the hospitality of Billy and the crew was still generously forthcoming! At least we  got to bed before 11:30pm.

The journey home was fairly quick as you'd expect on a Sunday morning and the ferries (Stena Line) were bang on time.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank Billy and his team once more for their excellent hospitality and Harry for the accommodation whilst there. That thanks goes to all the people who made us feel welcome and even invited us into their homes.  A great trip was had by all and we look forward to going back next year.

Below left; ex GS&WR notice on a gate.  Left centre; inside the shed at Tralee.  No. 5 has had an inspection on her boiler and needs a new throat plate an numerous other jobs which amount to around 300,000 euros.  Restoration is a while off yet whilst funds are generated.  Although this is historically the right locomotive, one might justifiably ask whether a locomotive this powerful is the right one for the Tralee and Blennerville line.  Once restored it will only work high days and holidays to keep costs under control. Graham, Robert, Neil and Harry in deep discussion on engineering issues.  Centre; before work on the loco takes place some work on the track is needed, though looks can be deceptive - the situation is not quite as bad as it seems!  This is the end of the loop at Blennerville.  Right two; the near and far side of a track baseplate on the current railway.  Is HW & Co 1936 is Harland and Wolff or Head Wrightsons & Co of Teeside who did a lot of railway ironwork?  A long way for it to come if so!

Neil Ramsay's video of the latest steam adventure on Gleann na ngealt bank.