Cavan and Leitrim Railway

The Cavan & Leitrim Railway was a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railway in the counties of Leitrim and Cavan in northwest Ireland, which ran from 1887 until 1959. Unusually for Ireland, this 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge line survived on coal traffic, from the mine at Arigna. It outlived most of the other Irish narrow-gauge lines, giving a further lease of life to some of their redundant engines.

The Cavan & Leitrim Railway in 1906

Early yearsEdit

Moving goods wagons by steam in 1959 at Dromod.

Perhaps it was the brainchild of the Earl of Kingston of Kilronan Castle, Ballyfarnon, to bring prosperity to this part of Ireland. In September 1883, a public meeting in Ballinamore declared that a light railway and tramway would open up the coal and iron districts of Arigna and Lough Allen. The Cavan, Leitrim & Roscommon Light Railway & Tramway Company was set up with a guaranteed capital of £202,000 in 40,400 shares of £5 each. Chairman of the board was the Rt.Hon. The Earl of Kingston D.L., Kilronan Castle.[1][verification needed]

[2][page needed]

Later yearsEdit

In 1925, the company was amalgamated into the Great Southern Railways.[2][page needed]


The line consisted of a main line 54 km (34 mi) long between Dromod and Belturbet with a 24 km (15 mi) branch from Ballinamore to Arigna.

The Belturbet to Dromod part of the Cavan and Leitrim Railway ran from Belturbet through Tomkin Road, Ballyconnell, Bellaheady, Bawnboy Road, Killyran, Garadice, Ballinamore, Lawderdale, Fenagh, Adoon, Rosharry, Mohill and Dereen to Dromod.[2][page needed]

The Belturbet to Arigna part of the line ran from Belturbet to Ballinamore and from there through Ballyduff, Cornabrone, Annadale, Kiltubrid, Creagh and Drumshanbo to Arigna.[2][page needed]


Preserved C&LR 4-4-0T 2 "Kathleen" at Cultra

When the line opened, there were eight 4-4-0T locomotives, numbered 1 to 8, supplied by Robert Stephenson and Company. A ninth locomotive, No. 9, an 0-6-4T came from the same supplier in 1904. CLR numbers 2, 3, 4 and 8 were renumbered by adding an L suffix after the railway became part of the GSR. In 1933, after the closure of the Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway, the GSR transferred its four Neilson Reid 2-4-2T locomotives to the C&L line, renumbering them 10L to 13L.[3] Four locomotives from the Tralee and Dingle Light Railway were transferred, after the end of passenger services in 1939, to the C&L between 1941 and 1958 numbered 3T to 6T. Locomotive 3T was a Hunslet Engine Company 0-6-0T of 1889, 4T was a Kerr Stuart 2-6-0T of 1903, 5T was a 2-6-2T built by Hunslet in 1892, and 6T was the same type as 3T but built in 1898.[4]


C & L Railway Station, Dromod

The privately-owned Cavan & Leitrim Railway is based in the former Dromod Station, in Co. Leitrim. There is a transport museum, with narrow-gauge trains of several gauges, buses, planes, fire engines and artillery guns from World War I and World War II. It was originally intended to rebuild the line to Mohill but this is now most unlikely to happen. With the help of volunteers, trains are run on a short section of line. The Avonside 0-6-0T steam locomotive "Nancy" was rebuilt at Alan Keef in Wales where it first steamed on 23 March 2019 after twenty years of restoration work.[5] The locomotive was shipped to Dromod where it now resides. The line's first steam locomotive since preservation is 'Dromad' a Kerr Stuart Brazil class 0-4-2T, which as of May 2021 out of service[6] awaiting its ten-year overhaul.[citation needed] Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the heritage operation was unable to open for the 2020 season, and expects to remain shut also for 2021 to protect its volunteers.[7] Despite being too small an organisation to qualify for grant aid in Ireland the railway has managed to continue maintenance tasks in this period with the railway saying two-thirds of its track has been relaid to a high standard and progress continuing on capital projects.[8]

One of the original locomotives, No. 2, and one of the original carriages, is preserved on display at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. Locomotive No. 3 'Lady Edith' was exported to New Jersey, United States and is today displayed in the New Jersey Museum of Transportation though efforts are being made to purchase the locomotive and return it to Ireland.[citation needed] The body of a box wagon formerly used by the railway is preserved at Dromod, and is believed to be the last example of freight stock.[citation needed]



  1. ^ Freemans' Journal. 6 May 1885. Missing or empty |title= (help)[full citation needed]
  2. ^ a b c d Baker, Michael H.C. (1999). Irish Narrow Gauge Railways. A View from the Past. London: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-2680-7.
  3. ^ Clements & McMahon (2008), pp. 212–215.
  4. ^ Flanagan (1972), pp. 113–115.
  5. ^ "Industrial Notes and News". Bulletin. 1031. Industrial Railway Society. May 2019. p. 13.
  6. ^ Eden-Green (2021), 5m 5s.
  7. ^ Eden-Green (2021), 5m 53s.
  8. ^ Eden-Green (2021), 5m 10s.


  • Eden-Green, Chris (21 May 2021). Here We Are & Here We Go. Gauge the Issue. Retrieved 30 May 2021 – via YouTube.
  • Clements, Jeremy & McMahon, Michael (2008). Locomotives of the GSR. Newtownards: Colourpoint Books. ISBN 978-1-906578-26-8.
  • Flanagan, Patrick J. (1972) [1966]. The Cavan & Leitrim Railway. David & Charles.
  • Parks, David (May 1994). Cavan & Leitrim Railway Guide Book and Stock List (1st ed.).
  • Parks, David (October 1994). Cavan & Leitrim Railway Guide Book and Stock List (2nd ed.).

External linksEdit