Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway

The Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway known locally to the locals as The Black Bridge (CB&PR) was a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railway in County Cork, Ireland. The line originally opened in 1850 as a 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) Irish standard gauge railway between Cork and Passage West and operated steam feeder ferries to other locations round Cork Harbour. The company was heavily dependent on summer tourist traffic for a considerable proportion of its revenue. The railway was converted to 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge in 1900 in conjunction with extensions southwards to Crosshaven which were completed in 1904. The railway closed in 1932 and has since been replaced by a public pathway and nature area.

Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway
Railway and locomotive engineering - a practical journal of railway motive power and rolling stock (1916) (14574232500).jpg
  • Cork City
  • Crosshaven
Opened18 June 1850 (1850-06-18)
Closed10 September 1932 (1932-09-10)
Line length17.5 mi (28.2 km)
Track gauge3 ft (914 mm)
Old gauge5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) Irish gauge
Route map

Patrick Bridge
Cork Albert Street
Show Ground Halt
Douglas Viaduct
Carrigaline Viaduct
Crosshaven Viaduct



By the early 1830s century Cork City had become a prosperous port. Paddle steamers were operating out of Cork City to a number of locations in Cork Harbour including resorts such as Cove (later known as Queenstown and now Cobh). A line from Cork City to Passage was seen as a business opportunity that could exploit a shorter travel time to the steamboat destinations around Cork Harbour as well as providing important communications to the boatbuilding shipyard at Passage. Some also felt at that time there might be potential for exploiting Passage as a transatlantic port. Following a variety of earlier schemes an Act of Parliament was passed on 16 July 1846 authorising construction of the railway to Passage.[1]

Broad gauge operationsEdit

The initial, northern section of the line was 6 miles 49 chains (10.6 km) long and ran from the Cork terminus at City Park some 12 minutes walk from Patrick Bridge to the eastern terminus alongside the steamboat pier at Passage West.[2] A trial run was completed in May 1850 and the railway opened on Saturday 10 June 1850 to large patronage for the opening weekend with trains packed to capacity and 6,000 passengers transported on the Sunday.[3]

Three small Sharp Brothers 2-2-2WT steam locomotives operated the line.[3] The passenger stock was about a dozen coaches comprising a mixture of first, second and third classes.[4]

The CB&PR directors decided that with increasing patronage to Cove, now renamed Queenstown, they wished to operate their own Steamship to connect with trains. As the CB&PR did not have power to operate boats a private company was formed and a vessel, the 'PS Queen, was chartered from the River Steamboat Company. A price war subsequently ensured with other ferry operators however the enterprise expanded and by 1855 was operating four paddle steamers of between 56 and 11 tons.[5]

After the Cork and Youghal Railway opened its branch to Queenstown on 10 March 1862 the competition from the direct route forced the CB&PR to reduce its combined rail/steam fares.[6]

The Cork Terminus was relocated to Albert Park in 1873, nearer the city centre and closer to the Albert Quay station of the Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway, the move being subsidised as the City Quay site was needed for development of the docks.[7]

A parliamentary act of 1881 included a provision for the CB&PR to operate steamboats, and those from the subsidiary company were taken into direct ownership. The steamers were expensive to operate but provided essentially feeder traffic to the railway.[8] The rival Citizen River Steamer Company was unable to meet liabilities in January 1890 and was wound up, the CB&PR acquiring the vessels for £1405 2s. 3d. and thereby eliminating that source of competition.[9]

The CB&PR remained relatively profitable compared to most railways in the 1880s, though there began to be decrease in passengers, arrested by switching steam services to a one penny pier to pier rate.[10] The company was late to introduce a one-zone fare system in 1891.[11]

Extension and narrow gauge conversionEdit

The latter part of the nineteenth century had seen considerations given to extending the CP&BR to eliminate some steamship journeys and with the aim of creating greater residential development and commuter traffic. In a Parliamentary Act of 7 August 1896 the CB&PR obtained permission for a 9-mile-64-chain (15.8 km) extension from Passage to Crosshaven. It was calculated building the extension as narrow gauge would save money, and it was decided to convert the original railway to narrow gauge at the same time. An opportunity was lost in not using the provisions of the earlier Light Railway Acts which would have been cheaper. [12] In the event construction difficulties and time overruns occurred particularly with the 1,500 feet (460 m) tunnel just north of Passage, the final cost being accounted as £200,093.[13]

While extension was under construction the CB&PR's own staff converted the existing line to Passage by laying a third rail, the line closing on 29 October 1900 for the switch from broad to narrow gauge.[14] The section between Cork and Blackrock was also converted to double track at the same time,[15] unique on an Irish narrow gauge railway.[7] The southern extension from Passage West to Monkstown opened on 1 August 1902 with Carrigaline being open from 3 June 1903.[16] The final section to Crosshaven opened on 1 June 1904 including a viaduct over the River Owenabue and a four-span 300 feet (91 m) lattice bridge at Crosshaven.[17]

Rolling stock for the line consisted of four new narrow gauge locomotives by Neilson Reid in Glasgow and a number of bogie coaches. For the first time the CB&PR showed an interest in freight with a number of open wagons, vans and cattle trucks being purchased also.[18]

The building of the extension occurred concurrently with serious competition from the Cork Electric Tramways and Lighting Company line operating to Balliatemple and then Blackrock having a negative effect on the commuter traffic in that area.[19]

The CB&PR achieved a net profit of £8,859 on receipts of £23,341 in 1904—5, with summer tourist traffic being very significant though the overall financial position remained strained by loans and Debenture Stock. Despite losses from steamer services – which were nonetheless useful for feeder services – the CP&BR's operation was financially manageable through to the start of World War I in 1914.[20]

War and Civil unrestEdit

The outbreak of World War I had an almost immediate impact on the CP&BR. Crosshaven station was closed to civilians on security grounds[a] and non-essential travel was stopped impacting the CB&PR's tourist traffic. Additional strains were placed by demands on the CB&PR's steamers to transport significant amounts of cargo for the military.[21] Unlike in Britain the railways were not brought under government control during the war until 1917 and it was only then that retrospective compensation was received for losses.[22]

The railway suffered extensive damage during the Irish Civil War of 1922–1923. The workshops at Passage were damaged. The viaduct at Douglas was partly destroyed and was initially replaced by a wooden structure built by the Railway Repair and Maintenance Corps of the newly formed Irish Army.The CB&PR was financially crippled by the various disruptions and with many other railways similarly financially distressed and the new independent government of the Irish Free State determined to amalgamate all its railways into a single organisation named Great Southern Railways.[23]

Final yearsEdit

In 1924, the company was incorporated into the Great Southern Railway. Economy measures saw the double track section of the railway singled in 1927 and the steamer fleet was also disposed of by this point.[24] Competition from motor buses and lorries became intense and the former were ultimately responsible for the closure of the railway.[25][26] [b]

The section between Monkstown and Crosshaven closed on 31 May 1932, with the remainder of the railway closing on 10 September 1932.[27] After closure the line's steam locomotives were transferred to the Cavan and Leitrim Railway after refurbishment at either Rockferry, Cork or Inchicore Dublin Workshops.[28]


The path in 2012

The railway operated along the west bank of the River Lee and Cork Harbour from Cork City Centre to Blackrock and Passage West. Thereafter the 1904 extension headed inland towards Carrigaline before running alongside the south bank of the Owenabue River to Crosshaven.

Stations were :

Connections to other railwaysEdit

The CB&PR had no connections to any other railway system,[29] but had a short connection to the goods yard of the Cork and Bandon Railway for a short time.[30][verification needed]

Rolling stockEdit

CB&PR Locomotives[31][26]
No. Introduced Type Builder Maker No. Gauge GSR No. Withdrawn Notes
1 1850 2-2-2WT Sharp Brothers 655 5' 3" 1900
2 1850 2-2-2WT Sharp Brothers 656 5' 3" 1900 Rebuilt as 2-2-2ST
3 1850 2-2-2WT Sharp Brothers 662 5' 3" 1900
4 1900 2-4-2T Neilson 5561 3' 0" 4p 10L 1959
5 1900 2-4-2T Neilson 5562 3' 0" 5p 11L 1936
6 1900 2-4-2T Neilson 5563 3' 0" 6p 12L 1959
7 1900 2-4-2T Neilson 5564 3' 0" 7p 13L 1954

Greenway replacementEdit

Pedestrian bridge (known as the "black bridge") at the Rochestown end of the path

Since the closing of the railway, the line has been paved over to serve as a recreational walkway, with lighting and benches put in place. Two bridges were put in place along the Rochestown area of the path for pedestrians. The Albert Road station building has survived. It was, for many years, occupied by Metal Products Ltd. who operated a factory producing nuts, bolts and other metal components. It was later occupied by Carey's tool hire company. The section of former rail between Albert Road and the Atlantic pond has been mostly removed. From the Atlantic Pond to Rochestown a paved footpath follows the route of the rail line. The rest of the walkway to Passage consists of a gravel walkway that follows the river. There is evidence of the rail line between Passage and Monkstown, then onto Carrigaline. From the eastern edge of Carrigaline town the walkway continues to the outskirts of Crosshaven.

Other remains of the original rail line are visible at Blackrock – where the signal house and platform are still intact. The bridge over the Douglas estuary, between Blackrock and Rochestown is still standing, although it had fallen into disrepair until the late 1990s when extensive repair work was completed. The remains of the Rochestown platform can be seen from the Rochestown road. At various points on the route from Passage to Monkstown and Carrigaline, smaller bridges, old water towers and tunnels are visible. Along the length of walkway from Carrigaline, signal lights for the trains have been restored and line the Owenabue River to Crosshaven.

Work began in May 2017 to improve the path that connected to the Marina Park, as well as the park itself.[32] From the pedestrian bridge over the South Ring Road just past the Rochestown area to the park, construction has taken place to improve the surface of the path, maintain the trees along the path, and install new walkways down from footpaths above.[citation needed]

A Passage Railway Greenway Improvement Scheme commenced in 2021 to improve part of the route for pedestrians and cyclists.[33]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Outer Cork Harbour was significant militarily with bases on Haulbowline and Spike Islands.
  2. ^ Cork tramways were also affected, closing in 1931


  1. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, p. 7.
  2. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, pp. 5, 14–15.
  3. ^ a b Jenkins & Newham 1993, p. 14.
  4. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, p. 16.
  5. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, pp. 19–20.
  6. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, pp. 19–22.
  7. ^ a b Mulligan 1990, p. 149.
  8. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, pp. 28–29.
  9. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, p. 32.
  10. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, p. 29.
  11. ^ Pendleton 1894, pp. 177–178.
  12. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, pp. 28–29, 35–36, 39–40.
  13. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, p. 43, 49.
  14. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, p. 44.
  15. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993.
  16. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, pp. 46–49.
  17. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, pp. 43, 46–49.
  18. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, p. 51—52, 100.
  19. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, pp. 43–44.
  20. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, pp. 52–56.
  21. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, pp. 83–84.
  22. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, pp. 84–85.
  23. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, p. 89—90.
  24. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, pp. 100.
  25. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, p. 92.
  26. ^ a b Clements & McMahon 2008, p. 214.
  27. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, p. 5.
  28. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, p. 94, 100.
  29. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, p. 28.
  30. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, p. 36.
  31. ^ Jenkins & Newham 1993, pp. 16–17, 100.
  32. ^ Healy 2017.
  33. ^ Ward & Burke 2021.


  • Clements, Jeremy; McMahon, Michael (2008). Locomotives of the GSR. Newtownards: Colourpoint Books. ISBN 9781906578268. OCLC 547074718.
  • Healy, Alan (29 May 2017). "Work begins on Cork's new Marina Park". Cork News. echo live.
  • Jenkins, Stanley C.; Newham, A. T. (1993). The Cork Blackrock & Passage Railway (2nd enlarged ed.). The Oakwood Press. ISBN 0853614059. OCLC 30913122.
  • Mulligan, Fergus (1990) [1983]. One Hundred and Fifty Years of Irish Railways. Belfast: Appletree Press. ISBN 9780862812331. OCLC 20525095.
  • Pendleton, John (1894). Our railways; their origin, development, incident and romance. Vol. 2. London, Paris and Melbourne: Cassell. OCLC 587817.
  • Ward & Burke (December 2021). "Cork Passage Railway Improvement Scheme".

Further readingEdit

  • Creedon, Colm (1992). The Cork Blackrock & Passage Railway and River Steamers 1850 - 1932.
  • Ferris, Tom (1993). From Cork to Cavan. The Irish Narrow Gauage: a pictorial history. Vol. 1. Midland Publishing. ISBN 1-85780-010-9. OCLC 60012260.
  • McNeill, D. B. (1971). "9: Cork Harbour". Irish Passenger Steamship Services. Vol. 2: South of Ireland. Newton Abbot, Devon: David & Charles. ISBN 0715352482. OCLC 60074874.

Coordinates: 51°53′50″N 8°27′46″W / 51.8973°N 8.4627°W / 51.8973; -8.4627