Great Southern Railways

The Great Southern Railways Company (often Great Southern Railways, or GSR) was an Irish company that from 1925 until 1945 owned and operated all railways that lay wholly within the Irish Free State (the present-day Republic of Ireland).

Great Southern Railways
1926 map of GSR
Dates of operation1 January 1925–31 December 1944
PredecessorMidland Great Western Railway
Great Southern and Western Railway
Dublin and South Eastern Railway
Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway
and others[1]
SuccessorCIÉ Railways Division (1945-1987)
Irish Rail (1987-present)
Track gauge5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)
3 ft (914 mm)
Length2,181 miles 28 chains (3,510.5 km) (1925)[2]
Track length2,927 miles 36 chains (4,711.3 km) (1925)[2]

The period was difficult with rising operating costs and static to failing income. The early part of the period was soon after infrastructure losses of the Irish Civil War. The Emergency or Second World War at the end of the period saw shortages of coal and raw materials with increased freight traffic and restricted passenger traffic.[3]

History edit

Context edit

Civil unrest in Ireland had led to the assumption of governmental control of all railways operating in the Island of Ireland on 22 December 1916 through the Irish Railways Executive Committee, later succeeded by the Ministry of Transport. Control was returned to the management of the companies on 15 August 1921. The Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921 establishing the Irish Free State and subsequent Irish Civil War all combined to be damaging to the railways of Ireland widespread and extensive damage to infrastructure and rolling stock. Between 1916 and 1921 revenues had doubled while operating costs and wages had quadrupled. When the GS&WR, by far the largest of the companies, announced it would cease operations on 8 January 1923. The Irish Free State had already recognised the importance of the railway system and had set up the Railway Commission to advise on ownership in April 1922. The impending collapse led to the process that was to create the GSR.[4]

Formation edit

Provision for the creation of the company was made by the Railways Act 1924, which mandated the amalgamation (in the case of the four major railway companies) and absorption (of the 22 smaller companies) of all railways wholly within the Irish Free State. Only cross-border railways, most notably the Great Northern Railway (GNR) and the Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway (SL&NCR), remained outside its control.[1]

First amalgamation edit

The Great Southern and Western Railway Company, the Midland Great Western Railway Company of Ireland and the Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway Company agreed to terms for amalgamation, forming the Great Southern Railway Company by way of the Railways (Great Southern) Preliminary Amalgamation Scheme of 12 November 1924 (SI no. 31 of that year).[5]

DSER joins edit

The Great Southern Railways Company was formed when the fourth major company, the Dublin and South Eastern Railway (DSER), joined these companies under the Great Southern Railways Amalgamation Scheme of 1 January 1925 (SI no. 1 of that year) and the Great Southern Railways Supplemental Amalgamation Scheme, also 1925. The DSER was substantially British-owned and had wished to merge with the GNR but was overruled.[5]

Smaller companies edit

The smaller companies were absorbed under several successive statutory instruments.[5]

List of companies amalgamated to form Great Southern Railway/Great Southern Railways
Company[6] Operator Gauge Route Miles Locomotives[7] Notes
Argina Colliery Extension Railway CLR 3 ft (914 mm)    4   0 [8]
Athy Wolfhill Colliery Railway GSWR 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)   12   0
Athenry and Tuam Extension Railway GSWR 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)    17   0 [9]
Bantry Extension Railway (CBSCR) CBSCR 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)    11   0 Operated by Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway
Ballinrobe and Claremorris Light Railway MGWR 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)    12   0 Nominally 12 miles
Baltimore Extension Railway CBSCR 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)    8   0
Castlecomer Railway GSWR 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)   12   0 Nominally 12 miles
Cavan and Leitrim Railway (CLR) CLR 3 ft (914 mm)   59   9
Clonakilty Extension Railway CBSCR 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)    9   0
Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway (CBSCR) CBSCR 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)   94  20
Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway (CPBR) CBPR 3 ft (914 mm)   16   4
Cork and Macroom Direct Railway (CMDR) CMDR 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)   24   5 CMDR tried to avoid joining GSR by physical independence[10]
Cork and Muskerry Light Railway (CMLR) CMLR 3 ft (914 mm)   11   7
Cork City Railways 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)    1   0 Tramway connecting docks, CBSCR and GSWR, mileage nominal[11]
Donoughmore Extension Light Railway CMLR 3 ft (914 mm)   8   0
Dublin and Kingstown Railway DSER 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)    6   0
Dublin and South Eastern Railway (DSER) DSER 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)  161  41 Route mileage may include closures and operational track
Fishguard & Rosslare Railways & Harbours Company GSWR 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)  104   0 50% joint GSR/Great Western Railway
Great Southern and Western Railway (GSWR) GSWR 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) 1100 326 Route mileage may include closures and operational track
Loughrea and Attymon Light Railway MGWR 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)    9   0
Midland Great Western Railway (MGWR) MGWR 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)  538 139 Route mileage may include closures and operational track
South Clare Railway WCR 3 ft (914 mm)   0
Schull and Skibbereen Railway (SSR) SSR 3 ft (914 mm)    15   4 Company was West Carberry Tramways and Light Railways Co. Ltd.
Southern of Ireland Railway GSWR 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)   28   0 [12]
Timoleague and Courtmacsherry Light Railway (TCLR) TCLR 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)    9   2
Tralee and Dingle Light Railway (TDLR) TDLR 3 ft (914 mm)   38   8
Tralee and Fenit Railway GSWR 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)    7   0 Mileage nominal
West Clare Railway (WCR) WCR 3 ft (914 mm)   27  11
Waterford and Tramore Railway (WTR) WTR 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)    7   4

Omissions and anomalies edit

CIÉ previously maintained a full online list of the twenty five companies which constituted the Great Southern Railways in 1925.[6] This is not entirely accurate, as it includes the Fishguard & Rosslare Railways & Harbours Company which still exists today, although GSR took over 50% of its shares upon its creation, the other 50% being held by the UK Great Western Railway. The respective shareholdings in the company, now essentially a shelf company, are held today by Iarnród Éireann and Stena Line.[citation needed]

Two companies that were not amalgamated but whose tracks the GSR retained operating rights over were the City of Dublin Junction Railway,[a] and the New Ross and Waterford Extension.[13]

Three railways remained completely outside of the amalgamation process, despite lying wholly within the Free State. These were the County Donegal Railways Joint Committee, the Listowel and Ballybunion Railway and the Dublin and Lucan Electric Railway.[2]

Early years edit

The GS&WR was the dominant constituent in terms of area, route millage and rolling stock. The GSR's headquarters were established at Kingsbridge and Inchicore became the chief engineering works. The former Dublin and South Eastern section in particular had become extremely run down and needed extensive remedial work on its rolling stock with about one-third condemned with immediate effect.[citation needed] Revenue for passengers decreased from £1.91m in 1925 to £1.28m by 1931, that for freight decreasing from £2.27m to £2.05m.[14]

Buses and hotels edit

From 1929, when it acquired a stake in the Irish Omnibus Company, the company also ran bus services. These operations became the responsibility, from 1 January 1934, of the Great Southern Railways Omnibus Department.

The group owned a number of hotels, and in 1990 the hotel group was transferred from Córas Iompair Éireann to Aer Rianta, in the ownership of which it remained until 2006. The hotel group formed by the company, Great Southern Hotels, continued to bear that name until its privatisation in 2006. Only the Sligo hotel continued to use the Great Southern name as of 2016, but in January 2018 The Malton Hotel in Killarney reverted to its original name of the Great Southern.[15]

1930s edit

Worldwide economic conditions continued to be difficult and affected Ireland also, passenger and freight revenue decreased to £1.27m and £2.05m by 1939.[16]

Second World War edit

Although the Republic of Ireland was a neutral country, railway transport was severely disrupted by The Emergency. The lack of high-quality coal fuel in Ireland and the need to import from England was severe and desperate alternatives such as turf-burning had only extremely limited success. By 1944 most non-suburban passenger services were restricted to Mondays and Thursdays only with some curtailed altogether. [17]

Transfer to CIÉ edit

The Transport Act 1944 dissolved the company and transferred its assets, together with those of the Dublin United Transport Company to Córas Iompair Éireann, from 1 January 1945.

Route network edit

Over the period of the GSR's existence, the total route network was reduced slightly from 2,181 miles (3,510 km) in 1925 to 2,042 miles (3,286 km) at the end in 1944.[18] Among the few lines closed in the intervening years were the former Midland Great Western lines from Galway to Clifden (in 1935)[19] and from Westport to Achill (in 1937).[20]

The stretch of line that was double track was reduced more significantly, from 438 miles (705 km) to 276 miles (444 km) in the same period.[18]

Locomotives and rolling stock edit

Locomotives edit

GSR 4-6-0 locomotive "Maeḋḃ", preserved at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

A wide variety of locomotives and rolling stock was inherited from the constituent companies. 1925 records show 526 broad and 41 narrow gauge steam locomotives remaining inherited from the originating companies.[7] Locomotives were renumbered into the GSR class number scheme whereby the lowest numbered engine in the class was used as the class identity. There was a parallel Inchicore scheme that used a letter to indicate the axle layout and a number to designate different groups within the class.

When the GSR passed into CIÉ at the end of 1944 the total number of broad gauge steam locomotives was about 475 of which 58 had been built by GSR. About 28 narrow gauge steam locomotives remained.[7]

Rolling stock edit

The total number of passenger vehicles including post office, parcel, and brake vans was 1670 in 1925, falling to 1337 by 1944.[18]

Railcars edit

The GSR introduced four Sentinel steam railcars in 1928 with power units similar to the GSR Class 280, operating range of over 150 miles (240 km) and a passenger capacity of 55. All were withdrawn in the early 1940s. A subsequent order from Claytons in 1928 was less successful and withdrawn in 1932. A model exists in the Fry railway collection. Four Drewry petrol-powered railcars, of which two were narrow gauge, were also introduced around 1927, with all four also being withdrawn by the mid 1940s.[21] The innovative Drumm Battery Train was successfully operated on the DublinBray route from 1932.

Senior people edit

General Manager
Chief Mechanical Engineer/Locomotive Superintendent[22]
  • J. R. Bazin (1925—1929)
  • W. H. Morton (1930—1932)
  • A. W. Harty (1932—1937)
  • Edgar Craven Bredin (1937—1942)
  • J. M. Ginnetty (1942—1944)
  • C.F. Tindall (1944)

See also edit

References edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ Westland Row to Amiens St.

Footnotes edit

  1. ^ a b Clements & McMahon (2008), pp. 13–14.
  2. ^ a b c The Railway Year Book for 1926. London: The Railway Publishing Company Limited. 1926. pp. 221–227.
  3. ^ Clements & McMahon (2008), pp. 11–20.
  4. ^ Clements & McMahon (2008), pp. 11, 13.
  5. ^ a b c Clements & McMahon (2008), pp. 13–15.
  6. ^ a b "LIST OF RAILWAY COMPANIES WHICH WERE ABSORBED WITH THE GREAT SOUTHERN RAILWAYS IN 1925". Córas Iompair Éireann. Archived from the original on 10 April 2013.
  7. ^ a b c Clements & McMahon (2008), p. 350.
  8. ^ "New railway line for Cavan". RTÉ. Archived from the original on 15 April 2018. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Athenry and Tuam Extension to Claremorris Railway". Grace's Guide to British Industrial History. Archived from the original on 15 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  10. ^ Clements & McMahon (2008), p. 174.
  11. ^ Langford, John (June 2008). "CORK CITY RAILWAYS". Irish Railway Record Society (166). Archived from the original on 30 November 2017.
  12. ^ Casserley (1974), p. 79.
  13. ^ Casserley (1974), p. 148.
  14. ^ Clements & McMahon (2008), pp. 17.
  15. ^ Scales, Joan (13 September 2017). "What's in a name? Great Southern hotel returns to its roots". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 11 November 2020. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  16. ^ Clements & McMahon (2008), pp. 16–17.
  17. ^ Clements & McMahon (2008), pp. 19–20.
  18. ^ a b c Clements & McMahon (2008), p. 343.
  19. ^ "History of the Route". The Connemara Greenway. Retrieved 4 February 2022.
  20. ^ McNally, Frank (21 August 2013). "Great Western Greenway: the long and winding road without a car in sight". The Irish Times. Retrieved 4 February 2022.
  21. ^ Clements & McMahon (2008), pp. 298–307, 380.
  22. ^ "Great Southern Railway(s)". Irish Railwayana. Archived from the original on 20 August 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2018.

Sources edit

External links edit