Above; The railway line at Drung Hill, Kells, circa 1895. (Photograph courtesy of the ‘Lawrence Collection’). In 1893 the Killorglin to Valentia branch of the Great Southern and Western Railway line opened. The need by local farmers and fishermen to get their produce to market in Britain was identified and the provision of a grant of £85,000 from the British Government meant that work could commence. In December 1890 the first sod was turned by the local parish priest Cannon Brosnan and witnessed by high officials of the railway company amid much fanfare. The project gave a huge boost to the local economy providing 273 jobs on a basic wage of two Shillings (10p) per day. During the construction, a number of people lost their lives. At Gleesk, a man died as a result of a fire breaking out in one of the temporary huts built to house the men near the viaduct. Another was killed in one of the tunnels. Near Caragh Bridge, an O’Shea man from Quaybawn died when he was crushed between two ballast wagons during construction. During Puck Fair 1909, Superintendent Patrick Mc Kinley (G.S&W.R.) a Dubliner aged 55, was doing temporary duty at Killorglin Station trying to marshall the crowds boarding the train. His back was turned to the carriage and as the crowd surged forward he was pushed off balance and fell between the train and platform and was crushed to death by the moving train.
Above; The railway line at Drung Hill, Kells, circa 1895. (Photograph courtesy of the ‘Lawrence Collection’).
Above; The Kells rail line circa 1895. (Photograph courtesy of the ‘Lawrence Collection’). The overall cost of the 26 mile track was £243,627, a huge sum in those days, averaging £9000 per mile. Three years after work began, the first train left Valentia station on the 12th of September 1893. The main traffic on the line came from tourism and the fishing industry, both of which were seasonal. The regular cattle fairs were the most reliable source of income and the Cromane mussels were exported using the railway. By the 1950s the line was on longer commercially viable and despite great efforts by the Iveragh Railway Protection Association and much lobbying by individuals, the line was closed in 1960. By 1962, the track had been completely taken up. Large crowds gathered to line the route on the last day, this time to wave a fond farewell and morn the passing of what had been a life-line to one of the remotest parts of Ireland.
Above; A gentleman poses in one of the tunnels at Kells, circa 1895. (Photograph courtesy of the ‘Lawrence Collection’). Below; The rail track being taken up.
Below; The last train leaves Killorglin, 1960.