West Clare Railway
The Heritage Council
Short Interpretive Text
Medium Interpretive Text
Long Interpretive Text
Early proposals for a west Clare railway service were dismissed by investors who did not think there was enough freight or people for a railway to make a profit. The Parliament passed an act in 1883 which included clauses to permit a narrow gauge track, thereby more than halving the building costs. Building of the west Clare railway tracks, often through boggy land began soon after.
The West Clare Railway line was opened in 1893 and its initial timetable consisted of three daily trains between Ennis and Kilkee, with a branch line connection to Kilrush. The railway line provided a gateway to the Loop Head Peninsula for tourists and business alike, allowing for easier transportation of goods and services. By the turn of the century, there were five daily trains and approximately 250,000 passengers and 80,000 tonnes of freight and livestock carried on the West Clare Railway annually. The Lahinch golf course was laid out at this time; many British Army officers used the railway to travel to the course. The Lisdoonvarna Festival, the Kilrush Horse Fair and the Lahinch Garland Day events attracted visitors from all parts of Ireland who could now travel to the events by rail. The Burren cattle trade was enhanced by the ease of transporting the cattle away from the market. The maximum speed the steam engines could travel at was 25 miles an hour and while the journey was timetabled to take 2.5 hours, it often took 4 hours and more.
The train went through many turbulent times, including during the War of Independence, when the staff defied their directors and refused to carry British Army soldier’s weapons on the train. The train was hit by Black & Tan bullets after the Rineen Ambush when Captain Meldrum was ambushed and killed at Clohanes. The lack of coal during World War 2 was overcome by the railway; when turf, plentiful in the region but ultimately unsuitable was used as an alternative. Its eventual closure in January 1961 was down to increased emigration and dwindling population. There was simply not enough traffic to keep the line open.
The West Clare Railway line is forever associated with Percy French, a popular entertainer and songwriter who sued the directors of the West Clare Railway Company for loss of earnings. He and his troupe of entertainers were late for a performance in Moores Hall, Kilkee in 1897, after a long delay on his train journey from Ennis. The water supply, essential for the steam train was contaminated with rushes and the train grind to a halt. An alternative train was sent to the scene but Percy arrived in Kilkee 10 minutes after he was due to start his performance and half the audience had left. He sought damages and was awarded £10 compensation but surprisingly the railway line appealed. The original verdict was upheld. Percy French wrote the famous song Are you right there, Michael?, a catchy, comical tune about the railway line and its casual approach to timekeeping.
Restoration of part of the West Clare Railway began in the 1990s and in 2009, the restored ‘Slieve Callan’ steam engine was returned to the Moyasta Junction. At Moyasta, the visitor can take a trip aboard the steam train ‘Slieve Callan’ and learn about the famous West Clare Railway, the history of steam trains in Ireland and the impact the railway had on the local community.
Site Recommendations and Observations
It is recommended that adequate road signage be provided for this tourist attraction on the main N67 Kilrush to Kilkee Road in both directions. At present there is insufficient road signage for tourists trying to find and visit this site. The locations is these signs will be determined by the detailed signage design process taking into account the NRA document Traffic Signs Manual in addition to any future branding for the Wild Atlantic Way or Loop Head Tourism.
At present it is not visually obvious that you have arrived at the West Clare Railway until you drive into the car park. Therefore, it is recommended that an Arrival Sign be considered to adequately inform visitors. If considered, these ‘Arrival Signs’ should be consistent for all sites in terms of design, size and branding.
The provision of cycle parking should be considered at this and all heritage trail sites. This site is on key cycling routes including the Wild Atlantic Way and the West Clare Cycleway Route among others.
With the provision of signage and possible future increase in traffic along the WAW, additional car parking provision may be required on site. It is recommended that capacity surveys (spot checks) be undertaken during the peak season to identify if additional parking is required.
It is recommended that the proposed design ready interpretation content for the site could be used by the West Clare Railway in a variety of different ways to compliment their existing information on-site.
The following three statements apply to all site recommendations:
- ‘All proposals must comply with all planning, local authority and other statutory requirements.’
- ‘All proposals for development within, adjacent to or with the potential to affect a Natura 2000 site will be subject to an Appropriate Assessment Screening. To ensure that a Habitat Directive Assessment is carried out to assess the likely impacts on Natura 2000 sites in order to comply with Article 6(3) of the Habitat Directive and in accordance with the requirements of the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011.’
- ‘All projects must be undertaken in accordance with the Wild Atlantic Way Discovery Points Remedial Works Guidelines, including the Ecological Method Statement.’
Sources of Information
1) Interview with Jackie Whelan
2) Interview with Richard Gair
3) Online Research
Other Research and Facts
by Percy French (1902)
You may talk of Columbus's sailing
Across the Atlantical Sea
But he never tried to go railing
From Ennis as far as Kilkee
You run for the train in the morning
The excursion train starting at eight
You're there when the clock gives the warnin'
And there for an hour you'll wait
And as you're waiting in the train
You'll hear the guard sing this refrain:
Are ye right there, Michael, are ye right?
Do you think that we'll be there before the night?
Ye've been so long in startin'
That ye couldn't say for certain
Still ye might now, Michael
So ye might!
They find out where the engine's been hiding
And it drags you to sweet Corofin
Says the guard: "Back her down on the siding
There's a goods from Kilrush coming in."
Perhaps it comes in two hours
Perhaps it breaks down on the way
"If it does," says the guard, "by the powers
We're here for the rest of the day!"
And while you sit and curse your luck
The train backs down into a truck.
Are ye right there, Michael, are ye right?
Have ye got the parcel there for Mrs White?
Ye haven't, oh begorra
Say it's comin' down tomorra
And well it might now, Michael
So it might
At Lahinch the sea shines like a jewel
With joy you are ready to shout
When the stoker cries out: "There's no fuel
And the fire's tee-totally out!
But hand up that bit of a log there
I'll soon have ye out of the fix
There's fine clamp of turf in the bog there
And the rest go a-gatherin' sticks."
And while you're breakin' bits of trees
You hear some wise remarks like these:
"Are ye right there, Michael? Are ye right?
Do ye think that you can get the fire to light?
Oh, an hour you'll require
For the turf it might be drier
Well it might now, Michael
So it might."
Category of Interest
January 28th, 2013
The Sliabh Callan leaving the platform
Opening Hours April – September 2013
Tuesday to Saturday 1:00pm – 4:00pm (Diesel Train)
Sunday & Monday 1:00pm – 4:00pm (Steam Engine *)
* Steam engine operates weekends June 2013 -Sept .2013
Steam engine runs outside these times for pre booked tours
Other times by appointment
These times may be subject to change
Guided Tour of Museum, Film and train trip takes 1 hour (approx)
Train journey takes 15 minutes
Adults:- € 8.00
Children:- € 4.00
Children under 3 years free
Group discounts available
Mob: +353 (0) 87 7919289