Bawnboy Road (A Brief History)
By Oliver Brady
Introduction and Overview
The advent of rail changed the world. Ireland was no exception. From the 1850's to the turn of the century, railways, both large and small, mushroomed all over the place bringing trade, travel and employment to even the most remote parts. Some of the networks were huge and complex, e.g. The Great Northern. Others were small. Some just served small specific areas or linked bigger networks. They may have been small but were proud and independent nonetheless.
The Cavan-Leitrim Railway, founded in 1883, was one of these. It served a double function: 333/4 miles long, this narrow gauge (3ft) line linked the Midland and Great Western broad gauge station at Dromod to the corresponding Great Northern facility at Belturbet. The narrow gauge also serviced the local communities in between to those towns. The construction of the Cavan and Leitrim Railway began in June 1885 and finished in July 1887. Two track lying gangs commenced work at Belturbet and Dromod respectively and met at Killyran Bridge in 1887 on schedule.
Thus began a chequered history. For the first 20 years or so things went fairly smoothly. Passenger traffic, both regular and in the excursion sector, ran well. Light freight like tea, sugar, alcohol, cloth etc. was big business being delivered to local stations like Bawnboy Road station and collected by merchants from the surrounding districts. Heavy freight consisted mainly of cattle..
Huge fairs like the 'Monaghan Fair' at Mohill and the twice-yearly fair at Ballymagovern were the mainstay of the narrow gauge. Bawnboy Road in particular, benefited from the Ballymagovern Fair as northern buyers were able to move stock readily via the local station and the G.N.R.
In 1920 a branch line was opened to Arigna, which greatly enhanced the local railway.
Coal was shipped to the main lines heading for Limerick and the cement works at Drogheda. The one logistical problem here was, that when the coal arrived at Dromod and Belturbet via the narrow gauge line, it had to be shovelled manually from the Cavan and Leitrim wagons to the wagons on the broad gauge lines. However the job was done, unpleasant though it was.