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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.

Leo and Dermot O'Grady waiting to catch the train home to Ballyconnell.

Who is looking at whom at Bawnboy Rd?
L to R  P Murray, "Spot", L O'Grady

It was fortuitous that the Arigna line opened when it did. In 1922, the C&L suffered a considerable dent in its trading, with the imposition of partition. Bawnboy Road was hit particularly hard as the border eventually cut off the supply of cattle that heretofore was supplied from Ballymagovern Fair.
The increasing use of lorries also began to make inroads into the railroad's previously unchallenged domain. Railways, in general, were in a slow but steady decline.
In 1924, the new Free State Government introduced a Railway's Act in an attempt to rationalise and protect the railway sector. All railways were merged into a huge State run company called Great Southern Railways. The once independent Cavan Leitrim Railway was no more. It was reduced to a subsidiary role as part of the G.S.R.
During the thirties the line maintained a precarious existence but managed to survive. The war

(Continued on page 5)

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