RPSI No.461I’m still struggling to get up to date with processing my shots, but I am getting closer to caught up than I was a month ago, so things are heading in the right direction at least :).

Last time I reported on a steam special (the Maynooth Shuttles), it was to, yet again, say that, despite our hopes, newly over-hauled steam loco No.461 couldn’t make it. Well, that finally changed this time, when she worked her first passenger-carrying train from Dublin in over a decade. She’s not quite running smoothly yet though, clocking up some very significant delays on this rail tour. Still, at least she’s out pulling trains on the main line!

No. 461 is a relatively modern steam locomotive, having been built for the DSER (Dublin South Eastern Railway) by Beyer, Peacock & Co. in Manchester in 1922. She was initially conceived as an 0-6-0 locomotive, in other words, having six driving wheels with no leading or trailing un-powered wheels, however, the DSER ran into problems with similarly sized 0-6-0 locos derailing because they were too heavy for the track, so, the design of No.461 (and it’s one sister loco) was altered, and two leading wheels were added, making her a 2-6-0 loco.

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No.461 had quite a turbulent start to her life, spending some time very early on sheltering from the Irish Civil War in Belfast. After the Civil War was over she served the amalgamated Great Southern Railway (GSR), and later CIE, very well until she was withdrawn in 1965. She was restored to mainline running once before, pulling trains between 1990 and 2001.

You can read more about No.461 on the RPSI’s Website.

The two-day Spare Link rail tour kicked off with a light workout for No.461, just a short run from Dublin to the new M3 Parkway station just beyond Dunboyne. This took the train along the recently re-opened part of the old Clonsilla to Navan line, which had closed to passengers in 1947, before being re-opened as far as the M3 Parkway in 2011. I caught up with the special in Clonsilla Station. The junction for the Dunboyne branch diverges from the Dublin to Sligo main line just beyond the station.

The Royal Canal runs next to the Dublin to Sligo main line for most of it’s length between Dublin and Mullingar, and the section around Clonsilla is no different. Just beyond the junction with the Sligo Line the re-opened branch crosses the canal. The original bridge was left in place for many decades after the line closed, but, it had fallen into such a bad state of decay that it was demolished a few decades ago, so a new bridge had to be built. It’s at this new bridge that I caught No.461 as she returned to Dublin with the Spare Link.

When she left Clonsilla she was still on time, and all seemed to be going well, but her day was just beginning. From Dublin she would run the whole way down the east coast of Ireland to Wexford, and that’s when she started to pick up delays. She overnighted in Wexford before heading north again, up past Dublin and on to Howth. Howth is a very picturesque seaside town a little north of Dublin, and is served by a short branch line that diverges from the Dublin to Belfast Mainline in Howth Junction. This branch is electrified, and seldom sees any trains other than the electric DARTs.

The run up from Wexford did not go smoothly, lots of stops because of overheating axels, and, those stops were made more ‘interesting’ by a sticky mid-gear, making starting ‘challenging’. By the time she made it to Howth she was over two hours late. This was a good thing, because the traffic in the area was horrific. Since Howth is both picturesque and close to Dublin City, half the city seems to want to get there any time we get some good weather, and, the weather on the 25th of March was spectacularly good!

Sutton Station

I set myself up in Sutton Station, about half way along the short Howth Branch. This is a former Great Norther Railway of Ireland (GNRi) station, and it still retains it’s beautiful original platform canopy.

From the platform in Sutton I was able to capture most of the action near the end of the rail tour. No.461 first passed with the special, followed shortly there after by Irish Rail 201 class diesel loco No.217 running light engine. No.217 relieved No.461 in Howth, taking charge of the Rail Tour for the short final leg back to Connolly Station in Dublin. Finally, No.461 followed the special back to Connolly light engine. I was able to capture all four movements.

You can see all my shots from the day on Flickr where I’ve collected them into a set.

Flickr Set

As well as shooting Stills with my trusty Nikon D40, I also shot some video on my new Nikon D5100. I’ve edited the video and some of the stills together into a movie of the weekend’s events which I’ve uploaded to my YouTube Channel. I’ve embedded the video below for convenience: