Journal Volume 2 1995

Notes on how the railway came to Greystones

By Aileen Short, September 1992
Why a Railway?

During the Napoleonic Wars (1800-1815), the number of British ships increased tremendously, and so did trade across the Irish Sea - the Army and Navy had to be fed and clothed, leading to a huge price-rise in grains. Dublin Port was silting up and Howth was used by the mail ships, but was not big enough for the huge volume of shipping now crossing the Irish Sea, nor for ships seeking shelter from frequent storms. Also, the memory of 1798 was very much on the London Government's mind, with the possibility of having to move troops fast if necessary. An “Asylum Harbour”, therefore, was planned at Dunleary. The Act of 1815 authorised the building of the East Pier, followed in 1817 by the West Pier. After the \visit of George IV in 1821 the town was called Kingstown.

Dublin entrepreneurs in 1825 petitioned the London Parliament for permission to build a Railway or Tram way between Dublin and Kingstown. Others, however, wanted a Ship Canal. Eventually the Act of 1831 allowed the first railway in Ireland to be built, called the Dublin and Kingstown Railway (D&KR). It cost the entrepreneurs £1626 14s 2p to get this Act passed.

Dublin and Kingstown Railway

The Directors of the Dublin and Kingstown Railway were a most honest, energetic, far-seeing group of men. Thomas Pim was the first chairman, and James Pim Junior was the first Secretary. The other Directors were Edward Alexander, John Barton, James Ferrier, Joseph Kincaid, James Perry, Robert Roe and James Twigg. In May 1832 James Pim Junior was appointed Treasurer, and Thomas Bergin became Secretary. In order to start building the railway, they had to raise £100,000 themselves, and the Board of Public Works loaned £75,000, on which the Directors had to take out mortgages. As far as I have been able to ascertain, no scandal ever marred the reputation of the D&KR.

Planning the Line

Land now had to be bought to build the line designed by the great Alexander Nimmo, the payment of whose fees were guaranteed by James Pin. Lord Cloncurry and Rev. Sir Harcourt Lees refused to allow the railway to be built across their lands at Blackrock and had to be compensated by huge sums of money - £3,000 and £7,500 respectively, as well as by a tunnel, towers, bridges, piers and bathing places. Most landowners along the line, however, were happy with the original compensation offered.

In looking for personnel to build the line the Directors looked first of all to the great Thomas Telford, who was asked to re-examine Nimmo's plans, but he was by now too old for such an undertaking. Mr. George Stephenson of Liverpool and Mr. Joseph Locke came across to give advice and were paid off. In 1832 the Board of Public Works suggested that Charles Vignoles be appointed as Chief Engineer for the D&KR. He was a brilliant engineer, born in Wexford of Huguenot extraction, who trained with the Royal Artillery Engineers and at the age of twenty-three began surveying and mapping South Carolina and the adjoining States. He then returned to England, where he joined the firm of John Rennie and learned about railways. He completed the plans for the line and spent a great deal of time travelling to and fro between Ireland and London, smoothing, out problems and generating goodwill.


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