Railway Line History
 
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Local historian and author Robin Masefield provides an insightful overview of the railway line's past...

The story of the Bangor Railway Line is fascinating. It celebrates the 150th anniversary of its opening on 18 May 1865.

The Belfast and County Down Railway Company (BCDR) constructed the line from Queen's Quay station in East Belfast to Holywood which opened on 2 August 1848, one of the first in Ulster. The Company saw the Holywood line as a branch line off its main routes to Downpatrick and Donaghadee, and did not commit to taking the line on to Bangor.

This left the way open for the Belfast, Holywood and Bangor Railway Company (BHBR) which completed the construction of the line to Bangor from Holywood by 1865. Most landowners along the route supported it, but not all, which effectively determined the route, including the steep climb out of Holywood to Marino and beyond. Although the population of Bangor was less than 3,000 at that time, the Company's Directors saw the scope for increased use by people who had hitherto travelled by horse or even foot and greater numbers of visitors to Bangor. Most of the stations between Holywood and Bangor were built in the 19th century, some designed by the firm of the leading Ulster architect Sir Charles Lanyon.
 
 
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The Belfast and County Down Railway Company (BCDR) constructed the line from Queen's Quay station in East Belfast to Holywood which opened on 2 August 1848, one of the first in Ulster.
 

The BHBR struggled to make a profit, and was taken over by the larger BCDR in 1884; that Company's heyday was in the period up to the First World War. Some well-known names were Directors including Thomas Andrews senior and William Pirrie. The track to Bangor was doubled at this time to allow for more trains, and the Company attracted residents to new houses built along the line with offers of free season tickets for a number of years.

After the Second World War, faced with increasing road competition, one hundred years after its line to Holywood was opened, the BCDR was nationalised into the Ulster Transport Authority. In the early 1950s the Bangor line was famed for being the first in the British Isles to be entirely diesel-operated. Today, under Northern Ireland railways' management, it provides fast, efficient and comfortable services for commuters, residents and visitors alike
 
 
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After the Second World War, faced with increasing road competition, one hundred years after its line to Holywood was opened, the BCDR was nationalised into the Ulster Transport Authority.
 

The story of the line is as much about the people who built, operated and used it. The 19th century visionaries who won over the sceptics were proved right, as were those who battled financial and technical challenges. It has successfully withstood those who favoured turning it into a roadway or closing the route altogether.

The line has seen triumphs and tragedies, including the 1945 Ballymacarrett disaster when a train from Holywood ran into the back of one from Bangor, stopped by a signal on a foggy morning
 
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Nowadays, the Bangor line is one of the punctual and popular in these islands, as well as being amongst the most scenic.
 

One feature has been constant - throughout 150 years, the staff have been dedicated to providing the best service and have been highly respected by the community.
Nowadays, the Bangor line is one of the punctual and popular in these islands, as well as being amongst the most scenic.

Its story is told in more detail in the book ‘Be Careful, Don't Rush, celebrating 150 years of train travel between Holywood and Bangor'.
 
 
 
NEW BOOK - Be Careful, Don't Rush
Be Careful, Don't Rush can be obtained from outlets and booksellers in North Down, as well as from www.booksireland.org.uk . Price at £10 - all profits will go to charities based in Bangor and Holywood.

Available to purchase from: Stewart Millers in Holywood, Bangor and Newtownards; Easons in Bangor; at Ards and North Down Council outlets eg the North Down Museum and Tower House TIC in Bangor; at the Spar garage in Crawfordsburn, at Square Cut and Deborah Harper in Helen's Bay.
 
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The book records stories of the railway's construction, its impact on the two towns, its locomotives and operation, and the lives of its builders, passengers, and staff. Pictured is author Robin Masefield.
 
 
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