Programme contributor Adam Hamilton the
cat of a restored BCDR railway engine.
preserved engine pulling carriages of the type in which
people would have travelled between Saintfield and
THE majority of commuters from Saintfield and
Temple who face the daily grind of travelling into Belfast by
road probably don't remember when it was possible to make the
same journey by rail.
However, on Monday (January 14) a BBC
Northern Ireland documentary will look back at a time when
people from the area on their way to work in the city were able
to relax and let the train take the strain'.
This convenience ended in the years
immediately after the Second World War as routes operated by the
Belfast and County Down Railway began to close.
People were forced to undertake their daily
commute by bus and increasingly by car as private vehicle
'Raising Steam' at 10.35pm on BBC One will
tell the story of the Downpatrick and Co. Down Railway Society's
ambition to produce a 'vibrant living history' of the rail
services which linked Saintfield with Belfast as well as other
smaller towns and villages.
It will feature the stories of some of those
who worked on the original railway and include archive as well
as never before broadcast home footage recalling the 'golden age
of the train' in Co. Down.
People in whose lives the railway played an
important part will also contribute as will Society volunteers
who are working to develop the track and restore more of the
The programme may also prompt the harassed
roadbound commuters of 2008 to question why Co. Down's rail
network was drastically cut as there can be little doubt many
would be happy to travel to work by train if such a facility
Original plans for the Belfast and Co. Down
Railway (BCDR) did not include Saintfield.
However, these were altered with trains from
Belfast's Queens Quay Terminus arriving in the village after
calling at Ballygowan on their way to Crossgar, Ballynahinch and
Ballynahinch services began on September 10,
1858 and trains first travelled to Downpatrick on March 23, 1859
- less than a decade after the commencement of BCDR's first
service linking Queens Quay with Holywood.
People who remember travelling into Belfast
from Saintfield by train will recall passing through Shepherds
Bridge Halt, Ballygowan and Comber before arriving at Dundonald.
Trains then called at Knock, Neills Hill
which was located at Sandown Road and Bloomfield on Beersbridge
Road before terminating at Queens Quay where commuters could
either continue to Belfast City Centre by tram or walk across
the Queen Elizabeth Bridge.
The demise of train services to Saintfield
had its roots in a terrible accident one foggy January morning
in 1945 when 23 people died in a collision at Ballymacarrett.
This occurred when one train ran into the
rear of another. Both were travelling into Queens Quay from the
The BCDR experienced financial difficulties
after having to pay a very large amount of compensation to those
affected by the tragedy and the railway was closed after coming
into government ownership.
However, it's interesting to note that a
large section of the line's route between Saintfield and Belfast
has been earmarked as the route of 'e-way' a proposed rapid
transit system linking Comber with Dundonald, East Belfast and
the city centre.