17th December 2019
“A momentous year at Donegal Railway Museum!”
It’s been an extremely busy 12 months in the Donegal Railway Heritage Centre with ambitious plans for the future.
Niall McCaughan, Manager stated: “2019 has been a momentous time for the museum, and it’s amazing what has been achieved over the last 12 months. Successes have included our St Patricks Day entry, Leghowney Country Market visit, National Heritage Week (where we had more events than any other heritage venue in the County), our Big Hello storytelling event in both Donegal Town and in the County Museum Letterkenny, European Heritage Weekend, our Vintage Rally, our Halloween event, Taste of Donegal Town Christmas Fair, and the recent standout success of our famous Christmas Santa weekends which had our biggest attendance ever. We also trailed Sunday Opening this year in the summer season, and will continue this in 2020. At present we are the only tourist attraction open year-round in Donegal Town; hopefully, others will follow our example in due course. Our customer feedback has been excellent. We must be doing something right as we are now continually receiving “5 Star Reviews”. This is not only down to an improving product offer, but to our staff who excel in excellent customer welcome giving that special “Donegal welcome”.
We are particularly proud of instigating an application and being awarded at the end of last year a grant of over €100,000 through the Town & Country Renewal Scheme to enhance Donegal Town itself which will focus on improved signage, access and other ways to improve visitor experience in our town. We were also successful in securing funding from Pobal towards another year of wages as well as grant aid from the Community Enhancement Scheme towards museum equipment, generous donations from Donegal Town Credit Union towards running costs and from Graham Forbes towards our Drumboe fund, Donegal County Council grant towards our Big Hello event, and drawdown on a Leader grant towards new publications.
We have continued to focus on re-engaging the community, whether to Members, the general public, the business community, voluntary community or the public sector. We have made good inroads into this as reported directly to us by Members, the press, politicians, tourism bodies and funders and by the general public, and will continue to work on this. Success in engagement can be gauged by the significant growth in positive reviews of the museum. Our new engagement has included presentations, targets newsletters, new Membership, increased Partnerships, new internal and external events, increased media presence and outreach work with local schools.
It’s been a challenging year, as it always is for funding, but we are making strides to become more sustainable. For example, by public demand and to raise much-needed funding, we have been able to reproduce the famous Donegal Railway travel poster for sale as well as new fridge magnets, Drumboe clocks and the like. We have produced several major publications, Michael Bunch’s Diary Part 2”, and in the last month, “County Donegal by Rail in Colour” which has created huge interest across Ireland and further afield. We are also now able to offer our railway carriages as a unique location to host events, meetings and the like, with clients including local writers group “Pen 2 Paper” and the VEC.
This year was a big anniversary for us as it’s the 60th year since the station and much of the Donegal rail network closed down. With this in mind, we focused on commemorating this anniversary, engaging people, and also using this as an opportunity to fundraise for the museum. Special events included several talks across the county, a special commemorative 60th Anniversary badge, a commemorative event in Mullanboys with the assistance of Fred Symmons, etc., and many other events. We have a number of ongoing priorities including raising funding to restore and bring the famous Donegal engine “Drumboe” back home to Donegal Town, as well as upgrade and reorganise the museum which is badly needed. Drumboe is our most ambitious project to date, and it’s the one that more Donegal people ask us about. Through crowdfunding we have already raised substantial funding and have a major funding application in progress, which hopefully we will receive good news about very soon.
Over the last year we have carried out much-needed maintenance to the stock, and have transformed the external site which was in need of an upgrade for many years. We have also put out a call out anything associated with the railways across the County, which could be on display to the wider public. We have already received some unique items which will be going on display in the near future; if you have anything that you might like to donate or loan, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to thank our dedicated staff who have been an important part of providing a special and unique experience to all who visit. We thank our Board, Members, funders, the business community and the general public.
Finally, I would put a call out to the public and the local businesses to play their part in the year and years ahead. We have ambitious plans, but it won’t happen without your continued support in helping us to realise our vision of celebrating, showcasing and appreciating our unique railway heritage in Donegal.