History will be made on Saturday 9th October, as the first original Donegal Steam Engine is set to return to the County in decades. The engine will be taken carefully from the restoration yard at Whitehead on a low-loader through Derry, Strabane, Stranorlar, and to Donegal Town, where she will be on view for a short period mid-afternoon in Donegal Town Centre, before her final short journey to the museum. This engine has come full circle, as it was the very last engine to operate a passenger service in the county, on the 31st December 1959, leaving Donegal Town Station for Strabane.
It has been a challenging year and a half, with Covid lockdowns delaying work on this landmark project. There are two main parts to this project, the restoration of the engine itself, and also the building of a new presentation platform and canopy at the museum. Many people have been asking if this is just a cosmetic repair, or can she go back into steam, and the answer is that most of the engine is being fully restored to operational state so that when funding becomes available, that she could certainly go back into steam. The only part of Drumboe which we are leaving at the moment is the boiler. There is no use in restoring the boiler and getting it certificated until we have land and a track to run it on, never mind the substantial monies required to do this. However, we see this as Phase 2 and have already started preliminary work on drawing up Terms of Reference for a Feasibility Study, which would be needed in order to attract funding. Phase 2 will be a medium to a long-term project, but this initial work which many thought they would never see is an important step towards this vision.
Thanks to donations from across the island of Ireland and further afield, including from our Members, Graham Forbes (grandson of CDR Manager Henry Forbes), The North West of Ireland Railway Society and many others, it was Donegal Local Development CLG who came in with the main part of the €100k+ project with the LEADER grant from Donegal County Council. The engine has now been restored, and we look forward to her return on Saturday 9th October.
Separately, the museum itself is receiving an upgrade in reparation for Drumboe’s return. A new presentation platform is nearly complete, and once the engine is carefully lifted into place, a new canopy will be installed above the engine, railway carriages, and wagons. We then have landscaping to complete, feature lighting to be installed, and a small track for a children’s ride-on to be installed at the back of the station. The museum offer will be further enhanced through generous Heritage Council funding, for new museum-quality signage and two audio signs, as well as funding through the Donegal Culture & Creativity Grant Scheme for a new “Donegal Railway Heritage Guide” for the county. This welcome investment will ensure that this unique museum is a must-see for locals and tourists alike, which celebrates the unique Donegal railways that once operated across the county.
For more information about Drumboe or the museum in general, contact Niall at firstname.lastname@example.org