A MAJOR new attraction has opened in Ards and North Down, albeit on a miniature scale. Drumawhey Railway Junction, located in the countryside between Bangor, Donaghadee and Newtownards, has opened the first phase of a new miniature railway, winding for 325 metres and providing endless opportunities for fun.
The new project is the result of a merger between the Belfast & County Down Miniature Railway Society (BCDMRS), which has run Drumawhey Junction Railway for over 30 years, and the Model Engineers’ Society Northern Ireland which was based at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra for over 50 years. The amalgamated societies became the Drumawhey Junction Railway and Model Engineering Society.
The new organisation embarked on an ambitious new project to create a major new miniature railway and volunteers have been working hard to get the first phase up and running. One of the volunteers is Mark McDonald, who initially got involved with the society when his son had an interest in trains and was a member of the model engineers society at Cultra. “The first phase of the raised railway track opened on Saturday (June 11) and we hope to continue working on this throughout the year, to get the second phase completed,” he said. “Before the miniature train was at Cultra, it was originally in Belfast’s Waterworks for 25 years,” added Mark. “It was relocated here last year and we were very fortunate that there was an ideal space for it.
Where it is now was almost like a wasteland that has been completely repurposed.” Work is continuing on the second phase of the project which will see the railway extended to over 500m in length at its base at Four Road Ends on the Upper Gransha Road. Another volunteer is, Gary Fleming who paid tribute to those involved in the creation of the new railway. “We have been very fortunate to have had help from fellow members and volunteers who we would like to thank for all their hard work in getting the track to this stage. We would also send a massive thanks also to KDM hire and Davy’s bikes in Balloo who have been unbelievably helpful.”
BCDMRS is a cross-community organisation with a broad mix of people, ranging from people in their 20s to others in their 80s who help to develop the railway, build their own locomotives or just enjoy being part of a group of like-minded people. “Many hours of work have been spent working on many aspects of the Drumawhey site to facilitate the needs of the new club, including a brand-new members’ clubhouse and a workshop,” said Gary. “The locomotives that run on the railway have been built by enthusiasts in their home workshop or in the club workshop. They are used by members and their families and we hope people will enjoy watching them.
These can be powered by hand, battery or petrol but many of them are coal powered using fires of tiny anthracite beans to heat the boilers and produce steam.” Gary added: “We hold Halloween and Christmas events that are always a great turn out. It’s an amazing feeling when you see the public enjoying all the hard work we have put into getting this up and running for them. “We always welcome new members and our contact information can be found on our website and social media sites if anyone is interested in joining,” he said. It is hoped the second phase of the project will open within the next year.