End of an era as bridge at Ballyglunin leaves the track

End of an era as the railway bridge at Ballyglunin is about to be removed as part of the N63 road improvement works.
End of an era as the railway bridge at Ballyglunin is about to be removed as part of the N63 road improvement works.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

Everything and everyone moves on, and there’s always a certain inevitability about the progress of roads and infrastructure, but yet there were many little emotional ripples last Saturday morning close to Finn’s Cross in Ballyglunin when the bridge over the N63 Galway to Roscommon roadway was lifted off by a giant crane, probably never to be replaced again.

For those of us who grew up just over the road from the bridge and the rail line between Tuam and Athenry it certainly was the end of an era and while there are very genuine and dedicated people hoping that one day the trains will run again on this line, the economic reality seems to suggest otherwise.

Three Summers had barely passed in my life when my father would have his on ‘red alert’ for the last of the steam engines as they made their way from Tuam to Athenry loaded with goods (possibly beet pulp), after off-loading their consignment of beet in Tuam.

About two miles south of Ballyglunin, the steam engine would always be hard pressed to climb the hill through the townlands of Caherpuca and Crumlin: sometimes the steam power would just run out before the high point was passed and the train would then freewheel all the way back the track to Ballyglunin for another fill of coal and an effort to build up a bigger head of steam.

It always seemed to make it the second time around, but when the ‘diesels’ took over fully from steam power in the early 1960s, the little hill at Crumlin became a problem no more, and our seasonal dramas of wondering, whether steam or the hill, would win the battle were no more.

Watches were a scarce enough commodity in the 1960s with the passing trains marking out in segments the portions of the passing day. Making allowances for the vagaries of memories, in the morning there was the ‘twenty past eleven’; mid-afternoon was mapped out by the ‘twenty to four’ while an absolutely critical one for us, as young lads, was the ‘twenty to six’ in the evening.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.