The Disused Dingle Railway
The Tralee – Dingle Railway opened on March 31st, 1891. Measuring at 51kms long, it even branched off to Castlegregory, connecting some of Kerry’s more rural communities. It was built at a cost of £2700 per mile and took 3 years to complete. It remains Europe’s most westerly railway line.
From the beginnings this railway line was at a loss. Built cheaply, the line was often closed for repairs. A fatal accident, poor management, income deficit & inquiries, meant the railway line’s future was unstable. Between 1921-1923 the line was severely disrupted with Ireland’s struggle for Independence.
Great Southern Rail took over in 1925. They suffered a blow on their very first day of ownership when a train collided with a car at a level crossing.
It was 1930 before the main road to Dingle was able to accommodate buses and lorries. The passenger carriages were stopped altogether. Only cattle and coal were carried along the line for its remaining years. Although short lived, the railway’s existence was an eventful one.
During ‘The Emergency’, a German spy named Walter Simon arrived at the station on June 13th 1940, enquiring when the next train would depart. Simon had been landed by a German submarine, U-38, during the previous night and didn’t know only freight services operated. He made his way to Tralee by bus and then to Dublin by train. The strange request was reported to the Gardaí and Simon was detained by detectives on his arrival in the capitol. He interned* in Ireland until the War was over. British airmen were free to go if they were not on a combat mission, otherwise released on license**.
Although Ireland was neutral in the war, it’s location and positioning certainly benefitted the Allies over Germany; sightings of parachutists & submarines were reported. Detailed weather reports were delivered and it was due to a weather report from Blacksod Bay, Mayo, which gave the go ahead for the D-Day landings.
The line remains beloved, with many hoping to see it reopened permanently. A short section was reopened from 1993 to 2007. Today locals and train lovers from around the world are lobbying for a return of the famous Tralee and Dingle Light Railway. We for one would love to see the line back in all its glory!