The picture shows a train from the Clogher Valley Railway in the Main Street of the border village of Caledon, County Tyrone. In the middle you can see the clock tower of the courthouse. The train is number 6, called Erne. It was built by Sharp, Stewart No. 3374 of 1887; 0-4-2 tank. It was in service until the railway closed on December 31st 1941 and was scrapped the following year. The other engines were Caledon (1), Errigal (2), Blackwater (3), Fury (4), Colebrooke (5) and Blessingbourne (7), built by Hudswell, Clarke & co.
The story of the railway was told at the restored Caledon courthouse this evening by Jack Johnston, who has written extensively about the history of the Clogher Valley. He illustrated the talk with slides, many of them black and white pictures of the operation of the railway which had been taken in the last century. Jack is also President of the William Carleton Society, one of five groups along with Caledon Regeneration Partnership, Donaghmore Historical Society, Killeeshil and Clonaneese Historical Society and South Lough Neagh Regeneration Association taking part in the EU Peace III-funded “Shared History, Shared Future” project.
The 3ft gauge Clogher Valley Tramway was incorporated on 26th May 1884, the second project under the terms of the 1883 Act. It opened for traffic on 2nd May 1887 linking Tynan in County Armagh and Maguiresbridge in County Fermanagh, both on the broad gauge Great Northern Railway, a distance of 37 miles. The route covered the Clogher Valley in County Tyrone serving the towns of Caledon, Aughnacloy, Ballygawley, Augher, Clogher and Fivemiletown. The railway followed public roads for much of its length and ran down the main streets of Caledon and Fivemiletown.
The railway had a dismal financial performance throughout its lifetime, belying the glowing picture of returns painted in its prospectus. Nevertheless the Company had extremely ambitious plans for expansion aimed at providing access to the port of Newry and connections with the Cavan and Leitrim line. None came to fruition however and the CVR remained a local line.
The Clogher Valley Railway lay within the six counties of Northern Ireland when partition occurred in 1922. The new government in Belfast recommended the takeover of the CVR by the broad gauge Great Northern Railway. The GNR refused to do this and the CVR retained its independence. In 1927 however the directors were replaced by a Committee of Management appointed by Tyrone and Fermanagh county councils.
The Committee did much to revitalise the line with more and speedier services. In 1932 a pioneering articulated passenger diesel railcar built by Walkers of Wigan was delivered, along with a diesel tractor unit which could tow a coach or a few wagons. These were successful in cutting costs and speeding up the service but could only postpone the inevitable end of the basically uneconomic line. For almost all of its existence the railway made a loss and it needed a subsidy from local ratepayers. The greatest profit ever made by the company was in 1904, only £791.
It was around this time that my great-grandfather John McCann J.P., an auctioneer in Aughnacloy, became a director of the railway. He served on the board for a number of years, under the chairmanship of Hugh de Fellenberg Montgomery of Blessingbourne, Fivemiletown, I still have a season ticket belonging to him.