Plans to restore a west Donegal railway station which featured in a film featuring Hollywood stars are going ahead despite the difficulty in finding funding, the company behind the project has said.
Donegal Railway Restoration Ltd has been granted planning permission to restore Cashelnagor station between Gweeedore and Falcarragh. The remote station close to Mt. Errigal featured in the 1992 film ‘The Railway Station Man’ which starred Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. The company sought new planning permission after a planning granted to the previous owners expired.
The plans include the restoration of the station house and the building of a 100 metre stretch of narrow gauge railway. The company, which has a membership of 400 railway enthusiasts - most of whom are from the UK, hopes eventually to have a museum housed in station and have a site manager living there. There are also plans to bring a restored diesel engine bought by the company to run on the track.
It is also hoped that the station will be used by walkers and cyclists in the area and became a general tourist attraction as well as a draw for railway enthusiasts.
The company is pressing ahead with the restoration but funding for such projects is more difficult to find in the current climate. The remoteness of the station means it is prone to vandalism and a metal gate erected at the site was stolen.
Work has been carried out on the building in recent years with addition of a roof and new floor. Track has been obtained to relay beside the original platform which still exists and €30,000 has been spent on the project. An architectural technician employed by the company is advising on the building and the structures surrounding it.
The station opened on the Letterkenny to Bunbeg extension in 1903 and closed in 1947.
CEO of Donegal Railway Restoration, Neil Tee, bought the station in 2006 and is leasing it to the company.
He has been captivated by the old station at Cashelnagor since reading about it in The Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railway Book by Edward Patterson during the 1960s. He first visited the station when it was semi-derelict in 1971 when it had not been long since it was lived in.
He said the plans are for someone to live in the station house, display railway artefacts in the ticket office and run a motorised trolley on the track which would have been used for transporting workers along the track.
“The idea is to bring it back much to as it looked in railway days and organise visits to rid the place of vandals and organise the visits,” he said.
“People have been very kind about this project. We are doing this purely for the love of getting back this old railway station to its original ambience. There is quite important local heritage and history there and people who knew the station, their faces light when they say ‘are you really going to put his right again.”
Amongst the visitors he has met at the site recently are a porter who worked at the station and Bill Hegarty who lived in the station house as son of the station master from 1933 to 1940. “Such visitors are always thrilled that their station may once again look like it used to and serve as an attraction for the community.”