If you walk down to the pier at Burtonport and head left, you will come to a metal fence. That’s where the old Burtonport Railway Station used to stand; you can still see the platform.
The narrow-gauge railway has not run to the coastal village since 1940 and the railway station in Burtonport was demolished in 2003. But the old Letterkenny & Burtonport Extension Railway remains the object of nostalgic affection for railway enthusiasts across Ireland and farther.
This weekend, scratchbuilding devotee Dr Alan Gee of England will be in Donegal to present the Burtonport community with a remarkable model he made of the old railway station, including various engines and the buildings that surrounded it.
"He's taken all of the points of interest in the Burtonport station and put that in the model,” Patrick Boner of the Burtonport Heritage Group said. “It’s a fantastic gift.”
Dr. Gee’s model will be a focal point of this year’s Burtonport Railway Weekend, which runs from this Friday, July 28th, through 30th, with most events taking place at St. Columba’s Community Centre, Burtonport.
To thank Dr. Gee and his wife, Julie, and to kick off the weekend, there will be “Tea at the Station” at St. Columba’s, starting at 8.30pm on Friday, July 28th.
The evening will include a vintage tea reception, traditional music, a short talk by historian Eddie Ward on how the railway affected life in the Rosses, a screening of of Rolf Schulz's drone video of the Burtonport Old Railway Walk, and a presentation to Alan Gee and his wife, Julie.
Dr. Gee’s model will be on display, and will be kept at the centre.
On Saturday 29th July, in association with the Burtonport Summer Festival, the Donegal Railway Show is back in Burtonport, this time with a new Thomas the Tank Engine children’s sit-on train.
The main hall of the community centre will be filled with working models of Donegal stations, a detailed oval centerpiece of a working Hornby clockwork layout, and displays of Meccano, Dinky and other models.
The Donegal Railway Show runs Saturday, July 29th, from 11am - 5pm and on Sunday, July 30th, from 10am - 3.30pm.
Also on Saturday, July 29th, Joe Begley will lead a Railway Heritage Walk at 2pm, providing an overview of the history of the line on a two-hour, six-kilometre walk. The meeting point is the Burtonport Welcome Centre, and the cost is €5.
There will be storytime for children at 12.30pm on Sunday, when they can hear the story of “Bertie the Burtonport Bogie”, which was written by Joe Begley. The story has been adapted and will be read by Breege Ward.
The old railway line in recent years has been given a new life in the community, through the dedication and commitment of a hard-working local volunteer committee. The popular, well-used Burtonport Old Railway Walk draws local people and visitors year-round, and the project has been used as a model for other communities to follow as they create their own local walks along former railway routes.
There is more on the railway weekend events at the Tea at the Station Facebook page.