HISTORY has been made with the steam engine Drumboe being officially launched after its return home to Donegal Town.
Niall McCaughan, Manager at the Donegal Railway Heritage Museum, said it was a major milestone for the county. It is the first original steam engine that has returned to Donegal in many decades.
“What made the return of this engine even more historical was the fact that this was the very last engine to operate a passenger service in the county, on December 31 1959, leaving Donegal Town Station for Strabane.
“The homecoming event at the end of last year became one of the biggest and most engaging events in the county in recent times.
“We have to say that we were really surprised by the crowds that lined the route particularly from Strabane to Donegal Town and how emotional people were about Drumboe returning,” he said.
Since the steam engine arrived back, work has continued on completing the ‘Drumboe Project’ which included the building of a new presentation platform for Drumboe, a canopy to cover the steam engine, LED feature lighting, safety barriers, landscaping across the site as well as the building of a new track for a ride-on railway.
New interpretative signage has also been installed as well as audio presentation signage which plays recordings of people talking about the Donegal railways.
In the last month Ireland’s first interactive railway cab has been installed which is proving very popular.
Over the summer there has been an increased interest in the museum due to the return of the engine and upgrade of the site, making the museum now one of the must-see places to visit in the county.
The Drumboe Project was awarded funding from DLDC’s LEADER programme, which supports local development in rural areas.
Nick Maskery, Rural Development Manager, DLDC, said the restoration of Drumboe and upgrading works to the railway heritage centre project provides an exciting new heritage tourism offering.
“The LEADER team in DLDC is proud to have played a role in this project.
“The return of Drumboe to the Donegal Railway Heritage Centre will provide a link to Donegal’s railway heritage and further enhance Donegal Town’s offering as an all-year-round destination on the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’.
“I would like to commend Niall McCaughan and the team at Donegal Railway Heritage Centre for all their hard work getting this project off the ground through the pandemic and what proved to be a challenging two years.
“We now look forward to welcoming visitors to this truly unique tourist attraction.
The restoration of Drumboe was funded by the donations from across the island of Ireland and further afield including Graham Forbes (grandson of CDR Manager Henry Forbes), The North West of Ireland Railway Society and many others.
However, it was Donegal Local Development CLG who came in with the main part of the €100,000 (plus) project with the LEADER grant from Donegal County Council.
McMullin Associates (Architects), Glebe Builders, DSM Consulting Engineers, JC Engineering as well as Project Manager Mark McDaid brought the project together.
Graham Forbes who is a successful businessman in Thailand was able to send a special video message for the opening.
“My grandfather would have been so proud to see Drumboe back in Donegal Town at the Museum, and congratulate the team for bringing her home,” he said.
The full opening event was recorded and can be seen online at https://youtu.be/Am9YjthGeO8. Viewers should start the video at 20 minutes to watch the main event.
The museum is still fundraising to make up a small shortfall in funding so if people want to contribute they can kindly do so through http://donegalrailway.com/donate.