Tourism and Connectivity – Comfort and Discomfort on the Train

Celebrating 100 Years of Sligo Chamber

On this Week in 1925

Tourism and Connectivity – Comfort and Discomfort on the Train

Passenger Steam Train

Tourism is one the key pillars on which Sligo Chamber advocates on behalf of its members in 2023.  Tourism to Sligo and the Northwest is dependent on connectivity to the region, be that by road, rail or air to Ireland West Airport.  Tourism and connectivity were also important themes for Sligo Chamber in its early years in the 1920s with railways being the primary means of connectivity at that time.

Today, all railway operations fall under the authority of one organisation, Iarnród Éireann, and there is only one rail line, the Sligo-Dublin line servicing the region.  It was very different in 1923 with over 3,000 miles of railway throughout the country operated by numerous independent railway companies.  Sligo was served by three railway companies.  The Great Southern and Western Railway Company operated the Sligo to Tuam line; the Midland Great Western Railway Company operated the Dublin to Sligo line with a connection from Ballaghadereen to Kilfree Junction in County Roscommon; and the Sligo Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway Company operated the line from Sligo to Enniskillen.  In November of 1924, the government of the newly formed Irish Free State passed the Railways Act which merged the Midland Great Western with the Great Southern and Western to form the Great Southern Railway Company.

Great Southern Hotel

At that time, it was not uncommon for railway operators to be active in the tourism sector through managing hotels. The Sligo Southern Hotel which transferred from state-owned to private ownership in the mid-1970s still bears the old name which dates back to the time of the Great Southern Railway Company in the 1920s.

Tourism and railways feature prominently in the minutes of the Chamber Meetings in the 1920s.  At the meeting of the 20th of February 1925, a letter was read from the Irish Tourist Association “inviting the co-operation of this Chamber to support a meeting to be held in Sligo at an early date in connection with the development of the Tourist Industry”.  It was decided to reply that the Chamber were strongly in favour of any movement to develop Tourist traffic in Ireland and welcomed the proposed meeting to be held in Sligo.  This led on to the question of local hotel accommodation.  Mr. Mtn. Downs mentions that “there is a possibility of the Great Southern Railway Company building at Lahinch, the Hotel originally intended to be built at Rosses Point”.   It was decided that the Secretary, J.A. McLoghry write to Senator Arthur Jackson, Sir Walter Nugent and the Secretary of the Great Southern Railway, “setting forth the advantages of Rosses Point as a site for the hotel”.

Trains from All Operating Lines at Sligo Train Station

It is in the very first statutory meeting of the Incorporated Sligo Chamber on the 21st of September 1923, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair, that we see the initial mention of the railways.  A letter is read from the Great Southern and Western Railway Company stating that “under existing circumstances the additional service suggested on Market Days between Sligo and Claremorris would not be justified”.  The letter goes on to say “as regards lavatory accommodation on trains, instructions have been given that whenever possible a Lavatory Coach is to be provided on Sligo and Athenry trains”.  The provision of toilet facilities on this journey which would have been up to three hours duration was such a discomfort that it remained a concern for some time with the “question of lavatory accommodation on the Sligo to Tuam service” being raised again at the Sligo Chamber meeting of the 5th of May 1925, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair with the Secretary, J.A. McLoghry being directed “to urge upon the company the necessity of having this defect remedied as soon as possible, especially in view of the fact that Tourist Traffic will soon commence”. On a more positive note, the President mentions at the same meeting that “three new carriages, at a cost of £9,000 are to be added to the rolling stock of The Sligo Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway”.  This was considered most satisfactory and it must be assumed that the new carriages included “lavatory accommodation” as there is no comment to the contrary.

Attracting tourists and shoppers to Sligo by means of the railway was a recurring theme for Sligo Chamber in the 1920s and 1930s and one on which they repeatedly engaged proactively on behalf of the business community and the Sligo Traders.   Indeed, Sligo Chamber supported railway trade to such an extent that they set aside the sum of £25 to act as guarantors to the Irish Free State Traders’ Railway Committee. The mechanism for attracting visitors to Sligo appears to have been reduced railway ticket prices at key times in the year.  The minutes of the Chamber meeting of the 21st of December 1925, F. Nally, Vice-President, in the Chair, records that the Great Southern Railway Company “would issue Excursion tickets to Sligo on the 23rd inst. in addition to the usual market excursions on Tuesdays and Saturdays”.  These tickets would have been for the Sligo-Claremorris and Sligo-Longford rail lines, both of which were in 1925 under the control of the Great Southern Railway Company.  Similar provision was made for the Sligo-Enniskillen rail line with a letter from the Sligo Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway Company stating that “they were running excursion tickets on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd inst.”.  It must be assumed that these were important measures for trade in Sligo by attracting visitors to Sligo in the run up to the Christmas.

Sligo Chamber also pressed for excursion tickets during the Summer months.  The minutes of the Chamber meeting of the 5th of May 1925, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair, records that Great Southern Railway “will arrange Excursions to Sligo commencing from 1st May on the same principle as last year, but it is doubtful if excursions could be arranged between Kilfree Junction and Ballaghadereen as the number of passengers using the train last year was very small”.  In writing acknowledging with thanks the letter, the Chamber expressed the hope that “they will find it convenient to run an excursion between Kilfree and Ballaghadereen on at least each Saturday during the season”.

Interior of Pullman Carriage 1920s

Easter is not forgotten about by Sligo Chamber.  In the minutes of the Sligo Chamber meeting of the 20th of March 1924, F. Nally, Vice-President, in the Chair, Mr. H.C. Lyons suggests that “the Great Southern Railway Company should be written to requesting that in their advertisements for the Easter Holidays they should draw attention to the attractions in Sligo during Easter Week, viz. The Golf Championship at Rosses Point, Sligo Feis Ceoil and the Feis Shligigh”.  This was agreed to.

When it comes to the possibility of real comfort on the train, we move away from the discomfort of lavatory concerns when in the minutes of the Chamber Meeting of the 31st of May 1926, H. Campbell Perry, President, in the Chair, we read the following:-

“Moved by:        H.C. Lyons

Seconded by:     A.C. Cook and resolved:-

That we the members of the Sligo Chamber of Commerce respectfully urge upon the Great Southern Railway Company that a Pullman Car be attached to their service between Sligo and Dublin as we observe from the Press that it is intended to put a similar car on the Dublin to Cork service.

Passed unanimously”.

Last Train on Sligo-Claremorris Line 1975

We have to wait until the 16th of November when in reply, the Great Southern Railway Company write that the introduction of the Pullman Cars in Ireland is an experiment and the selection of the particular trains to be used in connection with the service is not at the discretion of the Company but is settled in consultation with the Pullman Car Company.  “The question of putting a Car on the Sligo/Dublin line will not be overlooked when some experience has been obtained of the use made of the new facilities”. Although the minutes continue to regularly refer to railway matters, specifically cheap seaside and excursion tickets through to 1935, this is the last we read about the Pullman Car.

The Chamber’s generosity as a benefactor to the Free State Traders’ Railway Committee was called upon when the traders requested receipt of 20% of the amount guaranteed.  A cheque for the full amount of the guarantee was forwarded by Sligo Chamber to the Free State Traders’ Railway Committee on the 28th of April, on this week in 1925.

Researched and written by Conor McCarthy

Supported by the Sligo Chamber Centenary Committee:

  • Catherine Maguire – Admin & Photographic Research
  • Geraldine Courtenay – Creative Direction
  • Aidan Doyle – Review & Publication

The next Article in the series commemorating The Centenary of Sligo Chamber and entitled

Customs and the much-vexed question of Through Rates” will be released on the 8th of May 2023.

#Sligo Chamber Centenary