15th May 2016 - A Frustrating Day
Sunday 15th May 2016
The weather this morning carried on where it left off yesterday, being warm and sunny so we took a stroll to the station where we had plenty of time to take some photos of the now disused signal box and diesel 078 which was still parked in the same siding as it was last night.
Today's tour should have been an easy day out, covering the Ballina branch and a couple of "fill-in" moves to Ballyhaunis and Castlerea to pad the day out but, with no. 4 running bunker first, there appeared to be some operational issues, alledged to be lineside fires, and we stopped at Claremorris for some time before the loco ran round and headed to Ballina, missing out the extra 22 mile round trip to Ballyhaunis.
Ballina had created a bit of controversy in that the single platform there wasn't long enough to take the whole train and there had been talk of the tour not being able to go there until a solution was reached in that the passengers would not be allowed off the train. A further issue was that it is no longer possible to run round without going into the freight yard so, without a compromise of allowing the passengers off the train in the platform and shunting it to the yard or setting down a method of working to allow the train into the freight yard, no. 4 could not run round.
A solution was at hand though in the shape of diesel 075 which was stabled in the yard for the weekend and a driver had been rostered to use this loco to drag the whole train back to Claremorris so, in the end, we spent less than 15 minutes in Ballina and never even got the chance to get out and have a look round. In our case we had been there previously with steam both ways in 1992 before the layout was changed and the steam loco could run round.
No. 4 did not return on the rear of the train from Ballina but followed it light engine. The train with 075 on the front was still running late and was allowed to go in front of the 13:45 West port to Dublin from Manulla Junction, meaning that the light engine move was also delayed whilst waiting to follow that. For the uninitiated, the line to Ballina leaves the Westport line at Manulla Junction which is nothing more than a set of points and a double sided platform with no road access; it's only purpose being for passengers to transfer between trains on the Dublin / Westport line to the Ballina branch.
We arrived back at Claremorris somewhat late and the news filtered through that we had missed our path to do the extra trip to Castlerea (round trip of 44 miles this time!) so would be remaining at Claremorris until our booked time back to Westport which should have been after both an Up and Down train had passed. However, the powers-that-be had other ideas and we departed soon after the Up train had arrived leaving some people in the local pub!
Arrival at Westport was even earlier this afternoon at 17:10; we chose to walk back to the hotel again and, after eating, decided to take a walk along the steeply graded former line to Westport Quay which had been turned into a footpath and cycleway following closure and lifting in 1977.
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