More than 100 years ago Percy French took the train from Sligo to Clare for an 8pm recital in Kilkee. He left Sligo in the early morning, but didn't arrive until after 8pm at that stage the punters had headed off. Probably to do a bit of surfing. Any way Percy wasn't impressed and he wrote a tune "Are ye right there Michael"
The words are as familiar today as they were in the 1900's
Are ye right there, Michael, are ye right?
Do you think that we'll be home before the night?
Ye've been so long in startin',
That ye couldn't say for certain'
Still ye might now, Michael,
So ye might!
Well in 2010 I made a similar journey, in reverse order this time, from Mallow to Galway, along the newly reopened western rail corridor. I don't think Michael was driving any of the trains through Clare that day, I think he's probably on the board of Iranrod Eireann at this stage.
My journey started in Mallow. I bought the ticket online and it was neither cheap or easy, €46 Joe, no scrow. Of course a lot of people who use Irish rail don't have to pay, and there are great on-line deals on the western line to Castlebar but Irish rail don't offer any deals from Cork to Galway. Which seems like a lost opportunity. Cork city people don't like to leave the people's republic. If you put a 20 foot high electric fence around the city, no one would notice. If you were to walk down Pana and ask a Corkonian, "whats the story with the fence boy ? They have locked us in." There reply would probably be "Sure aren't ya haunted you weren't locked into somewhere like Dublin, you're in Mecca now kid." I did a bar stool survey with twenty different people from Cork. I asked them two questions. Have you been to Dublin since Chiristmas ? Have you been to Galway (pronounced Gall WAA) since Christmas. Six of the twenty people had been to Dublin all six went to the All-Ireland. Eight of them had been to Galway. When I asked why Gall Waa they said it's a great city, and it's the other side of the country from Dublin. Corkonians do not like Dublin. Irish rail have a train every hour to Dublin. You would think that Irish rail would be able to fill one train a day going from Cork to Gall Waa.
You have to buy your ticket in legs. Leg one you take the Dublin Heuston train from Mallow to Limerick junction. This is a proper intercity train. You can book your seats, it's comfortable and it does 140km an hour. I left Mallow at 09:52. Less than an hour later I was in Limerick Junction, which is in Tipperary. It's as if I had not only travelled through time I had been transported to a different county.
Leg two is from Tipp junction to Limerick's Colbert station. Waiting for any length of time in Limerick station, is a hazardous way to pass the time. Especially if you want to take a stroll outside the station. It's like a strip of vapona fly paper for the "how are yas".
The Diesal Dart. Aka Irish Rail's commuter trains. This is the one I took from Limerick junction in tipperary to Colbert station in Limerick city.
Finally after changing train twice I finally boarded my diesal dart heading along the Atlantic rail corridor for Galway. There were two carriages, four passangers in my carriage and five in the other. One conductor and one driver. As far as I know there are only two train bridges that cross the Shannon. Just after you cross the biggest river in Ireland you get a backyard view of Thomand Park.
This is what the commuter trains look like, have to say they are comfortable and the only thing missing is a table to play cards on.
The first stop on the line is actually Six Mile Bridge but the first photo I took was in Ennis. The train crawled its way along the new track. Eighty kilometres an hour at max. The driver kept blowing the horn every minute. The train has a latrine, so if you need to release some wind your self you can do so in the comfort of a brand new Irish Rail WC. I have managed to make it this far in life without ever having to use the facilities on any form of moving transport. It must be a knife edge experience trying to manage your dignity on a throne whilst the train is jocking along to its next destination.
Gort from the air. I've been driving through Gort for many years now. I've never seen the train going over this bridge. More importantly, this is the first time that I passed through Gort in ten years, where I didn't see any Brazillians. I've passed through Gort coming from Shannon at 6am in the morning, I've driven through it at night in the afternoon, and I always see a couple of south Americans. I have a special salsa CD in the car and a Brazilian flag. I'm always guaranteed a wave each time I pass through. I'm sure they say "Lá está ele Frankie a história que ele vai ouvir surdos ao som daquela música."
At the same time I took this picture I imagined mooning out the window, with a poster saying 'Kiss That Losers.....'
On a serious note though if you do get caught at one level crossing on the N18 you will probably get caught on the second one too. It can be testing especially if you're in a rush, but as a wise man once said if you need to be there early you should leave early.
The next stop after Gort is Ardrahan.
According to http://www.westontrack.com/ Crusheen will be opening soon too.
Press Release Thursday October 7th 2010
Minister for Defence and Clare T.D. Tony Killeen has announced that funds totalling approximately €1.5m have been allocated for the provision of a rail stop at Crusheen, which is located along the route of the recently opened Western Rail Corridor.
Is the west awake, or is it turning into a lake. I saw a lot of flooding in Clare. I guess this will be the norm in November from now on.
Craughwell no one got on no one got off. Are you surprised?
The biggest surprise of the day was here in Athenry. At least 50 people got on board. They could have done that before the opening of phase one, because the Galway Dublin train runs through Athenry. We arrived in Athenry about half one, another 21 km to go and I heard some young man roarin down the back "I need more hooch" I thought to myself that man's on the right train.
You can smell Ceannt Station now, this is the famous Lough Atalia the last bridge before Galway City Centre. I knew some gentlemen who shared a student house on lough Atalia road, many moons ago. I saw a adolesant man drinking Poteen from a petrol canister in that house one night. The stories from that house, would put the hair standing on a poltergeist's neck.
I arrived in Gallibh on time just before 2pm. Four hours had passed since I left Munster. Probably not as bad as Percy French's trip through Clare in 1902, but when you factor in a century of technological developments then it's nothing to write home about. How a man can't get a train from Cork to Galway in 2010 that will travel faster than a car is beyond me.
Ceannt Station, where I managed to blag a lift the rest of the way to the real Mecca Caisleán an Bharraigh.