Belfast Telegraph

Tributes paid to leading light of NI heritage railways

By Staff Reporter

Tributes have been paid after the death of the president of the Downpatrick and County Down Railway (DCDR).

Bill Gillespie died last Friday.

DCDR spoke of its deep sadness at his passing, describing him as one of the group's co-founders.

A statement said he proudly carried on the legacy of his father, a former train driver.

"Bill had a very strong personal connection to the original railway line, the Belfast & County Down Railway, as his father drove the BCDR diesel locomotive No. 2 on the Ballynahinch branch, a locomotive he attempted to preserve in the 1970s but which was unfortunately scrapped. What an artefact that would have been," it said.

"Bill carried on that legacy by helping to purchase and transport the two E-Class locomotives, E421 and E432, to Downpatrick in the 1980s, and E421 was named 'WF Gillespie OBE'.

"When E421 was withdrawn from service it was Bill's wish that it was put on display in the carriage gallery to help tell the story of our early days and allow visitors to climb aboard it."

The group said Bill was made an honorary president when he formally retired.

"After he retired from the board he was made honorary president of the society in 2015, but had continued to be involved as much as he could be," the society said.

"Bill was also involved in a wide range of activities beyond the DCDR, most notably the Charles Sheils charity in Killough, which administers one of the oldest social housing schemes in the UK.

"Bill was a gentleman in the truest sense, and I'm sure we all send our thoughts and best wishes to Winnie and the family at this time."

DCDR was set up in 1985 by enthusiasts with the aim of restoring a portion of the former Belfast and County Down Railway as a working railway museum, incorporating the various aspects of railway heritage in the province.

The original rail line was closed in January 1950.

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