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Historical Ulster: Steam engines from the Belfast Telegraph Archives

By Paul Carson

In the year that the Belfast to Bangor train line celebrated its centenary, another era involving this popular stretch of track came to a close.

On July 28, 1965, the last steam-hauled scheduled passenger train to make the journey from north down to the city pulled away from the No 1 platform at Bangor station.

It was also the last train ever to travel along the Belfast Central line, which linked the Belfast to Bangor track with the line to Portadown.

The train, under the control of engine driver Eamonn O'Hara, of Finaghy Road North, was scheduled by the Ulster Transport Authority as an excursion from Portadown to Bangor and back, and on its return journey from the seaside resort, the steam locomotive was given a special send-off by local dignitaries.

More than 100 enthusiasts from the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland and the Irish Railway Record Society were on board for the trip, and at Bangor a civic reception was led by the mayor, Alderman Charles Milligan, who waved the guard's flag to give the train its final send-off.

"A steam train seems to capture a better atmosphere," said the chairman of the Railway Preservation Society, Mr J.R.S. Harcourt.

"There is more of a spirit of romance about it than its diesel counterpart."

As the train continued its one hour 50 minute return journey to Portadown, it passed over a bridge at Middlepath Street, near Queen's Quay in Belfast.

The bridge was demolished a few days later, spelling the end of the old Belfast Central Line and bringing the curtain down on the era of direct train excursions from Portadown to Bangor.

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