Northern Ireland Railway fans campaign to save unique train which ran during Troubles
Rail enthusiasts have launched an appeal to ensure that it's not the end of the line for the train that transported travellers throughout the Troubles.
Downpatrick & County Down Railway chairman Robert Gardiner said the old 80 Class is a symbol of Northern Ireland's resilience.
"The 80 Class may not be a steam train, but they are still fondly loved by railway workers and the public alike," he said.
"They're unique to Northern Ireland. There's nothing else like them in the world and they defined Northern Irish rail travel for four decades."
In the mid-Sixties, huge swathes of the rail network were axed in Warrenpoint, Dungannon, Omagh and the West and it looked as if the rest of the network would follow suit.
But the tide turned when Northern Ireland Railways ordered the first of the 80 Class trains. Dubbed the 'Thumper' due to the distinctive engine sound, the 80 Class trains - which had maroon and blue livery and a large white diamond symbol on the front - first took to the tracks in the early Seventies.
Despite bombs and hijackings, they became the trains that would get through the Troubles, reliable and strong enough to keep the people of Northern Ireland moving, and safeguard what was left of our rail network. In the Nineties they were used for the Peace Train movement, running between Belfast and Dublin.
The majority of 80s were withdrawn between 2004 and 2006 with the arrival of the 23 CAF 3000 trains.
"Sadly, the last of the 80 Class, used by Translink as leaf-busting trains during the autumn until last year, has now been withdrawn from service and without your help their last stop could be the breaker's yard, leaving no trace of their important legacy," said Robert.
For the Thumper to be saved, donations are needed by the end of April. Mr Gardiner said even the smallest amount is welcome, but that there are rewards for larger donations - such as cab rides, or even the chance to actually drive the train. He added: "And we've a challenge for you - for every pound you donate, one of our volunteers will match it pound for pound up to £4,000. We know you can do it, but we don't have long to make this happen."
To make a donation log on to www.downrail.co.uk/80class, pick up a leaflet from any of the major Translink stations, or send a cheque to Downpatrick & County Down Railway (80 Class Appeal), Market Street, Downpatrick, BT30 6LZ