Restored Irish Royal Saloon train carriage on display
It carried royals in its heyday but ended up as a henhouse on a farm in Hillsborough.
But the restored Irish Royal Saloon carriage now takes pride of place at the new Carriage Gallery in the Downpatrick & County Down Railway (DCDR) today.
One of only two such carriages still in existence, the 1897 was to be used for Queen Victoria’s jubilee tour of Co Down. But she fell ill and the Duke and Duchess of York came instead.
In 1903 King Edward VII travelled on the carriage during his tour of Ireland, and in 1924 Prince Albert — later King George V — and his wife Elizabeth used it.
The magnificent carriage was found in a field in 1983 and was about to be cut up for firewood when it was rescued by rail enthusiasts.
It now has pride of place in the new £700,000 Carriage Gallery at DCDR.
The gallery relates the rise and fall of the railways in Ireland through interpretive panels and audio-visual displays.
Robert Gardiner of DCDR said the plans for the gallery came about in 2005 when a number of carriages were being restored.
“People dismissed these carriages as pieces of junk but they are very important items of our industrial heritage, each with their own story,” he said.
Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the NI Tourist Board has allowed the carriages to go on display indoors.
Transport Minister Danny Kennedy will launch the gallery along with South Down MP Margaret Ritchie, and it will be open to the public every weekend from 2-5pm until the end of September. The Railway is currently trialling opening from 10am-4pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays. For details, see www. downrail.co.uk.