This page relates to the Irish Republic. For Northern Ireland, see
There are separate pages dealing with station names in the whole of
Early railway development in Ireland took place when the entire
island, north and south, was part of the United Kingdom.
The first railway in Ireland was opened in 1834 between Dublin
Westland Row (now Pearse) and Dunleary (Dun Laoghaire). It was built to
the so-called “Stephenson” gauge of 4ft 8½in (1435mm) which was
rapidly becoming accepted as the standard gauge for all new railways
in England, and was soon to be adopted in continental Europe.
Unfortunately for standardization, the second and third railways
to be built adopted quite different gauges. The first section of the
Ulster Railway between Belfast and Lisburn opened in 1839 with a gauge
of no less that 6ft 2in (1880mm), while in 1844 the Dublin and
Drogheda Railway opened with a gauge of 5ft 2in (1575mm).
Clearly this state of affairs was untenable from the point of view
of a viable interlinked railway system, and after much debate and
government legislation, a compromise gauge of 5ft 3in (1600mm)
was adopted for all new main line railways. The existing railways
were eventually converted to this gauge.
Some remote rural areas were served by light railways of 3ft
(914mm) gauge, a few of which survive today as tourist operations.
2ft (610mm) and 3ft (914mm) gauge were used for the extensive networks
of lines constructed to serve the peat extraction industry.
In 1876 a number of existing railways were combined to form the
Great Northern Railway (Ireland) or GNR(I). In 1921 the Irish Free
State was established, creating a new land border with Northern Ireland.
In 1925, all railways whose lines were wholly within the Irish Free
State were combined into the Great Southern Railways. This did not
include the main Belfast to Dublin line of GNR(I), nor several small
local railways some of which crossed and recrossed the border several
times. These continued a somewhat schizophrenic existence for many
years, but all cross-border lines had been closed by 1960, with
the exception of the important Belfast to Dublin line.
Northern Ireland Railways were nationalised in 1948 at the same
time as British Railways, while railways in the Irish Republic were
nationalised in 1950. This left the GNR(I) main line as an anomaly,
still in private hands. Finally, in 1953, this line, too, was taken
into State control, responsibility for it being divided between the
respective railway administrations of Northern Ireland and the
The major cities, like cities in the United Kingdom, lost their
original tram systems many years ago. However, Dublin now has an
extensive modern tram system, the first line of which opened in
2004. The system uses the international standard gauge of 1435mm.
- Bord na Móna,
the peat authority, despite drastically reduced peat exploitation in
the light of environmental concerns, still operates a number of 2ft
(610mm) and 3ft (914mm) gauge railway lines servicing the peat bogs.
A tourist passenger service offered at one of these regrettably
ceased operations in 2008 (Website contains few details
relating to railways)
- Boliden Tara Mines has a 1600mm gauge internal
railway network connecting with Irish Rail (Website contains
no details relating to railway)
Brick at Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny has an internal railway carrying
bricks from the drying sheds to the kilns. Wagons are chain hauled along
a 700 yard (630 m) line (Website contains no details relating to
- Waterways Ireland has a four weirs on the River
Shannon whose sluices are opened and closed by diesel powered, rail
mounted winch vehicles running along a track above of the sluices
(Website contains no details relating to railways)
- Luas rapid
transit system in Dublin.
Tourist and Museum Railways
- Fintown Railway
3ft (914mm) gauge railway running for about 2¼ miles (3.6km) alongside
Lough Finn from Fintown in County Donegal. Historic diesel railcar.
Proposed extension to Glenties, a total distance of 8 miles (13km).
Monorail a faithful replica of the unique early steam hauled
passenger carrying monorail at Listowel in County Kerry. The track
runs for about 500m on the line of the former Limerick and Kerry
railway towards Tralee, not on the line of the original monorail
- Lisselan Estate
the Golf Course of the Estate at Clonakilty, West Cork has two 1600mm
gauge funiculars of 200 yards (180m) and 300 yards (270m) respectively,
each with a gradient of 1 in 4 (25%), connecting different parts of the
course. Passengers are normally carried in the uphill direction only.
Although primarily intended for the use of golfers, the funiculars may
be visited by prior arrangement with the Estate (Website contains
few details relating to funiculars)
- Lough Boora
Discovery Park has a number of railway artefacts relating to former
peat extraction, and plans to construct a passenger carrying railway
(Website contains no details relating to railway or rail related
- Lullymore Heritage Park 3ft (914mm) gauge
railway in the Lullymore Heritage & Discovery Park, County Kildare,
using a former Bord na Móna diesel locomotive and rolling stock.
About 1 mile (1.6km) in length. currently operating only for special
events (When last checked website contained no details of new
railway, which is not to be confused with the road train that also
- Stradbally Woodland Express 3ft (914mm) gauge
railway about ½ mile (0.8km) in length at the Stradbally Steam
Museum, County Laois. Usually steam hauled.
& Suir Valley Railway Kilmeaden to Bilberry, near Waterford
(about 7½ miles, 12 km). 3ft (914mm) gauge, diesel hauled. Planned
extension further into Waterford. Possible future extension towards
Dungarvan. Possible future regauging to Irish standard gauge
Clare Railway 3ft (914mm) gauge steam railway running for 1½ miles
(2.4km) from Moyasta Junction, on the main road between Kilrush and
Kilkee in County Clare. Extensions proposed to Kilkee and eventually
also to Kilrush, a total of about 7½ miles (12 km) (Website
not maintained up to date since 2013)
- The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland operates
occasional steam trains on the main lines of the Republic of Ireland
and Northern Ireland.
- Ballymote Miniature Railway 7¼in (184mm) gauge
miniature railway about 400 yards (366m) in length, located in Ballymote
Town Park. Diesel hauled (No website located at present)
- Difflin Lake Railway 15in (381mm) gauge miniature
railway 2½ miles (4km) in length, located in Oakfield Park near Raphoe,
County Donegal. Steam and diesel hauled.
- John F Kennedy Arboretum Miniature Railway
7¼in (184mm) gauge miniature railway about 650 yards (594m) in length,
located in the John F Kennedy Arboretum, New Ross. Diesel hauled
(Website contains little information relating to railway)
- Leisureland Express 2ft (610mm) gauge miniature
railway about ½ mile (0.8km) in length at Perks Leisureland Funworld,
Salthill, Galway (Information relating to railway difficult
to locate on
- Steam Train Express 2ft (610mm) gauge miniature
railway at Tayto Adventure Park, Kilbrew, Ashbourne, Co Meath
- Tramore Miniature Railway 15in (381mm) gauge
miniature railway in Tramore Amusement Park
House Express 15in (381mm) gauge miniature railway in the grounds
of Westport House, County Mayo. Diesel hauled with steam outline
locomotive. The railway is located in the Pirate Adventure Park, and
is not to be confused with the road train operating in the gardens