The tram waiting in Blessington 5 June 1932
The DUBLIN BLESSINGTON STEAM TRAM.
by Fr. Cantwell.
From time to time in our History Facets reference is made to the Dublin/Blessington Steam Tram. It might be no harm to recall a little of its history as it served our people well for many years.
In 1864/5 a plan was worked out to lay a small rail line from Dublin via Rathmines & Rathgar, Rethfarnham, & Terenure to Rathcoole, with an extension to Ballymore Eustace. It came to nothing. Again about 1880 a plan was thought up to provide a light railway with a 3 ft gauge from a place near St. Patrick‘s Cathedral to Blessington. It came to nothing as Dublin Corporation refused to allow steam-driven vehicles in the city.
However, the seed had been sown and by 1887 the Dublin & Blessington Steam Tramway Co. was set up to provide e line Iron Terenure to Blessington. a distance of 15.5 miles. One could get a connection from Terenure to the city centre, a distance of 3.5 miles by a horse-drawn tram. It had been hoped to open the line in June 1888 but work was not by then complete and the opening was postponed, principally because the County Surveyor was not happy with safety and he made several recommendations to this end.
At last on August 1st the line was officially opened and the first official tram set out at 8.35 am. carrying the mail which had been specially sent out from the G.P.O. by horse-tram for the occasion. The tram eventually left Terenure at 8.45 and arrived at Blessington at 10.20 having stopped at Templeogue & Tallaght, then at Saggart then up what we know as the Embankment to Crooksling, Brittas & Tinode. An extension line to Poulaphuca was planned but it was difficult to raise the capital and for a while a ‘long car‘ drawn by two horses made the connection.
Eventually a separate tram company was set up and the line to Poulaphua was opened on May 1st 1895. During the following year a through service from Terenure to Poulaphua was inaugurated.
What we know as the Embankment was especially made to accommodate the trams as the road was too narrow and a bend too sharp to allow safe passage of trams.
In 1897 it was proposed to set up the “Central Wicklow & Glendlough ( Seven Churches) Light Railway & Tramways Co.” This line would have gone from Poulaphuca to Hollywood up to Valleymount and Wicklow Gap, over to Laragh & Rathdrum. It would have terminated very near to the Wicklow & Wexford railway station. It was proposed to run a spur line to Blallyknocken as it was expected it could make money transporting stone to Dublin. This project never saw the light of day as it was obvious it could never make money.
The line was popular with local people travelling to Dublin .. a rare occasion in those years. It was popular with farmers sending cattle to market in Dublin and it could transport goods & coal from the Dublin docks. It was especially popular with tourists wishing to spend a day in the lovely surroundings of Poulaphuca. However, the line never made money and gradually the rolling stock deteriorated.
On Saturday December 31st 1932 the last car to Blessington left Terenure at 6.15 p.m and the tracks, engines and stock were sold off. Meanwhile the Paragon Omnibus Co. had started. in 1929, a bus service from the City to Blessington, Poulaphuca & Ballymore Eustace. This was the last straw as far as the steam tram was concerned.
Many accidents took place along the line, and some suicides of people who lay on the line and waited for the tram to dispatch them to other destinations.
What is now the Templeogue Inn was for long known as the Morgue .. due to the fact that bodies of accident-prone people were taken back there by tram to await the attentions of the City Coroner. One wonders .. did they ever pay their fares on-their last trip down the hill to Templeogue?
(My thanks to ‘The Dublin & Blessington Tramway’ by Fayle & Newham.)
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