Steam Locomotives of a Leisurely Era
1887 – Listowel & Ballybunion Railway
0-3-0 – Lartigue Railway Construction Company
These extraordinary twin engines were used on the so-called mono-rail system which a concern known as the Lartigue Railway Construction Company hoped to introduce for the construction of several light railways in the sparsely populated areas of Ireland. In fact only one such line was built, as although the system had the merit of cheapness of construction, it also had obvious operational disadvantages. The main drawback was the difficulty in shunting, as orthodox points and crossings were quite impracticable, and even a simple operation such as an engine running round its train could only be accomplished by the use of separate rail trestles radiating from a turntable. Strictly speaking it was a triple rail system rather than a mono-rail, as although the weight of the locomotive and train carried on the central rail supported by the trestles, these also carried two lower guiding rails near the base, which kept the rolling stock in position by means of small transverse wheels. Although the idea may have had its sound points the railway cannot nowadays (1959) be regarded as anything more than a freak. It was a pity that it was situated in such an out of the way corner in the west of Ireland; had it been less inaccessible it might have attracted mote attention, if only as a curiosity. As it was, it was destined to become better known after its demise than it had been in operation. Even so, it managed to survive for 37 years and it did not succumb until 1924.The original Listowel-Ballybunion Railway. Photograph: Cara Trant, John McCaffrey and Denis Callanan
There was an earlier engine with twin vertical boilers used in the construction of the line, but for working the traffic there were three locomotives of the type illustrated, built by the Hunslet Engine Co. in 1887. Each of the twin boilers had a separate firebox and cab, the driver occupying one side and the fireman the other. The driver, however, had to fire his half of the engine in addition to looking after his normal duties. The cylinders were placed between the boilers and drove on the centre of the three coupled axles on which the locomotive was carried. The tender was also provided at first with two cylinders, and the two axles on which it was suspended were coupled. The engine might therefore be strictly described as being originally of the 0-3-2-0 type. Later the tender cylinders were removed.
The line was dismantled after 1924 and the engines broken up.
Driving wheels – 2’ 0”, Cylinders – 7”x 12”, Pressure – 150 lb., Tractive effort – 3110 lb., Weight 6 tons.
However, Kerry people do not give up easily, and a short stretch of approximately 500 meters of the Lartigue Railway opened to the public in Listowel in July of 2003. A new double-side locomotive and two carriages with capacity for 40 passengers were constructed by a railway specialist company in the United Kingdom, Alan Keef Ltd. This Heritage Railway was developed by the Lartigue Monorailway Restoration Committee, a voluntary organization from Listowel. The re-creation includes three platforms, two turntables, three switches or points, an engine shed (which houses the engine, coaches & work shop), a temporary mobile ticket office, one locomotive (no.4) which is an exact reproduction of the originals on the outside but is fitted with a Perkins diesel engine, one third-class coach and one guard third-class coach with a crossover stairway on one end. Considering the unavailability of any of the original drawings, this has been a tremendous feat of engineering, and once again people can experience this unique mode of transport.