(Article and photos provided by Mickey Mac Manus)
The Sl & NCR was a 48 mile railway line that linked Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh to Sligo town. The route was Enniskillen,Florenscourt,Belcoo,Glenfarne,Marorhamilton,Dromhaire,Ballintogher,Ballygawley,Collooney Ballysadare and Sligo town. During the 80 years life of the railway, money was always a problem and it was often under treat rarely making a profit even though after the 2nd world war it was receiving financial support from two governments. A road service was also provided by the sl&ncr company in its latter days to provide bus transport to passenger but this service did little to help the companies financial problems.
Level crossing # 7 Killycarney Co Cavan
Construction of the line began from Enniskillen in 1877 on the most economical scale. Bridges and cuttings were avoided , the line meandered around obstacles and there were many level-crossings, sharp curves and steep gradients. There were 35 underbridges,3 over bridges, 28 public road crossings, 23 gatekeepers cottages and 8 station premises. Arthur loftus Tottenham of Glenfarne Hall was the first chairman of the company and eventually sole contractor for the lines construction. He was also one of the main financial supporters and shareholders of the company. The line was unique in so many ways not least the fact that the company had a policy of putting names on each engine instead of numbers so you got names like Lough Erne,Blacklion ,Hazelwood etc also it was the last standard gauge railway company in the British isles to retain its independance.The station in Belcoo was officially known as Belcoo and Blacklion station and from 1922 was unique in Europe because it served two different states i.e. Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Since there had never had been any money for anything that wasn't essential much of the line retained an old-time character throughout its life. Most of the original material of 1879 remained unchanged including signialling,gates etc.The line closed on September 30th 1959 ironically only after the GNR line in Enniskillen had been cut and deprived the sl & ncr of a link to Belfast. It therefore had essentially nowhere to go with its passanges,livestock and materials. Because it crossed the border it was never amalgamated into either state systems and was the last independent railway in Ireland. It employed over 130 people.
The present day visitor to Counties Fermanagh,Cavan,Leitrim and Sligo will find many surviving signs of the sl&ncr including stations, road crossing cottages some lovingly restored by there owners (others in disrepair),earthworks,bridges and fading memories. In a few places new sections of road have been built along or across the line but generally the course of the line is easily discernible. It was indeed a real railway run by real railway men who had a love, passion and respect for there railway.
People from Blacklion & Belcoo along with staff members taken on 30/9/1957 at Belcoo station