Members of the Cardiff & Avonside Railway Society, which is now in it’s 44th year, heard about the ambitious project to restore a tram that was lying in a field in the Ring of Gullion for almost 60 years and decided to pay it and the team restoring it a visit.
The ‘Bessbrook Tram’ repair is part of The Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership, a Heritage Lottery Fund programme to conserve and enhance some of the regions’s most treasured landscapes. Newry, Mourne and Down District Council are managing the £1.4 million programme. The scheme aims to engage people with the Ring of Gullion AONB and surrounding landscape.
Naomi Bailie, Chairperson of the new super council Newry, Mourne and Down was at Bagenal’s Castle to greet the Cardiff & Avonside Railway Society and hear what they had to say about the project, “Projects like the Ring of Gullion Landscape Partnership Scheme are already showing their potential for economic development in the area; through tourism, like these gentlemen from Cardiff & Avonside Railway Society and through education, like the students from the Southern Regional College: But also by creating a new legacy of cooperative regeneration building on a shared heritage for a sustainable future.”
The tram is being repaired by a collaboration of partners, not least the Tourism, Media and Construction Departments from the Southern Regional College. The tram is on track to be finished in 12 months time, and the Cardiff & Avonside Railway Society were impressed by the work the students had carried out so far.
Royston Morris, the ‘Events Officer’ of the Cardiff & Avonside Railway Society who first contacted the Ring of Gullion board said, “The students are carrying out fantastic work on this tram, it’s top notch work. The welcome we received from the people, and the Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down was terrific. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and we plan to be back when the tram is finished!”
The project also serves to raise the awareness of the Bessbrook-Newry Tram, the linen industry, and Bessbrook. Des Murphy was able to give the visitors a tour of the area as well as take them to the restoration site, “I am privileged to be part of this project as chair of the Landscape partnership but also as my role in SRC. The SRC have given this project a high priority, and CEO Brian Doran is delighted to see the Tourism, Media, and Construction Departments working in partnership.”
Once repaired, the tram, similar to ones that ran from Newry to Bessbrook, will be displayed publicly. People can follow the restoration project online at www.ringofgullion.org.