“Burma Road” Claremorris-Sligo (Archive Photo-feature)

Compiled by Ciarán Cooney, Hon Photographic Archivist of the Irish Railway Record Society’s library and archives at Heuston Station, Dublin.

During July 2019, I retraced the route of the erstwhile “Burma Road”, the colloquial name given to the currently disused railway line between Claremorris and Collooney. This was the third occasion I had photographed this line, the other times been in 2004 and 2006. Over the intervening years the track and stations have frequently become ‘jungle’ like environments, only to be treated to the occasional vegetation clearance (as recently as February 2020).

Serving towns such as Kiltimagh, Charlestown, Swinford and Tobercurry, the line between Claremorris and Collooney was opened in May 1895, but lost its regular passenger service in June 1963. Most of the stations remained open however to handle goods traffic until November 1975.

Map courtesy of Rail Map Online http://www.railmaponline.com/

May 1976 saw the last ‘train’ (the weed-sprayer) to operate over the whole line, which was followed by an inspectior-car trip in 1981. In 1988, a special train operated on the southern section from Claremorris to Kiltimagh to deposit two carriages there for a heritage and craft museum. This was the last occasion a train entered onto the “Burma Road” and since then the rusty rails has been the domain of only road/rail excavators, these vehicles assisting in maintaining the ‘right-of-way’ along the disused track.

My photos below are complemented by images from the archives of the Irish Railway Record Society and highlight some of the locations on the line. More of these archive photos are available to view to Society members on the IRRS Photo-archive site (Flickr).

1) Kiltimagh

Kiltimagh Station, looking north towards Sligo, 15 June 1968. The level crossing on the R323 (Knock Road) is in the foreground. CIÉ locomotive A7 is awaiting the road south to Claremorris with the goods to Limerick.  [Photo © George R Mahon – Irish Railway Record Society]
Similar view to the above but taken slightly closer reveals how little has changed at Kiltimagh, with the track and station buildings well preserved, July 2019. Only the truncated and filled in cattle dock formerly to the right beyond the signal cabin is the noticable difference. [Photo © Ciaran Cooney]
CIÉ locomotive B144 is standing outside Kiltimagh Station on 1 May 1971, with a goods train from Sligo. The level crossing and gate keepers house on the R322 (Kilkelly Road) are clearly visible, as is a party of IRRS members who were travelling on the “Burma Road” that day.  [Photo © Paddy O’Brien – Irish Railway Record Society]
Kiltimagh, looking north towards Sligo, as viewed in a similar position to Paddy O’Brien’s 1971 picture. The last rail movement here occured in 1988, when two CIÉ carriages were deposited at the station for then new craft and heritage museum.  [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
1890s-era Great Southern & Western Railway signal cabin at Kiltimagh Station, complete with lever frame, recorded July 2018.  [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
The approach to Kiltimagh from the Sligo direction in July 2018, with the level crossing on the R322 road visible. Note the signal post, which has an additional bracket for the passing loop, although its semaphore arms are long gone (this is the signal visible beside locomotive B144 in the May 1971 picture). [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]

2) Esker Ridge

Approximately 1-mile south of Swinford is Esker Gates, a popular location for photographers chasing trains on the “Burma Road”. This view is looking north towards Sligo, with the derelict gate keepers house visible. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
The view from Esker Ridge, just beyond the gate crossing, as recorded on cine by the late IRRS filmmaker Tony Price during the mid-1970s; a Limerick bound goods is about to cross a bridge spanning a tributary of the River Moy.
A summer 2019 view from the Esker Ridge, with the disused track clearly visible. In the intervening 40+ years, a forest has sprouted on the hills.
Tony Price turns the cine camera around to look south, as the Limerick-bound goods train approaches the gate keepers house at Esker (note the sempahore signal guarding the crossing).
Both the gate keepers house and the surrouding land at Esker has become significantly wild and overgrown. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
This is the bridge which spans a tributary of the River Moy beside Esker Ridge. The track on the Swinford side of the structure is very overgrown.
Another view of the bridge at Esker Ridge, south of Swinford.

3) Swinford

On 9 October 1975, the Up and Down goods trains from Sligo and Limerick cross at Swinford Station with CIÉ locomotives 141 and 174. Note the well cared for appearance of the signal cabin. [Photo © Jonathan M Allen]
Summer 2006 sees recent vegetation clearance at Swinford, revealing the rusted rails and the now rather forlorn looking signal cabin. To the left is the goods shed. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
Another summer 2006 picture of Swinford Station, with the 1890s-era signal cabin. In the foreground is pathway which cuts across the former line and is regularly used as a shortcut for locals. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
July 2019 and the trees and shurbs have retaken Swinford signal cabin and much of the station area in general! Since this view has been recorded, the track has been cleared of vegetation again. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
June 1968 and CIÉ locomotive A55 enters Swinford Station from the Claremorris direction with the goods for Sligo (the carriage is conveying the IRRS party). [Photo © David Murray – IRRS Collection]
In comparison to Dave Murray’s picture above, this similar view of Swinford from 2006 reveals that only the station footbridge has been removed since 1968. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
Swinford, looking north towards Sligo from the southern end of the station following the vegetation clearance in 2006. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
By August 2019, the trees and shrubs have reclaimed the platforms, as well as the tracks. During early 2020, a road/rail excavator has since made a pathway through the dense undergrowth. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
The then derelict goods shed at Swinford Station, pictured in 2005 and last used in 1975. The base of the goods crane is in the foreground. At this end of the structure is the attached good office. Formerly track entered through the shed on the left. The wooden awning over the road side of the building remains. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
This July 2019 picture of Swinford’s goods shed shows the impressive restoration work that was undertaken on the structure since 2005 (it’s now a community hall). [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
The road side of Swinford goods shed, as it looked during summer 2006, showing more clearly the wooden awning. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
And now fully restored in August 2019. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]

4) Charlestown

Charlestown, one of the smaller stations on the “Burma Road”, looking north towards Sligo on 1 May 1971, showing the singe platform, goods loop and station buildings. [Photo © Herbert Sharmen – IRRS Collection]
Some years back, Charlestown Station received a ‘tidy up’, with the platform restored, as seen in 2019, although now devoid of station building and signal cabin. Immediately beyond the platform, the line crosses the N17 road to Sligo. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
One of the few road overbridges on the “Burma Road”, as opposed to the multiplicity of level crossings on the line; this bridge is at Sonnagh, south of Charlestown. A 10mph speed sign has has survived in-situ, some 44 years after the last regular train operated. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
This bridge at Sonnagh, takes the railway across the River Sonnagh itself. This view is looking south towards Claremorris and the track is reasonably clear of vegetation on this stretch. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]

4) Curry

Curry Station, looking south towards Claremorris, showing the single platform, station building, goods shed and accompanying siding, circa 1959. [Photo © George R Mahon – IRRS Collection]
Curry, as viewed from the Claremorris end of the station, not long after the track was cleared of trees and shurbs during 2006. This was one of the “Burma Road” stations which closed in 1963. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]

5) Tobercurry

Tobercurry Station, circa 1959, looking south towards Claremorris, with station building, signal cabin and watertower. The goods yard and shed can be seen on the left. [Photo © George R Mahon – IRRS Collection]
Compare with the August 2019 view, all but the watertower has been swept away at the former Tobercurry Station. The station building, goods shed and yard was lost to new road for the N17. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
The forlorn looking signal cabin at Tobercurry Station, pictured during summer 2005. The cabin retained its lever frame, but was heavily vandalised and was demolished soon after this picture was recorded. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]

2) Carrowmore

Surrounded by beautiful scenery, Carrowmore was the smallest station on the “Burma Road”. This 1959 view shows the single platform, station building and small goods shed. [Photo © George R Mahon – IRRS Collection]
Although the goods shed is a mere shell, the station building at Carrowmore survives well intact. Nature however is started to reclaim the platform and track. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
Carrowmore, looking south towards Claremorris in the mid-1960s. The station closed to regular passenger and goods traffic in 1963, and the goods siding has been removed. Note the double-armed semaphore signal which guards the level crossing. [Photo © Tony Price – IRRS Collection]
Carrowmore Station, August 2019, looking south towards Claremorris. The signal and crossing gates are long gone. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
The vista at Carrowmore as one looks north towards Sligo. The rails and sleepers along this stretch are reasonably clear. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
A view of the disused line just north of Carrowmore during July 2019, with nature gradually reclaiming the track. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
This is the former Carrowloughan South level crossing (in the Carrowmore-Leyny section). The disused track has been covered over by tarmac, while the rear end gable of the 1890’s-era gate keepers house has fallen away. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
The abandoned gate keepers house at Carrowloughan South, near the village of Coolaney (Leyny), made of wood and corrugated-iron. [Photo © Ciarán Cooney]
An April 1962 ‘group-photo’ of the station staff at Leyny, which served the village of Coolaney (second last station before the “Burma Road” joins the Sligo line at Collooney). Thanks to the Sligo Heritage and History Club, where I shared this picture to, we now know that three of the persons shown (left to right) are Bernie Currid, Tommy O’Grady and Pauric Fallon; those seated we have, as yet, no names, but please get in touch if you can identify them! [Photo © Turlough Cott – IRRS Collection]

This archive photo-feature has been compiled by Ciarán Cooney, Hon Photographic Archivist of the Irish Railway Record Society’s library and archives at Heuston Station, Dublin. Further images from the Society’s collection can be found on the IRRS’s Photographic Archive. IRRS Membership can be obtained online via the Membership Page.

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3 thoughts on ““Burma Road” Claremorris-Sligo (Archive Photo-feature)

  1. Michael Fox 20 May 2020 at 2:52 pm

    Nice tour! Check out my earlier tour following closure on the website of West-on-Track a community group campaigning for reopening of the western rail corridor in its entirety. I am a one time member of IRRS.

  2. James Phillips 20 May 2020 at 5:01 pm

    We lived in Tubbercurry Station from 1967-1970. Tommy Phillips was StationMaster.

  3. Martin Walsh 21 Jul 2020 at 2:44 pm

    The reopening of the Western Rail Corridor all the way would prevent 1) Car Accidents/Road Deaths, 2) Traffic Jams & 3) Pollution also railway lines all over the island of Ireland including Athlone to Mullingar & Navan to Drogheda will need to looked at we need extra trains for the 2027 Ryder Cup. If it had been reopened to Tuam in 2014 onto Claremorris in 2017 Sligo would have reopened in 2019 onto Donegal connecting the North.

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