The Listowel and Ballybunion Railway. Photo Wikipedia
(Click to see an enlarged copy of the photograph and copyright details.)
The Listowel and Ballybunion Railway was a steam-powered Lartigue monorail that linked Listowel and Ballybunion, in County Kerry in Ireland. It was 9 miles (14.4 km) long and opened on 1 March 1888. The locomotives were of 0-3-0s with tenders equipped with boosters for use when climbing steep gradients. They were built by the Hunslet Engine Company and had two boilers in order to balance, one of which had to be stoked by the driver. The tender wheels were driven by a two cylinder booster engine via spur gears. A smaller vertical-boilered engine nicknamed the “coffee pot” was said to have been used during the railway’s construction.
One challenge with the Lartigue system was that it was not possible to build conventional level crossings. Where roads crossed the track, an attendant-operated device to lift the track, resembling a double drawbridge was provided. Where a farm track crossed the line the railway track could be slewed out the way by means of turntables. These were locked and the farmer provided with a key. Once unlocked the track could be swivelled to one side to allow vehicles to cross. Both the swivelling and drawbridge type crossings were automatically linked to signals which stopped any approaching trains. Curved turntables also served the same function as points on an ordinary railway. See photograph above.
Passengers could not pass from one side of a carriage to another while in motion. A pair of steps was built into one end of some of the passenger coaches, while at least one pair was carried on a separate wagon. This allowed passengers to cross from one side of the line to the other while the train was stopped at a station. Heavy loads had to be evenly balanced. If a farmer wanted to send a cow to market, he would have to send two calves to balance it, which would travel back on opposite sides of the same freight wagon, thereby balancing each other.
The line was closed in 1924 after the track was damaged during the Irish Civil War.
In 2003 the Lartigue Monorailway Restoration Committee, a voluntary organisation based in Listowel, opened a 1km length of Lartigue monorail on the trackbed of the former North Kerry line in Listowel. The line is worked by a diesel locomotive built to resemble the original steam engines.