Adventure in Progress

A community heritage project, the Waterford Suir Valley Railway has enabled the magic of rails golden age to be brought to life in Kilmeadan. A heritage narrow gauge railway runs along 17 kilometres of the abandoned Waterford Dungarvan line.

Development Timeline

1997 – 1999

In 1997 the inaugural meeting of the Waterford Railway Restoration Group met to discuss the potential of developing one of Waterford’s abandoned railway lines as a tourist attraction.  The meeting was facilitated by the then Chief Executive of Waterford Chamber of Commerce, Frank O’Donoghue. The first action of this group was to get funding to carry out a feasibility study on the three abandoned railway lines, Waterford Tramore Railway, Waterford New Ross Railway, Waterford Cork Railway.  The outcome of the study was that the section of the Waterford Cork Railway between Kilmeadan and Bilberry was the obvious choice for development for several reasons : 

  • The Track Bed was in good repair
  • The Full Line was available to Kilmeadan, making a 10km journey.
  •  Excellent Infrastructure opportunities available at the station at Kilmeadan, River Frontage, the Mount Congreve Estate, many pockets of land suitable for additional halts and, above all, outstanding scenery.

And so the adventure began. Between 1997 and 1999 the railway restoration group focused on preparing the way for the project. 

  • Developed a 5-year business plan.
  • Grant aid was received from Waterford City & County Enterprise Boards towards the commissioning of a locomotive and two carriages.
  • Recruited Project Supervisor, Dan Donovan, Mechanic, Michael Doyle and track laying team with support from FAS.
  • Secured two vintage diesel locomotives from Bord na Mona.
  • CIE Board confirmed their support of the project and donated track panels. 
  • Support was also confirmed from FAS, Waterford County Council, Waterford City Council, Waterford Chamber of Commerce.
  • Major fundraising appeals to local businesses.

2000 – 2002

2000

  • Waterford Suir Valley Railway was registered as a company limited by Guarantee and  the first directors were appointed.  
  • Delivery of a simplex Locomotive and two carriages built by Alan Keef Ltd.
  • Laying of track commenced from Kilmeadan Station.
  • Business Development Manager appointed with the assistance of FAS.
  • Heritage Council Grant received.
  • American Ireland Fund Grant received & fundraising continues.

2001

  • Train shed built at Kilmeadan Station to house the rolling stock
  • 3km of track completed from Kilmeaden Station to Mount Congreve Estate.
  • Promotional trips commenced for potential sponsors.
  • Received Waterford News & Star Community Award.
  • Granted charitable status by the Revenue Commissioners.

2002

  • Applied to Waterford County Council to upgrade the entrance to the station at Kilmeadan, prepare a car park and build a ticket office and toilets.
  • Received approval from Waterford Leader Partnership for grant towards extending the track and up-grading station entrance.
  • Further track panels acquired from Iarnród Éireann.
  • A further 3km of track laid from Mount Congreve Nurseries to Knockhouse Bridge in Carriganore.
  • Railway opened to the public for week-ends in August.
  • Project gets special recognition at the FAS Community Initiative Awards.

2003 – 2005

2003

  • Refurbishment of Kilmeadan Station.
  • Loop and points fitted at Kilmeadan Station.
  • Committed team of volunteers engaged in the project and training commenced.
  • Railway opened to the public from May to September with 16,125 passengers enjoying the experience.
  • Special event trains organised at Halloween and Christmas.
  • Completion of a further 2km of track to Gracedieu Junction.
  • Set-up “Celtic Railways” with Llanberis Lake Railway, Wales and received a marketing grant under an EU funded programme, INTERREG 111a which runs until March 2006. This EU initiative supports enterprise led programmes in South East Ireland with similar projects in South West Wales.
  • Business Development Manager is now funded under this scheme.

2004

  • Track bed cleared from Gracedieu Junction to Bilberry.
  • Track laying continued by FAS crew and a further 2km of track laid to Bilberry.
  • More volunteers recruited and volunteer training carried out.
  • Railway opened to the public from April to September with 19,126 passengers enjoying the railway experience.
  • Special event trains are organised at Halloween and Christmas.
  • Simplex Locomotive upgraded to make it suitable for the extra track length and gradients.
  • Dan Donovan, Project Supervisor receives Vodafone “Passion for the World Around Us” award for the drive and enthusiasm he brings to this community initiative.

2005

  • Conversion of a preserved railway carriage at Kilmeadan Station to use as a ticket office, shop and coffee shop.
  • With the aid of local voluntary organisations, published a guide book with information on the history of the rail route and the area through which it travels, flora and fauna of the route, history of the Waterford Suir Valley Railway Company and how to help the project through sponsorship or volunteering.
  • Fitted a PA system to the train and produced an informative audio tour of the route suitable for different age groups and interests.
  • Opened to the public from March to September and for special event trips in February, October and December welcoming 20,000 visitors.
  • Funding – FAS, INTERREG 111a, Waterford County Council, Waterford City Council, Friends Membership, Donations, Ticket Revenue and Shop Receipts.

2006 – 2008

2006

  • Built a new entrance to Kilmeadan Station along with a car park and bus bays.
  • Achieved the Green Dragon Environmental Standards certificate.
  • Opened to the public from March to September and for special event trips in February, October and December welcoming 20,000 visitors.
  • Funding – FAS, Waterford Leader Partnership, Friends Membership, Donations, Ticket Revenue and Shop Receipts.
  • Took out a loan towards development from Clann Credo, The Social Investment Fund.
  • Lifted 2.5km of track from Carriganore to Gracedieu Junction to allow for the development of the new Waterford City By-Pass. To be replaced in 3 years time.

2007

  • Recruited and trained lots of new volunteers.
  • Continued track and station maintenance.
  • Erected signals at the station.
  • Opened to the public for mid-term breaks in the summer season from April to September, mid-term break in February and October. Also operated special event trains, Spooky Express and Santa Express. Welcomed over 22,000 visitors to the railway experience.
  • Funding – Friends Membership, Donations, Golf Classic, Ticket Revenue and Shop Receipts.


2008

  • Won an Excellence in Business for Hospitality / Tourism Award for Special Event Trains. This is a quarterly award managed by Waterford Chamber and Sponsored by VHI Healthcare.
  • Enjoyed the best season yet despite the weather. Opened to the public in the summer season from Easter to September and mid-term break in February and October. Operated special event trains, Spooky Express and Santa Express. Welcomed over 22,500 visitors to the railway experience.
  • Mechanic, Mick Doyle restored a Simplex Locomotive and fitted it with an air braking and communication system to make it compatible with the system fitted on the carriages.
  • Received planning permission for a train shed / workshop.
  • In June, we welcomed the 100,000th visitor since opening in 2003.
  • Welcomed more volunteers on board to join the team.

2009 – 2011

2009

  • Overall winner of the Excellence in Business for Hospitality / Tourism Award for Special Event Trains. This award is managed by Waterford Chamber and Sponsored by VHI Healthcare.
  • Munster Winner 4kids Santa Award 2009
  • Continued to rely on the goodwill of volunteers to run the operations of the railway. Recruitment drives carried out periodically throughout the year with full training given by experienced personnel again on a voluntary basis.
  • Welcomed over 24,000 visitors to the railway experience

2010

  • Relayed the 2km of track from Carriganore to Gracedieu Junction to extend the journey.
  • Built a train shed and workshop at the station.
  • Provided picnic tables for use by both rail visitors and walkers.
  • Improved signage to and at the station entrance.
  • Received funding for these projects from Waterford Leader Partnership without whose support these developments would not have been possible.
  • Continued track and station maintenance.
  • Munster Winner 4kids Santa Award 2010
  • Quarterly winner of the Munster Express/ Dooleys Hotel Heritage & Culture Awards for best Heritage Group
  • Welcomed over 29,000 visitors to the railway experience

2011

  • A new loco was designed and built, by Hunslet Steam Company, specifically for the Waterford Suir Valley Railway. It will be put into operation in 2012.
  • A set of points and siding built to travel in to the new train shed.
  • The car park was extended and resurfaced.
  • Funding for the above projects was supported by Waterford Leader Partnership.
  • Continued to develop on the success of the family friendly Summer Magic Events.

2012 – 2016

2012

  • Organised more family friendly events during the summer season.
  • Refurbished the LM 348 Simplex locomotive.
  • Ongoing maintenance of the rolling stock.
  • Began a track maintenance programme.
  • Welcomed new members of the team from TUS schemes.

2013 & 2014

  • Continued to develop on the family friendly events.
  • Mossy Wood became the Magic Wood complete with Fairy Houses.
  • Continued track maintenance programme.
  • Featured on Great British Railway Journeys Goes to Ireland.
  • Featured on Donal Skeehan, Kitchen Hero RTE 2


2015

  • Construction work began on the Waterford Greenway which delayed the railway opening until May.
  • Introduced treasure hunt for children.
  • Opened a history room with storyboards and a model of Kilmeaden Station.


2016

  • Enjoyed one of our busiest seasons since the recession with an increase in visitors during the summer season and at the Spooky Express and Santa Express
  • Welcomed new train drivers to the crew.
  • Construction of bridges for the Waterford Greenway made slow progress
  • Planning permission granted to build a Station House at Kilmeaden Station.

2017 – 2019

2017

  • Waterford Suir Valley Railway wins the Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism category in the Waterford Chamber Business Awards.
  • Waterford Greenway opened to the public on 27th March 2017, 50 years to the day since Waterford Cork Railway had closed to passenger traffic.  
  • Built two new railway station platforms at Mount Congreve Gardens and Bilberry Station.
  • Extended the catering facilities at Kilmeadan Station to cater for the extra business from Waterford Greenway users
  • Recruited and trained new volunteer train drivers
  • Welcomed 30,000 visitors to the railway experience and approximately 250,000 people passed through Kilmeadan Station on Waterford Greenway

2018

  • The Platforms at Bilberry and Mount Congreve Gardens were put into operation. Starting working with US and UK tour operators offering a morning pickup at Bilberry to bring visitors to Mount Congreve Gardens or Kilmeadan Station. 
  • Included a stop at Mount Congreve Gardens on each journey so that passengers could disembark to visit the gardens and return on a later train. 
  • Launched the Nature Express with Paddy Dwan from “Time Outside Nature Walks”
  • Reintroduced the Sunset Express on the third Thursday of June, July and August.

2019 

  • Built the Whistlestop Café at Kilmeadan Station.  It opened on 9th August offering refreshments, home baked treats and ice cream.  
  • Continued to operate the railway with special events such as the Family Fun Days, Nature Express, Sunset Express, Spooky Express and Santa Express.

2020

The Covid 19 Pandemic changes how the railway operates. Following the government directives new protocols were put in place to ensure the safety of the volunteers, staff and customers. 

  • The Whistlestop Café opened on 8th June with a takeaway service.  
  • The railway began operating on 29th June with limited capacity to ensure only one family per compartment and social distancing is observed. 
  • Tickets to be booked online only 
  • All trips are to Carriganore lasting 40 minutes to allow time for compartments to be disinfected between trips.
  • Mount Congreve Gardens entrance from the Waterford Greenway is closed so the train does not stop at Mount Congreve Platform. 
  • Family Fun Days are postponed and the  Spooky Express is cancelled.