I'm going to use this posting to go into a bit more detail about my new project, starting with the aforementioned entry into the MRC's layout challenge.
Without further ado, a brief history of the line from Westport to Roonagh Pier, County Mayo...
The town of Westport is small but a cultural and local hub. There is a market on Thursday mornings and the town has become a centre for music and art in recent years. This and the towns proximity to many beautiful mountain walks and the vast Clew Bay explain why a railway line was built in 1866. In 1894, a branch was opened from Westport to Achill island, presumably to further exploit the north side of Clew Bay's farmland. There were two towns on this line as well but I won't go into too much detail about them.
Now, my idea is that another branch was built from Westport along the south side of Clew Bay. Once clew bay has opened up into the sea, there are two small but populated islands just out to sea. These are Claire Island and Inishturk. Having spent a day on each of these, I can safely say that they are well worth a visit for those who, like myself, are keen hikers. The islands are reached by small ferry to Inishturk and a slightly larger ferry to Claire. Both these ferries travel from the small pier at Roonagh. Here lies the first justification for my line. Roonagh sits at the southern corner of Clew Bay. To reach Roonagh from Westport, a railway would have to pass the villages of Murrisk, Leckanvy and Louisburgh (the largest of the three). It would also pass within very short distance of Old Head (where another pier sits, facing into Clew Bay as opposed to wilds of the Atlantic). Also of note is that Murrisk sits at the bottom of Crough Patrick, a mountain very popular with pilgrims.
This line would have opened with the intention of connecting the above villages with Westport not only for passengers but also the vast amounts of farmland. Both Inishturk and Claire Island have much farmland. Both livestock and vegetables would have been sold at the Westport market and would have exploited the line. This part of Ireland is also heavy with peat so this may well have been carried by the line.
My idea would be to have had the line open in 1895 only to close sometime in the 1930s due to dwindling traffic and the dreaded rise of the bus. This would have the line operated by the Midland Great Western Railway and then, from 1925, the Great Southern Railways. My preference would be model the line under MGWR. As the line is in Ireland, I plan to build the track at a gauge of 21mm as this is the closest one can get to portraying the prototypes 5ft3in in 4mm.
As I have said before, to begin with I'll be making an entry into the MRC's layout challenge. The challenge rules limit you to 4 foot by 1 foot. I have therefore come up with an idea for a very long siding down to the pier at Old Head. I'm hoping this will give me the kick up the backside to carry on beyond this.
This is the most I've ever gone into the history of a railway that I intend to build and I'm already far more excited by this than anything else I've built. Below I have attached a photo of a very rough plan for the Old Head layout.
Ignore my scribbles around the plan as it's only very rough.
All for now