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Preparations and Presentations

My journey of discovery into Irish railway architecture started in Dundalk. From my initial alighting at the station to wanderings around the residential streets and former GNRI engineering works, I was captivated by the clear architectural communality one railway company had managed to create.

Writing my master’s dissertation about this architecture, I was then honoured to receive the Association for Industrial Archaeology’s Dissertation award in 2017. Here’s a geeky picture taken after the industrial archaeologists’ conference dinner – home by 11pm, what a party!

Becky Haslam (L) Dr Marilyn Palmer (C) Siobhan Osgood (R)

Heartened by this I was determined to take my research further. I feel like there is so much of railway architecture in Ireland that is undiscovered, forgotten or undocumented – and I’m talking at a national level here, local enthusiasts have really made up for the shocking shortfall in national appreciation for this area of Irish industrial history. This actually makes me quite angry but spurs me on even more to do something about it.

Now is an important time to conduct this research and also a crucial one. It is a century since the railways in Ireland were at their peak (Alan Fernihough Tweeted an amazing animation showing this), and it is also reaching a point where those who once worked on these railways may not be around to give their own histories. The buildings which are not lived in or looked after are deteriorating, being demolished, misused and often not listed as protected structures. Where will they be in the next 50 to 100 years?

In March 2018 I started my PhD at Trinity College Dublin. It is now May 2018 and having spent two months theorising, planning and preparing, it is now time to get out there, to find these buildings, experience them in their landscapes – both physical and social.

There is, ironically, the slight issue of transportation. If only there were a train network which could take me to all these places eh? And so, being from the UK, I need to bring my car over via the ferry at Holyhead in order to begin my journey. Look out for an update on progress in my next post!

In the meantime, I shall be giving a public lecture where my original journey began, in Dundalk for the Dundalk Railway Heritage Society at the County Museum, Dundalk on Thursday 24 May 2018 at 7pm. This is open to everyone, not just railway society members and train buffs! Anyone with an interest in local history, architecture, industrial heritage or whose Tinder date cancelled (or maybe it's the perfect first date?!) will hopefully find it interesting and entertaining.

Plans are also afoot to bring this lecture to Belfast, so watch this space!