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Trains and Boats and Planes

Burt Bacharach provided the soundtrack, industrial technology provided the means. For I now have my car in Ireland, thanks to the wonders of transport (and an obliging father who drove the eight hours to Holyhead, myself providing the much required navigational assistance. And Haribo).

My first leg required a coach from Dublin to the airport and an even shorter flight on Ryanair to lovely Luton. Thameslink shuttled me (via the blasted Luton Parkway shuttle bus – don’t even get me started) to my home town, with footpower completing stage one. 

For stage two, the wheels on my car went round and round, nearly all day long, following the A5 road built by Thomas Telford, who designed the London to Holyhead, and Howth to Dublin roads respectively (steam ships used to dock at Howth). Irish engineer, John Macneill, worked with Telford on this road for ten years and upon Telford’s death was appointed the engineer-in-chief for this project: unfortunately Macneill’s contribution is often overlooked.

Arriving at Holyhead port, having passed through tunnels and across Robert Stephenson’s Britannia Bridge, the extra hour before boarding allowed me to skip excitedly across the quay to snap Holyhead Station.

Designed collaboratively  between Stephenson and the architect Francis Thompson (who also assisted in the design for the Britannia Bridge), the station displays classical red-brick arcades, framing an utterly functional train shed. Perhaps more decorative is the Admiralty Arch, designed by Thomas Harrison commemorating King George IV’s visit to Ireland in 1821 via the Irish Mail ferry service.

Onboard my own ferry, Irish Ferries’ Epsilon, I carried my own Irish mail in the form of bags and parcels stuffed into my car, and after three hours we were greeted at Dublin Port by the domineering industrial pillars of the Poolbeg Chimneys. Their candy-cane stripes were not visible, but their silhouettes in front of a blushing hushed sky provided us with a warm welcome.

I decided to complete the journey by taking to the wheel and whizzing my father, now in the passenger seat, to his bed and breakfast, jerkily averting an accident (not my own), blinding other drivers with my lights on full-beam and being paranoid about my UK number plates offending the neighbours.

And so it is, with sighs of relief from my family and myself, that a journey through the histories of mechanical, technological, industrial and material engineering is completed, and my journeys of Irish railway discoveries can commence. Haribo included as standard.