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Bonkers

Pringles, skittles and a ham sambo: check. Camera, phone, pen and notepad: check. Steely determination: let's see.

This August bank holiday weekend marked the official start of my station spotting. Or, for the sake of sounding like a researcher proper, industrial archaeological fieldwork. There is more to my journey of discovery than nipping out of the carriage for a few moments to snap the front and side elevations of a railway station.

For sometimes the station doesn’t actually exist. It’s been demolished, replaced by a metallic non-entity as per the DART stations which provided my modus transportus (sorry), or perhaps the original station is located at a completely different location than at the one which currently operates, albeit serving the same locality under the same moniker. Then there are the railway cottages, station masters’ houses, train sheds, engine sheds, electricity generating stations (yes, actually) and of course, beloved signal boxes. The majority of these are undocumented, unknown and free from historical and heritage protection orders in any way. Demolish them tomorrow, would anyone know?

My journey yesterday led me from Clontarf to Howth (Connolly Station is a monster for another day), stopping at what were the original GNRI stations: Killester, Raheny, Howth Junction, and penultimately, Sutton. Each of these shall receive its own detailed blog post in due course, but here are some of my discoveries.

Clontarf
Clontarf’s original station is what I would label ‘archetypal GNRI’, although it pre-dates the 1876 date of the company’s foundation. My reasoning is that these style of buildings informed what were to become the brick-branded designs used across the GNRI network and thus create a company’s signature style or architecture. The red-brick main is accented with yellow for its feature windows, arches, doorways and quoins (those stepped bits at the corners). Clontarf is interesting in that its frontage is a wooden gable whilst the station master’s house is adjoined perpendicular to the station itself. Usually the former is brick, the latter a separate, albeit neighbouring, entity.

Now a private residence, my first taste of looking like a burglar scouting out my next hit struck me as cars slowed with contorted faces glaring at me as they drove past. Do I really look that dodgy? Perhaps I need a lanyard.

Killester’s original station was located about 200m to the south of its current site, and probably in what is now an Irish Rail car park. It has a path which slopes towards the tracks where the platform probably used to be.

A curious wander led me to three hidden cottages, their windows and gabled entrances setting my heart on fire (who needs human interaction?!). Knocking on doors, and probably looking like a pizza leaflet delivery person, I chanced upon a resident who very kindly chatted to me about the houses whereupon we decided that these were railway cottages and not the station as I over-enthusiastically barked at him when I mysteriously emerged from the hedge. He gave permission to photograph the houses, which I am very grateful for.
Killester cottages
Raheny was a more obvious affair, with the former station plonked on the opposite platform as I alighted the train. Now unused, its blocked up edifice stands rather ominously above commuters, and unfortunately when viewed from the former front entrance, it is completely barricaded in with electricity generators, high barbed fencing and overgrowth. A snap from my camera stuck through a gap in the fence informs me that there is a gabled entrance to what was probably once quite a grand station. A plaque in the ticket office marks the 150th anniversary of its opening and a banquet for 500 people held by Daniel O’Connell to mark such an occasion. Appearances show the party is well and truly over.
Raheny Station
Raheny - railway cottages?

Also lurking in Raheny are an enclave of cottages and larger two-storey end houses with a central yard. Their style suggests railways to me, but perhaps I need to just calm down. As I snapped a photo a hand snapped the sash window shut. What must I look like?

Howth Junction with its pungent steel Modernism screaming offensively across its myriad of conjoining tracks reminded me rather fondly of Croydon, before piss-stained stairwells delivered me at the non-place of a car-park and cycle path. Choosing the cycle path, dodging dog shit, cans and overgrowth, I spied the former Howth Junction station, but not the signal box.

Crossing the underpass to get a better photo angle, the red brick chimneys of Howth Junction Cottages again alighted a fire within (give me a Rennie). Three units of three gable-fronted houses proudly stood with large front gardens in a position that before the underpass (perhaps this used to be a level-crossing?) would have aligned them just opposite the original station. Rather grand houses, perhaps they signify the importance of the Junction. Does anybody know that these were railway houses? The disgruntled pause of a man in the front garden with his active hedge clipper suggested I don’t enquire.
Howth Junction
Howth Junction Cottages



Sutton is thankfully recorded by the NIAH on its Buildings of Ireland archive, as is the station master’s house and signal box, the two latters being of that ‘archetypal GNRI’ style. What is not recorded are the former GNRI electricity generating station and its nearby engine shed; the first has been demolished and replaced with a modern pumping station, the second has been converted into glamorous houses.
Sutton - Engine House
Sutton - Station Master's House


And so to Howth. The platform facing station is GNRI proper; Millsian yellow-brick, single-storey with red and black brick accents and bonds. Semi-architrave openings repeat along the platform, its canopy using the same iron supports as those at Dundalk, and probably other stations I’ve yet to discover. The front is however and earlier incarnation, with square windows, rendered flat frontage and what is now a pub, probably the former refreshment room, to the lower floor. To the west sits the remains of the Howth-Sutton tramway and removed again is the ‘archetypal GNRI’ station master’s house.
Howth - Platform
All are recorded on NIAH but what’s this I peek? Howth’s signal box and what looks to me like two joined train sheds stand, derelictly resolute, parallel to the train tracks in what was once the end-of-the-line railway yard. Day trippers paused their ice-cream licking, mothers moved their children closer and an inquisitive, “excuse me, what are you doing?” from behind a residential wall brought the self-consciousness of this standing-on-a-precipice lone spotter back to reality. The words ‘PhD’ and ‘Trinity College’ are becoming very useful, I find.
Howth Signal Box

Before the non-stop journey home, a sojourn to the beach and the reward of soggy ham, broken pringles and soft skittles hardened my resolve: I need to not care what I look like and pack a bloody decent lunch.