131 Uranus Great Northern Railway 4-4-0 Class Q C Clifford

Introduced1901
DesignerC Clifford
CompanyGreat Norther Railway
WeightEngine – 49t  4cwt Tender – t cwt
Driving Wheels6ft 7ins
Boiler Pressure175psi
CylindersInside – 18½in x 26in
Tractive Effort16,755lbf  

This was built by Neilson,  Reid & Co in Glasgow in 1901 (works no 5727) as one of thirteen class Q express passenger locomotives ordered by the Great Northern Railway (GNR). Nine were built by Neilson  Reid, and two each by Beyer Peacock and the North British Locomotive Company.

The locomotive was designed by Charles Clifford and was initially named but the name was removed in 1914.

In 1920 the locomotive was rebuilt with a superheated boiler and wider cylinders at Dundalk by George T Glover who was then the Chief Locomotive Designer of the GNR. This enhancement of the class Q locomotives enabled them to run faster. In 1932 a two coach newspaper train hauled by class Q locomotive No.135 covered the distance between Howth Junction and Drogheda at a start-to-stop average speed of just over 67mph , the fastest run in Ireland achieved with a steam locomotive on a scheduled train.

It was overhauled again in 1958.

The locomotive was used mainly on the routes from Belfast to Clones and Belfast to Londonderry and throughout its GNR life was rarely seen south of Dundalk. They were frequently used on mixed traffic duties.

In 1921 Ireland was partitioned into Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. The Great Northern Railway was not incorporated into the Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ) or the Ulster Transport Authority (UTA) as it operated in both. As a result of mounting losses the Great Northern Railway was run jointly by the CIÉ and UTA with an independent board from 1953 until 1958 when it was dissolved and its remaining stock split equally between the two parties. This locomotive was allocated to the CIÉ and operated until it was withdrawn from service in October 1963 when the CIÉ ceased steam traffic.

By 1963 the locomotive was one of only three of the class Q locomotives still in service. The other two were 135 Cyclops and 132 Mercury who were both withdrawn in 1963 – 135 by the UTA and 132 by the CIÉ. The first withdrawal took place in 1951 and by the end of 1960 only tree remained in service.

Until 1965 the locomotive lay unused.

In the late 1970s the locomotive was repainted and placed on a plinth at Dundalk station.

In June 1984 the locomotive was moved to Mallow as the main locomotive of the Great Southern Railway Preservation Society which was attempting to set up a preservation railway between Tralee and Fenit. Unfortunately this venture but fell through in the early 1990s. 

The locomotive (partially stripped down and with the boiler and firebox out of the frames) was moved back to Inchicore Railway Works following the failure of the project.

In May 2003 the running frames were moved to the headquarters of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI) at Whitehead in County Antrim.

In 2014 the task of restoring the locomotive back to steam commenced and in January 2015 it moved under its own steam for the first time for over 50 years. In the following month ventured onto the main line with a test run to Carrickfergus. This was done after the last service train had departed from Whitehead and under a special licence to test, as No.131 was not yet fitted with the on-train monitoring and signalling equipment which is required for mainline operation.

There was then a wait for a tender to be constructed before the engine could operate properly on the main line.

The first test run with a train took place between Whitehead, Carrickfergus and Belfast in November 2017.

The official launch of the locomotive into traffic took place at Whitehead in March 2018 and three months later it was certified by Translink NI Railways to operate at 60 mph on the main line.

As of May 2019 the locomotive was only able to run on the main line from Whitehead to Belfast as certification to go beyond this was awaited from Irish Rail.

131 stored out of use at Mullingar – June 1964
131 at Dundalk – May 1979
131 under restortion at Whitehead – September 2014
131 Uranus at Whitehead – February 2015
131 Uranus at Whitehead – February 2015
131 Uranus hauling its first passenger train in over 50 years on shuttle duties at the RPSI base at Whitehead – July 2017
131 Uranus arriving at Carrickfergus on a test run from Whitehead – November 2017
131 Uranus storming up Greenisland Bank in County Antrim – April 2018
131 at Antrim – August 2018
131 heading the Portrush Flyer out of Antrim – August 2018
131 at Whitehead – December 2019

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