90 Great Southern & Western Railway GS&WR Class 90 CIÉ Class J30 0-6-0T

Introduced1875 – 1890
DesignerAlexander McDonnell
CompanyGreat Southern & Western Railway    
Weight22t  9cwt
Driving Wheels3ft 8½ins
Boiler Pressure150psi
CylindersInside – 12in x 18in
Tractive Effort7,425lbf  

In 1875 the Inchicore works of the Great Southern & Western Railway (GS&WR) built two steam powered railmotors. They had a carriage on the same chassis as the locomotive and were designed to work on the Castleisland and Gortatlea Light Railway.

The carriage had a passenger compartment that could seat six third class passengers on wooden benches, as well as a guard’s compartment which was accessible by a veranda on the back. It weighed only 23t 7cwt as the 4.5-mile line’s cheaply-laid 40lb rail meant that engines travelling on it could only have a maximum axle load of 6.5t and were limited to 25mph. Originally, water was kept in a well tank between the frames, while coal was in small bunkers on either side of the boiler; it could probably haul one conventional passenger carriage or a few lightweight wagons.

The Castleisland and Gortatlea Light Railway company was absorbed into the GS&WR in 1879. The first locomotive built which had only carried the designation C for Casrleisland was given the GS&WR number 90.

Starting in 1890 the two underwent rebuilds which involved removing the carriage and thus leaving the locomotive as a light 0-6-0T engine. An unusual feature of the engines was that there were no flanges on the centre driving wheels. This made them very good at working over tight radius curves. The first locomotive built is reported to have cost £1,585.

The resulting locomotives (numbers 90 and 100) were then employed in the Cork area They regularly shunted along the quayside at Cork and worked the car trains from the Ford works to Rocksavage yard. In the summer months both locomotives were coupled together to work the excursion trains on the lightly laid Timoleague and Courtmacsherry Light Railway.

In 1890 the class was enlarged when Inchicore built a further two examples for use on the Fermoy to Mitchelstown branch and two for the Kingsbridge to Inchicore branch, which they worked until 1945.

Several detail changes were made over the years. One of the most noticeable was the replacement of the original chimney (which had a pronounced taper from base to apex), being replaced with a parallel version with a distinct lip

No 90 was withdrawn from service whilst based at Cork in October 1959. A year later it was back in service as the shed pilot at Glanmire Road shed at Cork. It was finally withdrawn from service in 1961.

Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ) was formed by the Transport Act of 1944 at which time it absorbed the GS&WR and the Dublin United Transport Company and thus the owner of No 90.

CIÉ recognised that the locomotive was of historic interest and it was marked for preservation. Initially, it was moved to Fermoy on the Waterford – Mallow line for static display in the station’s defunct bay platform. With the closure of that route in 1967 the locomotive was moved to Mallow where it resided for 16 years on a plinth where the Waterford platform had once been.

By the early 1980s, the engine was suffering badly from corrosion and was seen by many to be almost beyond restoration. In 1983 it was moved into the goods shed at Mallow for overhaul by the newly-formed Great Southern Railway Preservation Society.

Ultimately the GSRPS was not able to carry out the necessary work to return the locomotive to steam, and it remained at Mallow for another two years until the West of Ireland Steam Railway Association (Westrail) set up a base in the goods yard at Tuam station in County Galway in 1985. Westrail were in need of a steam locomotive for their excursion trains and No 90 was selected and moved to Tuam in 1985.  

The work required on the locomotive included modifications which allowed it to keep up with a modern diesel-powered timetable, such as a mechanical lubricator, GM headlights, and a hopper ashpan. The boiler was overhauled at Kinsale and this provided a usable boiler until a new build boiler was procured from the Severn Valley Railway in England in 1992.

The locomotive was returned to steam in August 1990 and the following month it was cleared for mainline trains on the Irish Rail network.

Under Westrail auspices, 90 ran trains from Tuam to Claremorris, Athenry and Galway, and in conjunction with the Cobh Heritage Centre even ran some specials as far as Cobh from its former home ground in Cork.

For a number of reasons, particularly due to a lack of Iarnród Éireann steam drivers in Connacht, Westrail’s mainline operations came to an end in 1993. In 1996 the locomotive was moved to Inchicore works for participation in the Inchicore 150 open day. Following this the engine was returned to the shed at Tuam.

Due to the deterioration in the condition of the locomotive shed at Tuam there was a serios risk of vandalism. As a result the locomotive was moved to Inchicore in December 2004 and was acquired by the Downpatrick & County Down Railway (DCDR). This move proved to be just in time as the shed at Tuam was destroyed in an arson attack just a few months after the locomotive left.

After an extensive overhaul at the workshops of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI) at Whitehead the locomotive arrived at Downpatrick in 2007.

After a number of issues arose the locomotive was taken out of service 2010 and placed on display in the Carriage Gallery at the Downpatrick Railway Museum.

It is hoped that the locomotive will be back in service in the mid 1920s

90 in Cork Glanmire Road loco shed – July 1960
90 shunting at Cork Albert Quay station – September 1960
90 at Fermoy – March 1963
90 on display at Mallow – July 1980
90 at Athenry – July 1991
90 with a Westrail train for Tuam leaving Athenry – July 1991
90 in the Carriage Gallery at the Downpatrick Railway Museum – December 2013
90 in the Carriage Gallery at the Downpatrick Railway Museum – September 2018

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