MEMBERS of the Ballyhornan Residents Association gave the Downpatrick and County Down Railway a boost by volunteering last Saturday to help shift a backlog of work assocated with the Downpatrick expansion plans. This was part of the local heritage railway’s ongoing efforts to attract local people of all ages and skills to volunteer and help expand Irelands biggest functioning heritage railway.
Councillor Cadogan Enright, who organised the event said: “The Ballyhornan team worked with experienced volunteers and we were able to shift a huge amount of work.
“Last Saturday was one of our most productive days, with the whole on the north side of the railway yard cleared, paving the way for building new rail lines into our new Locomotive Sheds.
“I am a volunteer myself with the DCDR and enjoy it very much each weekend. We’d certainly like to see groups and organisations come from far and wide to take part in our short volunteering packages. When a group begins its time with DCDR, we put them through health and safety training such as the need to wear high viz clothing etc. It is all a very enjoyable experience and the volunteers all do make a very valuable contribution to the railway project overall.”
David Crone who heads up the volunteer teams laying railway tracks said: “We have an ambitious programme of expansion in our second mainline track, connecting up our new workshops and laying tracks into our new working exhibit galleries. Its great to get a boost from groups of volunteers coming in like this for specific projects, and boosts the potential scope of ambition for our Railway making longer term plans like extensions a realistic possibility. If any group of local people want to volunteer for a day on any of our many different projects I could encourage them not to be shy, they will find themselves welcome.”
Barry Mervyn speaking for the Ballyhornan residents said: “We had great fun doing what was hard physical work. We were impressed with the open friendliness of the railway volunteers and the attention given to our health and safety while on the tracks. We all loved the railway carriage that had been converted to a travelling cafeteria for by railway volunteers, and can recommend the ‘builders’ tea, coffee and craic”.Robert Gardiner, spokesperson for Downpatrick and County Down Railway said: “We presented each Ballyhornan volunteer with a Family Ticket for the Halloween Special. If any other residents associations, groups of friends or individuals would like to come and help us on a once-off or regular basis we would be glad to hear from them.”
The railway is currently offering a free four-week trail membership for anyone interested in volunteering – “try before you buy” – Mr Crone says, “We are still looking for volunteers who would like to help out, especially anyone with any experience in construction. Why not come down one Wednesday or Saturday and try it out? You could find yourself with a very different hobby!”If you are thinking about joining as a volunteer contact the Downpatrick Tourist Information Centre on 028 4461 2233 or log on to the railway’s website at: