Dublin-Belfast: anniversary of a vital piece of track
Irish History

Dublin-Belfast: anniversary of a vital piece of track

The Dublin-Belfast Enterprise train is an Irish institution, and at one time an important transport link for our community.

It was once an integral part of the link going home. For anybody in Britain heading to the northerly parts of the island, from Ballymoney to Buncrana, the Enterprise was a crucial part of the journey.

The train took you from Dublin’s Connolly Station to Great Victoria Street in Belfast. And this year the rail link is celebrating 75 years in service, one that began back in August 1947.

One of our readers, Agnes Begley from Portrush, told The Irish Post how the Enterprise was a lifeline in the days before cheap budget flights began. “It used to cost you a week’s wages to fly home in the 1970s – in fact through the 1980s as well. It was just too dear until Ryanair came on the scene.

“I was a nurse back then, back in the 70s, and money was tight. So I had no alternative but to get the train at Euston, I think it was back then, and do the long trek to Holyhead.

“Taking the train to Stranraer was right out – it seemed like an endless journey, with a lay-over for hours in Crewe.

“But you could get to Holyhead not too bad. I usually went with a few friends, so it was good craic. Once we got to Dublin, then it was down to Connolly Station to get the Enterprise up to Belfast. Then you’d have to cross the city to York Street Station and catch another train north. But it was the only way home back then.”

Since 1947, the service has seen many changes. It survived frequent disruption in the 1970s and 1980s after the Troubles began. Joe Hardiman from Ahoghill in Co. Antrim remembers travelling from Manchester. “You’d always have to factor in that there could be disruption on the line because of the Bother. For a while it was one of the few trains anywhere that had a helicopter escort for part of the way. To a young lad back then it was quite exciting, to be honest.”

Security issues have eased over the years, and the current journey time on the 110-mile (177km) route is just over two hours.

The service is jointly run by Translink NI Railways in Northern Ireland and Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) in the Republic.

The first Enterprise was a seven-carriage steam train which left Belfast at 10:30am on August 11, 1947. There were customs checks at either end, rather than stopping at points on either side of the border — both for security reasons and for speeding up the journey.

Until this century, with the development of a motorway more or less all the way from Belfast to Dublin, the car journey could take up to four hours, so for city centre to city centre by Enterprise was an attractive alternative. It soon developed into a crucial economic and social link between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

To mark the 75th anniversary, a display of photographs from the past 75 years currently on display in Belfast at the Lanyon Place station and in Dublin's Connolly station.