The Cavan and Leitrim Railway operated from 1887 to 1959 and was known locally as ‘The Narrowgauge’.
During its lifetime it was never a big commercial success but the railway was beloved of the people who lived along its route from Dromod to Belturbet in Co. Cavan via the town of Mohill, with its headquarters in Ballinamore and a branch line to Drumshanbo and the Arigna coal mines.
In an area of high emigration the narrowgauge was also associated with sad partings and for many the last glimpse of their home place was from the windows of the carriage.
The little train came into its own on the large fair days in places like Mohill, Ballinamore, Ballymagovern and Belturbet.
You can check out the Cavan & Leitrim Railway Museum and restroration project in Dromod, Co. Leitrim beside the current Iarnrod Iarainn mainline station.
This is a poem was written by local poet called N. J O’Rourke about the Narrowgauge around the turn of the century. O’Rourke hailed from Drumloughan in the parish of Cloone and his son P. O’Rourke owned the Central Hotel in Ballinamore.
Ye jovial tourists who seek the purest
And grandest scenery in the land,
Pray pay attention whilst here I mention
A mode of travelling which will suit you grand
Not the motor I’m going to vote for
Nor the premier cycle though all the rage
But my advice is whatever the price is
Go buy a ticket on the Narrow Gauge
Just travel by it, it will take you quiet,
The best company you’re sure to meet,
Of donkey dealers and fowl retailers
From Church Lane, Canaloe and Chapel St.
Now grand Directors, and Line Inspectors,
And local Pressmen so cute and so sage,
All travel gratis-you know what that is
While others must, pay on the Narrow Gauge.
Oh: nature’s charms in all her forms
All along the line will enchant the view
St Caillen’s gander saw nothing grander
When round through Wicklow all alone he flew.
Moore’s Lalla Rook is, (a beauteous book ’tis,)
With blooming, flowered on it’s every page.
For Shearon’s roses can’t match the posies
That decked the borders of the Narrow Gauge.
Green hills and mountains, clear rills and fountains
With the placid lakes. There are hills between
Monastic ruins, the wicked doings
Of cursed Cromwell and the Virgin Queen
Historians tell us what befell us
In the ancient times, persecution’s age
Ere people spoke of a locomotive
Or knew the comfort of the Narrow Gauge
Going to Dromod there are still some would
Prefer to sit behind Dooner’s grey
If to Belturbet they’d surely spurn it.
The old brakes seem on all the blessed way.
If to Drumshambo you by the tram go
A slower passage no one could engage
Jack Redsy’s donkey he calls him spunkey
Could blind K. Edward on the Narrow Gauge.
Ye English loyal may shout disloyal
So here my meaning I will now define
King Ned is an engine made in Bengen
Fair lovely Bengen upon the lovely Rhine.
So John Thornton, he’s a cute and sly one
May seek promotion by some other stage.
Else, him I’ll sentence to due repentance
Of twenty miles on the new Narrow Gauge.
‘Twas my intention much more to mention
For half it’s praises I have not yet sung
But the baby is balling, Molly’s calling
With click, click, click o telegraphic tongue.
But sweet as thrushes in trees and bushes
And the pet canary in gilded cage
When I have leisure I’ll sing with pleasure
The countless beauties of the Narrow Gauge.