September 12: Council should step up to promote GST

The marvellous picture on the left was taken at the old Barnagh station, near Templeglantine, in the 1930s, as a steam train pulls in. On the right is the last weed-spraying train to pass through, in 1977, before the closure of the line. The 25-mile line is now a superb amenity in West Limerick, under the auspices of the volunteer-led Great Southern Trail, but vice-chair Denis McAuliffe believes Limerick council should now carry on the GSTs good work
Barnagh station was once noted as one of the highest railway stations in Ireland and served the parish of Templeglantine in West Limerick. It had another station on its westerly end, Devon Road station, towards Abbeyfeale, which by all accounts was the only parish in Ireland to have two functioning rail stations at the same time.

Barnagh station was once noted as one of the highest railway stations in Ireland and served the parish of Templeglantine in West Limerick. It had another station on its westerly end, Devon Road station, towards Abbeyfeale, which by all accounts was the only parish in Ireland to have two functioning rail stations at the same time.

Sadly, Barnagh station is now in ruins and gone back to nature, but on a happier note Devon Road station has been restored to its former glory and is now a private residence. The bed of the old railway line, stretching 25 miles from Rathkeale and meandering its way through the West Limerick countryside as far as the Kerry border just beyond Abbeyfeale, is now a superb amenity and the envy of many counties who are quickly catching up and surpassing the trail which was the first trail of its kind in ireland and achieved against all the odds.

Take, for example, the world renowned Great Western Greenway in Mayo, who sent down an exploratory team of researchers to the Great Southern Trail committee, as no other such trail existed in Ireland at the time. Mayo County Council came on board, as well as the local hotels and development committees in Mayo. They marketed and promoted their greenway no end and now it brings in millions of euro to the local economy of Mayo, for bed and breakfasts, restaurants, cafes, hackney/taxi hire, a multiple of bike hire shops and other businesses along the Greenway.

Sadly, West Limerick’s Great Southern Trail never got such a backing or marketing drive to promote it as a tourist destination and remains an undiscovered gem.

The visionary voluntary group who created such an amenity have been in place over 25 years and are the only voluntary group in Europe to manage a public amenity. It’s now time that the council and tourism promotion groups in Limerick stepped up to the plate and built on what a group of volunteers have achieved.

The trains may be long gone and the tracks lifted but what has been put in place needs management and promotional skills beyond the remit of a purely voluntary group of people.

DENIS MCAULIFFE

Vice-chair, Southern Trail Voluntary Group, LIMERICK

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