THE 5-MINUTE BELL: History of the Tramore Train 1853 – 1960

It’s rare these days despite the plethora of new titles on Irish railways to be able to wholeheartedly endorse a new book on the subject but the recently published “The 5-Minute Bell” is an exception. Written by Waterford man, Frank O’Donoghue, the book is far more than just something of interest to railway enthusiasts, and there are numerous personal accounts by frequent passengers and former employees, and it is packed with photographs, paintings and drawings.

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Ireland’s only completely isolated piece of rail line served the communities of Waterford and Tramore faithfully from 1853 until New Year’s Eve 1960 until axed by CIE. Sadly, as was usual in those days, the railway was ripped up almost immediately after closure and the trackbed and other land sold-off with undue haste. At a mere 8 miles in length it would have been an ideal candidate for a preserved railway operation.

The book is a large format, card cover publication running to 128 pages and is packed with high quality colour and b+w illustrations. Available from the author here: price €19 (including p+p).


Men of the Lightship (1940) now on YouTube

By strange coincidence the Men of the Lightship film that I referred to in my post here

was uploaded to YouTube on the 28th December, 2012. A British WW.II. propaganda film concerning the bombing and sinking of the East Dudgeon lightship on January 29th 1940, and the crew’s attempted escape.

Interestingly the video makes a point about the gentleman’s agreement that had existed between the warring parties that lightships would not be targeted but omits to mention the WW.I. sinking of the “Guillemot” lightship off Arklow by German submarine in March 1917. I will come back to this topic at a later date.

Guillemot Lightship dispersal sale – November 2012

At the end of November I popped over to Waterford to view Keighery’s (City Auction Rooms) sale of the residue contents from the ill-fated “Guillemot Lightship Maritime Museum”. It turned out to be something of a wild goose chase as several of the best items had been withdrawn due to ‘official’ intervention. However, despite the withdrawals, there was still plenty of interest in the sale.

Among the museum’s rare and interesting contents that went under the hammer was the large Guillemot bell, binnacle, shipping lights, mast heads, old photos, paintings, maps, charts as well as model ships, old cork life jacket and oil skins, antique driving boots and porcelain lifebuoys. There was also a fair amount of rubbish in the sale and I was surprised to hear that the total realized was in excess of €16,500. A sad end to yet another failed Irish preservation scheme!

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The Guillemot’s bell which sold for a paltry €500!

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An interesting board – presumably from the Commissioners of Irish Lights HQ in Dun Laoghaire – showing the disposition of various lightships. Withdrawn prior to auction.

Commissioners of Irish Lights plaque

Above what would have been the star item in the sale, an ultra rare plaque – far more impressive than my poor photo indicates – which was carried aboard CIL vessels. Withdrawn prior to auction.

New outing for the “South Goodwin” lightship

My second Christmas present to myself. No prizes for guessing where this was lifted from, but I couldn’t resist and the resulting large format postcard, poorly reproduced below, is a gem. Limited to a private print-run of 20 for the time being until I can sort out copyright issues.

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“South Goodwin” lightship by Holger Koppelmann.

New Lightship ephemera!

My own little indulgence this year – well one of two actually – is my 2012 Christmas card. Using artwork very generously supplied gratis by Clive Sweetingham of the World Naval Ships Forum and the services of Vistaprint – a job well done. Sure to become  a sought after item!

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Unstoppable force, immovable object!

Another recent eBay acquisition.

Cunard RMS Ascania passes the BAR lightship on the Mersey.

This postcard well illustrates the dangers and size differential between ocean liners and their guardians. At 14,000+ tons and 538ft long, the Ascania and her sisters built up enormous momentum once underway and couldn’t stop on a sixpence, hence a number of collisions with helpless, tethered lightships occurred over the years. Most notable amongst these were the sinking of the Kish lightship off Dublin by the RMS Leinster on the 8th September, 1902, (fortunately with no loss of life) and the more serious sinking of the US Nantucket lightship LV117 by the RMS Olympic on the 15th May 1934, in which 7 crewmen lost their lives.

LV117 was no mean ship itself, weighing in at 630 tons and 135ft in length but when compared with the Olympic at 50,000 tons, 882ft in length and travelling at 14mph, it stood no chance. It was reported that many aboard the Olympic didn’t even notice the collision.


North Goodwin Light Vessel from a Christmas past

Another of my recent purchases from is this souvenir of a Christmas 1975 goodwill visit by an RNLI boat to the North Goodwin Light Vessel – a snip at just €2.68 including p+p. Hard to believe it’s almost 37 years old and as fresh as the day that it traveled out to the light vessel.

Lightship Christmas Gem!

I recently purchased this atmospheric postcard on for €3.44 including p+p. Titled ‘A Visit to the Lightship’, it captures perfectly the joyous moments that must have greeted many a lightship relief boat at Christmas. The snow, the geese and the booze – smashing stuff! Published by Raphael Tuck & Sons, England, as part of their “Ye Mariners of England” series.

Chinese Junk?

I have always been a collector of ordinary, every day items of ephemera that I can relate to and when my local Chinese Takeaway recently closed down, I was in the right place at the right time. Last weekend when I popped in for my usual – King Prawn Omelette & Chips – I came away with a brand new Canon printer as a bonus. While delighted, I said that I would rather have had the electric “Open” sign from the window – ‘no problem, come back when we’re closed‘ I was told. When I did, yesterday, there were further goodies awaiting me including the three Japanese ladies pictured below – and the takeway’s clock! Thanks Christina & Joe – gone but not forgotten!


Another Irish Lightship scrapped!

Only up the road from me, and while I knew that “Skua” was lying at Arklow Harbour, I had no idea that it was being broken up until I read this article from

Thursday, 4th October 2012

Another Lightship Extinguished into History…d-into-history

LIGHTSHIPS – As each day passes, quite literally chunks of Irish maritime heritage are been rapidly consigned to history, as work on scrapping the former lightship ALF Skua takes place on the North Quay in Arklow, writes Jehan Ashmore.

As the vessel lies forlornly alongside her River Avoca berth, a blowtorch cuts away in earnest at the steelwork. In tandem a crane-grabber lifts large sections of the red painted Ship and loaded into an awaiting quayside truck.
What remains as of this week is only the hull, as the bridge, deckhouse structure and lantern have gone, having said that the latter structure was removed years ago.

When the lightship was towed into the Port, several elected members of Arklow Town Council, with a seafaring back-round prevailed in the public body to acquire the lantern. The structure however still remains yet to be located to an appropriate site, as according to the council they have no definite plans for the lantern, though it is envisaged that it would be at least placed in a municipal location.

For decades the lightship served several stations off the Irish coastline, having been completed in 1960 by Philip & Sons of Dartmouth for the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL). Constructed of steel, the 134 foot lightship, cost £124,128 when launched in the Devon shipyard, though her crew were replaced when converted to an automatic light float (ALF) in 1981/82.

The vessel’s designation as an ALF lasted for more than two decades until Irish Lights sold the lightship to Arklow Shipping Ltd in 2005, however she has since changed hands while moored in the Co. Wicklow Port.
Nearby to where the Skua is berthed, a lantern belonging to an older lightship fleetmate, the Albratross (built 1925), was kept to form a distinctive landmark at the entrance to Arklow Marina.

With the diminishing Skua, it is believed that only two such ships survive on this island. The ALF Kittiwake (built 1959) as previously reported on is in Dublin Port, however she shifted berths several months from her prominent position opposite the 02 Theatre to the jetty within Alexandra Basin, which is hidden away from general view in the working Port.
The other lightship the Petrel, was built by Dublin Dockyard between 1913-15. She remains as a floating clubhouse for the Down Cruising Club in Strangford Lough, having been towed to the lough by the lighthouse tender ILV Isolda during the late 1960’s.

As for the last lightship to serve, the honour was left to the ALF Gannet. She was stationed at South Rock, off Co. Down until her decommissioning in 2009 when Irish Lights replaced the lightship with a new ‘Superbuoy’.

Both photographs accompanying this piece are from the excellent website:

As this subject is seriously swamping the blog I intend to hive it off to its own site shortly and start posting on ‘collecting’ again in earnest.