The Giant's Causeway railway provides a passenger link between the historic town of Bushmills and the famous basalt stone columns of the Giant's Causeway World Heritage Site.
The Railway is an interesting heritage experience and travels along a panoramic stretch of coast. The Railway was laid to the Irish narrow gauge of three feet and runs for two miles along the track bed of the former Giant's Causeway Tramway.
From the Bushmill's Railway Station the line passes through the Bushfoot golf course and over the re-installed and extended bridge. It crosses the River Bush and then through the sand dune system of Bushfoot Strand. From this elevated position there are fine views towards Co. Donegal.
The line runs through a lightly wooded area before approaching the traditional styled station, which is just below the Nook Public House and Restaurant. A cycle track (National Cycle Network 93) and a footpath run alongside the line.
The History of the Tram
The new Railway utilises equipment originally assembled by Lord O'Neill for a tourist line at Shane's Castle, County Antrim, which closed in 1994. The idea of using this to revive part of the old tramway was largely conceived and promoted by David Laing. The Giant's Causeway and Bushmills Railway Company is a not-for-profit organisation with charitable status. Clearance of the track bed commenced at the end of 1999 and the new railway carried its first passengers in 2002.
In the summer of 2010 The Giant's Causeway and Bushmills Railway took delivery of a customised diesel powered locomotive together with three new coaches capable of accommodating eighty four passengers. These were designed and manufactured by Servern Lamb UK Ltd in Warwickshire.
The line follows the picturesque two mile extension of the original Giant's Causeway and Bushmills Hydro-electric tram route. Both the new locomotive and passenger coaches have been designed to recreate as much as possible the passenger experience of the original hydro-electric tram. This provides a nostalgic journey linking the town of Bushmills to the UNESCO World Heritage Site at The Giant's Causeway.
Originally, a tram line ran from the station to the market yard in the centre of Bushmills. A steam tram was used to transport local produce on this section of the track. Unfortunately this short extension to the line was no longer financially viable in 1890, due to a decline in the mining industry and a drop in local farm production. The extension was only in use for seven years.
The original Giant's Causeway Tramway was created by the vision and enthusiasm of Colonel William Traill of Ballyclough. He was a keen supporter of the railways and kept up to date with engineering and technological developments. Colonel Traill asked the Siemens Company to develop the electric railway at the Giant's Causeway after seeing their display of the first electric railway system at the Berlin Trade Fair in 1879.
Colonel Traill built the generating station at the Walkmills Falls in Bushmills and installed water turbines to produce the necessary electrical power for the tram. The Tramway opened in 1883 and was acclaimed as the first commercially run hydro-electric powered tram system in the world. Although hydro-electric power was used, two Wilkinson Steam Locomotives pulled the carriages most of the time (steam haulage ended in 1916). It originally ran from Portrush to Bushmills with a later extension added to the Giant's Causeway. In 1899 the live rail, which ran alongside the track, was replaced by an overhead electric wire. The Tramway, which was called the first long electric tramway in the world, ran for 65 years before finally closing down in 1949.