By the 1840s, there was a market for good travel facilities between Cork and some of the villages in Cork Harbour, including Passage and onwards by ferry to Cove. At one stage it looked as if Passage might be developed as a major trans Atlantic port so a direct rail connection could be profitable.
Finally in 1846, it was decided to go ahead with the Railway line from the City Park Victoria Road (from Albert Street 1873) to the Steam Packet Quay at Passage, a distance of just over 10 kilometres (6 miles).
An extension to Monkstown Baths was provided for. Later still it was extended to Crosshaven (1902-1904) and Steamers were used to transfer passengers to Cobh and the lower Harbour.
However, the Great Famine struck and by 1847, thousands of destitute people were dying in Cork city and the entire city was quarantined.
Despite conditions in the city, the formal sod turning for the new railway line. was carried out on the grounds of Dundanion House, to the west of Blackrock Village on Tuesday 15th June 1847, by Lady Deane and the Mayor of Cork, Andrew Roche. Afterwards all retired to “partake of a sumptuous banquet” in the house.
The Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway, was finally opened on Saturday 8th June 1850, and operated until 10th September 1932. The building of the railway took three years from 1847 until 1850. The railway was meant to be finished by 1848.
Four hundred men were employed, building the railway. Many of these workers, would have been experiencing the impact of the famine, on their families and themselves at the time. One can see the results of hard backbreaking work by those men, if you walk along the old Blackrock railway walk cutting which bisects the deep rock on the grounds of Dundanion House and continues on its way behind the Blackrock hurling fields, and then continues to the east of Bessboro, again involving very deep cuts to the rock and across the Douglas Estuary.
A station was constructed near Blackrock village, up and down platforms were provided at the station, and there was a footbridge provided to cross the track on the north end of the station (the pillars remain). The main station buildings including a small waiting room on the downside (to Passage) while the booking office (still standing) was on the downward walk to the station alongside the road bridge. Provision was made for two rail lines, although only one was initially included. Another bridge dated 1848, was constructed in the grounds of Dundanion House. An 11-span Douglas viaduct was also constructed.
On Sunday 9th June 1850, over 6,000 people were carried to Passage, fares were 6d single (first class) 4d single (second class). Within 6 months over 200,000 fare paying passengers had used the train for a journey.
In October 1897, work began on an extension of the Cork to Passage Railway, that went all the way to Crosshaven. The final extension to this railway was finished in 1904. This was a costly endeavour, and despite big passenger numbers, there was no profit for the shareholders.
Labour disputes in early 1922, as well as the impact of the War of Independence and later the civil war, damaged a lot of Ireland’s railway infrastructure, which included the Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway. The Douglas Viaduct was blown up on August 8th 1922, closing the line for 8 months. In 1924, the CB&PR Company was absorbed into the Great Southern Railways Company, which took over all of Ireland’s railways. The CB&PR Company, wound up on the 2nd March 1925.
The Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway closed down in 1932. The railway tracks were lifted in 1933 and 1934. This old railway line now forms part of the local walkway, which is a great place to walk, cycle or jog. There are plans by Cork City Council to widen the path, and renovate Blackrock Railway Station.
Information came from chapter thirteen of Diamuid O’Drisceoil’s, the Ring of Blackrock, A Walking Guide & History. (Published 2018, ODBOOKS). Also The Cork Blackrock and Passage Railway by Stanley C Jenkins The Oakwood Press 1993.
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