TUAM RAILWAY STATION
Tuam railway station is a largely disused railway station in Tuam in County Galway. It was once a major stop on the route between Limerick and Sligo, and a hub for freight and passenger traffic in the west of Ireland.
Tuam railway station was opened on 1 August 1851 as part of the Waterford, Limerick and Western Railway (WLWR) route between Limerick and Sligo. The WLWR was one of the main railway companies in Ireland at the time, competing with the Great Southern and Western Railway (GSWR) for dominance. The WLWR aimed to connect the south and west of Ireland with the north, and to provide an alternative route to Dublin.
The station was located on Sean Purcell Road, near the town centre of Tuam. It had two platforms and a passing loop, making it the only station on the section between Athenry and Claremorris with this feature. It also had an extensive goods yard and locomotive facilities, including a carriage shed, a locomotive shed, a turntable, a water tower, and a signal cabin. The station building was a two-storey structure with a hipped roof and a central bay window. The station also had a footbridge, built around 1870, that was highly decorative and a good example of the quality of iron casting in the 19th century.
The station served both passenger and freight trains, connecting Tuam with Limerick, Sligo, Galway, Athlone, Dublin, and other destinations. The station was also a junction for several branch lines that diverged from the main line. These included:
- The Tuam to Claremorris extension, opened in 1872, which connected Tuam with Castlebar, Westport, Ballina, and Achill Island.
- The Tuam to Athenry branch line, opened in 1894, which provided a direct link to Galway city and reduced the journey time by half an hour.
- The Tuam to Ballinrobe branch line, opened in 1895, which served the towns of Milltown, Ballindine, Kilmaine, and Ballinrobe.
- The Tuam to Dunmore branch line, opened in 1896, which served the towns of Belclare, Garrafrauns, Dunmore, and Glenamaddy.
These branch lines increased the traffic and importance of Tuam station, making it one of the busiest stations in the west of Ireland.
In 1901, the WLWR was purchased by the GSWR, and thus became part of the GSWR’s network. The GSWR was the largest railway company in Ireland at the time, operating over 1,000 miles of track. However, it also faced competition from other modes of transport, such as road vehicles and buses. The Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) and the Irish Civil War (1922-1923) also disrupted railway operations and caused damage to infrastructure.
The decline of Tuam station began in the mid-20th century, as road transport became more popular and efficient than rail transport. The branch lines from Tuam to Ballinrobe, Dunmore and Milltown were closed between 1957 and 1960, reducing the demand for services through Tuam. The main line from Limerick to Sligo also faced competition from buses and cars, which offered more flexibility and convenience for passengers.
In 1976, Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ), the state-owned transport company that took over from GSR in 1945, decided to close Tuam station to passenger trains as part of its rationalisation of the rail network. The last passenger train departed from Tuam on 5 April 1976. However, Tuam station remained open for freight trains until 1993, as it was still used for transporting intermodal containers between Dublin and Ballina. The station also hosted a railway preservation group called Westrail, which operated heritage trains between Athenry, Tuam and Claremorris until 1993.
In 1993, Tuam station was closed as a block post, meaning that it was no longer staffed or controlled by signalmen. The station building and facilities were abandoned and left to decay. The tracks through the station were still used occasionally for freight trains, but the station itself was no longer operational.
In 2005, the Irish government announced its Transport 21 plan, which included the reopening of the Western Railway Corridor in stages. The plan envisaged that the section between Athenry and Tuam would be reopened by 2011, with an intermediate stop at Ballyglunin, and that the section between Tuam and Claremorris would be reopened by 2014. The plan also proposed that Tuam station would be refurbished and upgraded to serve as a regional transport hub, with connections to buses and taxis.
However, due to financial constraints and low demand, the reopening of the Western Railway Corridor was indefinitely postponed. The only section that was reopened was between Limerick and Athenry, which started operating in 2010. The section between Athenry and Tuam remains closed to this day, although Irish Rail’s Rail Vision 2030 report (published in 2012) recommended that it be a priority for review if finances become available.
In the meantime, Tuam station has been neglected and vandalised, with graffiti covering the walls and windows broken. The station building is in a state of disrepair, and the footbridge is rusting away. The station is a sad reminder of the glory days of rail transport in Ireland, and a potential asset for the future development of the region.
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