Veteran Donegal steam locomotive No. 4 Meenglas is set to return home to Londonderry shortly following a major facelift at Whitehead railway works. Meenglas is due to arrive by low-loader at the Foyle Valley Railway Museum in Derry next week, more than a year after it left the city for Whitehead.
A welcome home ceremony is planned at Foyle Valley Railway Museum for Wednesday January 30 at 12 noon. The red-liveried 40-ton locomotive, which has been given a cosmetic overhaul by the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI), will then go on display at the Derry museum.
Dermot O’Hara, manager of Destined, the Derry-based charity that owns the railway museum, said the occasion would be “a red-letter day”. Funding for the overhaul was awarded to Destined by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Mr O’Hara said that the unveiling on January 30 would mark the launch of an exclusive video and railway information booklet about the North-West, heralding the start of a new railway preservation society in Derry.
He added: “Destined will be screening an excerpt from a new video made by members of the charity along with local schoolchildren. It involves a series of interviews with local people who either worked on the railway, travelled on it or who have fond memories of it.
“We are also making plans for a major programme to mark the 60th anniversary in 2019 of the closure of the Co. Donegal Railway. This will be done in partnership with Donegal Railway Restoration in Donegal Town.”
Meenglas, which was originally constructed in 1907 as a narrow gauge locomotive by Nasmyth Wilson of Glasgow, is not capable of being steamed at present, but Foyle Valley Railway said that it was not ruling it out as a long-term option.
Peter Scott from the RPSI said: “The requirement was to restore Meenglas to displayable condition pending funding for full restoration. While the locomotive may not yet be ready for traffic, it certainly no longer looks like the derelict item it was when it arrived at Whitehead.
He added: “Extensive repairs were carried out to the side tanks and bunker, which were full of gaping holes. The smokebox and chimney also had to be repaired, while the cab had to be rebuilt. We made new boiler cladding, a new dome cover, dummy safety valves and whistle – both the latter look the part but won’t actually function.”
Rebecca Laverty, Museum Administrator at Whitehead Railway Museum, which is wrapped round the workshops, said: “Our visitors have been intrigued to see work in progress on this attractive steam locomotive. It almost looks as though Meenglas is ready to steam down the track! We will miss our little visitor once it goes home.”
Work has been carried out over the past 14 months by professional staff from Heritage Engineering Ireland, the RPSI’s engineering subsidiary, apprentices and RPSI volunteers.