A CROWD funding mission is now underway to restore a steam engine which lay dormant in Strabane for decades.
Donegal Railway Heritage Centre recently announced ambitious plans to bring Drumboe, the North West’s most famous steam engine back to Donegal Town.
All told, it is anticipated that some €60,000 are needed to restore the engine to its former glory and make it the centrepiece at the heritage museum.
“It lay derelict in Strabane for a number of years, that and another engine called Meenglass,” North West of Ireland Railway Society’s (NWIRS) George Haire explained this week.
“Those two engines lay in Strabane after the railway closed in the ‘50s. They were only removed in the mid ‘90s. They had lost most of their major parts but they weren’t beyond restoration.
“Drumboe is currently at a place called Whitehead outside Belfast. It’s up there getting repairs done.”
Niall McCaughan, manager of Donegal Railway Heritage added, “We are delighted that the NWIRS have got behind the campaign, particularly as it was this very organisation who rescued this engine and much of the other Donegal railway stock in the early 1970s, before they were scrapped.
“We aim, through crowd funding, to raise much-needed funding of €60,000 in total to cover the cost of restoring the famous steam engine, transporting her back to Donegal Town, site preparation, building a canopy cover, mounting and lighting her.
“Although some work was done to the engine some time ago, much of it is in poor condition,” he continued.
“There are no original Donegal steam engines left in the county, and this is even more tragic when you consider that Co Donegal had the largest narrow-gauge network in the British Isles.
“Drumboe herself would have been well-known to the entire community in the north west, on both sides of the border. As well as operating in Donegal, she would have been seen in Strabane regularly.”
However, according to George Haire, one of the founding members of NWIRS the ultimate goal would be to get Drumboe up and running once again.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” he said. “They’re looking at that possibility and have negotiated with landowners at Barnesmore Gap to run it through the gap as a tourist attraction. That would give people a lot to get excited about. It could take up to €100,000 for it to be brought back as a working engine. You’re chatting a couple of years minimum. It depends on how well negotiations go with landowners.
“There is quite a lot of excitement among railway enthusiasts, myself included. It’s down to raising enough money now to making it happen. But miracles do happen.”
• To make a contribution, go onto www.gofundme.com and search for ‘Drumboe.’