Notes: Belfast Queens Bridge was the northern terminus of the Belfast Central Railway (BCR). The BCR had originally been authorised in 1864 but land in central Belfast was expensive and the project stalled owing to financial difficulties. It took a new Act and a new Board of Directors in 1872 to push the work forward. The line branched off from the Great Northern Railway [Ireland] (GNR[I]) at Ulster Junction (which later became Belfast Central Junction), which was half a mile to the south of that company’s Belfast terminus Great Victoria Street, and it ran for 1 mile 41 chains to the Queens Bridge which spanned the River Lagan. Just to the south of Queens Bridge (at East Bridge Street Junction) a 61 chain branch crossed the River Lagan and made a connection with the Belfast & County Down Railway (B&CDR) at Ballymacarrett Junction. The purpose of the BCR was to make a connection between the two companies and also to a third, the Belfast & Northern Counties Railway (B&NCR). The link to the B&NCR was not built due to cost, but later a tunnel was built under Queens Bridge which provided a link to the dock board railway which in turn connected with the B&NCR. The link via the dock board line was not really suitable for passenger traffic.
Three stations were provided on the BCR, the other two being at Windsor and at Ormeau.
Belfast Queens Bridge was located on the west bank of the River Lagan on the south side of the Queens Bridge a location that was on the eastern edge of the city centre and on one of the main thoroughfares. It opened to goods services on 12 June 1876 (including the continuation northwards to Donegall Quay Junction) and to passengers on 5 August 1878. Passenger trains from the south went no further than Queens Bridge station.
The station had a single platform on which stood a single-storey brick building with a pitched roof and rectangular window openings. Goods facilities, which included a shed and sidings, were located to the south-east of the passenger facilities.
Passenger services ran between Queens Bridge and Adelaide on the GNR[I]. The BCR was also used by freight trains of both the B&CDR and the GNR[I].
A growing tram network brought competition that made the BCR unviable and it was taken over by the GNR[I] in 1885. The GNR[I] withdrew the passenger service on 30 November 1885 and closed Windsor and Ormeau completely. Queens Bridge remained open for goods services.
Passenger trains in the form of excursions continued to run over the BCR line operated by the B&CDR and the GNR[I].
Queens Bridge station was demolished in 1960 and the route through it from East Bridge Street Junction to Donegall Quay Junction was closed on 3 June 1963 by the Ulster Transport Authority (UTA).
The BCR had formed a useful function for goods and excursion trains after the withdrawal of the passenger service for seventy years but it was closed completely on 31 July 1965 when the Middlepath Street bridge was removed.
Since 1950 the railways of Northern Ireland had been dramatically reduced through a programme of closures implemented by the UTA, formed on 1 April 1949. Those closures and the closure of the BCR left the only surviving former B&CDR line (between Belfast Queens Quay and Bangor) physically isolated from the rest of the Northern Ireland railway network. The former B&NCR was only connected to the former GNR[I] line by a circuitous route via Omagh.
On 5 April 1968 the UTA was abolished and replaced by Northern Ireland Railways (NIR). NIR had a more pro-rail attitude and revisited the 1864 plans to connect the disparate railways of Belfast into one cohesive system. The relaying of the BCR between Central Junction and Ballymacarrett Junction was authorised along with the creation of a new Belfast Central station located a short distance to the south of the site of Queens Bridge station. The line between Ballymacarrett Junction and Belfast Central opened on 12 April 1976, allowing the former B&CDR Belfast Queens Quay station to close on the same day; and on 26 April the route west from Central station to Central Junction, allowing through working to Lisburn and beyond, was opened. Belfast Great Victoria Street, terminus of the route from Lisburn, closed on 26 April 1976 when trains were diverted to the new Central station. The scheme was a success ending the isolation of the Bangor line.
On 28 November 1994 a line was opened from the BCR to the former B&NCR, with the official opening taking place on 9 March 1995. This was a completely new railway and did not follow the alignment of the original line via Queens Bridge station. Instead it branched off the original line on the east side of the River Lagan and ran through the site of Queens Quay station before crossing the river again to the west side and heading north. The aspirations of the original BCR were finally realised 130 years after they were first proposed.
Rails did not return to Queens Bridge station, the site of which was developed as part of the Belfast waterfront in the early years of the 21st century.
Route map by Alan Young.
- Belfast & County Down Railway, Desmond Coakham, Midland Publishing Ltd 1998
- One Hundred & Fifty Years of Irish Railways, Fergus Mullighan, Appletree Press 1983
- Railways in Ireland Part Two, Martain Bairstow, 2007
- The Great Northern Railway - An Irish Railway Pictorial, Tom Ferris, Midland Publishing, 2003.
See also: Belfast Great Victoria Street