Notes: After Limerick city had been connected to the Irish
railway system in 1848, the onward link to Tralee was forged
in three stages in the period 1858-80. Firstly, in 1858 the
Limerick and Foynes Railway commenced operations via Ballingrane.
This was followed some three years later by the Rathkeale and
Newcastle Junction Railway from Newcastle to a junction with
the Foynes line at Ballingrane; this opened on 1st January 1867.
In 1865 the Limerick and Kerry Railway was proposed and in
the late 1870's the 43 mile line from Newcastle to Tralee was
built. It was opened on 20th December 1880 with intermediate
stations at Barnagh, Devon Road, Abbeyfeale, Kilmorna, Listowel,
Lixnaw, Abbeydorney and Ardfert.
In 1902 the R.& N.J.R. and the L. & K.R. were absorbed
into the Great Southern and Western Railway (G.S. & W.R.)
At its peak four passenger trains and one goods train operated
daily to and from Limerick; however the early impetus failed
to be maintained and after WW2 the future of the line looked
bleak. In 1963 the passenger service was withdrawn although
occasional passenger specials continued to use the line.
In 1972 goods trains ceased running through to Tralee and Newcastle
reverted to its former role as terminus. After that, closure
came in two stages. On 31st October 1975 the last revenue generating
train entered Newcastle with one wagon of cement for a local
firm. On 10th January 1977 freight services were withdrawn on
the Listowel-Tralee section of the line.
Despite the campaign by the Limerick & Kerry Railway Society
for the restoration of the line the axe finally fell in November
1987 with the issuing of an Abandonment order by the Board of
C.I.E. Lifting of the track commenced in January 1988 and as
the lifting progressed interest began to increase in the reuse
of the track bed as a walkway and caravan trail.
Shannon Development undertook research on the feasibility of
such an idea and commissioned a major study from Sustrans of
Bristol. The study recommended the construction of the Great
Southern Trail. All appeared to be going well when suddenly
in the late spring of 1991 Shannon Development unexpectedly
announced they hadn't the resources required to continue with
the lead role in the project which was then shelved.
The line of the former railway is still owned by the CIE who
have now allowed the Great Southern Trail to develop a number
of walking sections along the route. Eventually it is hoped
that the entire 53 mile line from Ballingrane Junction to Tralee
will be accessible to the public. One of these is a two mile
section of track to the west of Listowel Station