Notes: Londonderry Victoria Road station was the eastern terminus of the Donegal Railway Company (DRC) Strabane – Londonderry line which opened to goods on 1 August 1900 and to passengers on the 6 August 1900. The line was authorised on 7 August 1896 at which time the DRC had a 75-mile network of lines running west from Strabane into County Donegal. To reach Londonderry the company had to tranship its goods and passengers onto and off the Great Northern Railway Ireland (GNRI) at Strabane. Through running was not possible because the GNRI route to Londonderry Foyle Road, opened in stages from 1847, was built to the Irish Standard Gauge (5ft 3inch) whilst the DRC routes were 3ft gauge (the Strabane to Stranorlar line, opened 7 September 1863, had been built to Irish standard gauge but was re-gauged to 3ft with effect from 16 July 1894). For this reason the DRC wanted its own route to Londonderry.
Victoria Road station was located on the southern side of the River Foyle, the town being on the north side. It was adjacent to the Craigavon bridge (originally called the Carlisle Bridge) a double deck bridge that had an upper road deck and a lower rail deck. The rail deck was used for transferring goods wagons between the Belfast & Northern Counties Railway (B&NCR) station at Waterside and the town. The DRC connected its lines to the bridge and dual gauge track was installed on it which allowed narrow gauge wagons to be moved across the river. A section of 5ft 3in line also passed into Victoria Road station to facilitate the transhipment of goods.
The station was built between 1899 and 1900 by the contractor R Campbell & Son of Belfast to designs drawn by James Barton. The station consisted of a single-storey brick building which faced onto Victoria Road. To the rear of the building there was an enclosed circulating area followed by an island platform that had two faces. A canopy extended from the building to the mid-point of the platform.
Victoria Road also had a goods warehouse and an engine shed. A signal box located on the north side of the line just beyond the end of the platform controlled traffic movements at the station.
At the time of opening passenger services ran to and from Strabane where connections with other parts of the system were available. There were six trains in each direction Monday-to-Saturday. Victoria Road also had excursion services to and from locations such as Stranorlar.
In 1903 the B&NCR was taken over by the Midland Railway (MR) an English company that wanted to expand into Ireland, and the GNRI. The MR was keen to secure access to county Donegal and it sought to purchase the DRC. The GNRI was against this and fought the proposal. In the end a compromise was reached which saw, from 1 May 1906, both companies take an equal share in the company which became the County Donegal Railway Joint Committee (CDRJC). The one exception was the Londonderry Victoria Road – Strabane line which passed to the MR as a single owner. However it was worked by the CDRJC as part of its network.
In 1912 a Sunday service of one train in each direction was introduced. There was an arrival from Strabane at 9.00am and a departure for Strabane at 7.00pm. In 1913 an additional Sunday out and return working was introduced. There was a departure from Londonderry at 7.45am and a return working that arrived at 8.15pm.
During the Great War (1914–18) Londonderry Victoria Road was very busy as extra goods services were run as part of the war effort.
In the summer of 1916 a Sunday service was operated from Londonderry Waterside to Ballyshannon. The train departed from Londonderry at 7.45am and was operated for the purpose of taking day trippers to the seaside. It arrived back at Londonderry at 8.51pm.
All of the Sunday services were withdrawn in 1917 and never reinstated. The weekday service was also reduced to four trains in each direction at this time.
In 1919 the Irish War of Independence broke out and it caused much disruption to the CDRJC system. In 1921 a treaty was negotiated which resulted in the island of Ireland being split into two separate countries, the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland which remained as part of the United Kingdom. The majority of the CDRJC lines were located within the Irish Free State but the route between Strabane and Londonderry Waterside lay within Northern Ireland. This caused difficulties for the company which were exacerbated by the outbreak of the Irish Civil War (1922-23) which caused even more disruption. The least disrupted of the lines was the Londonderry Victoria Road – Strabane line on which no major incidents were recorded.
On 1 January 1923 the MR became part of the London Midland & Scottish Railway and they referred to their Northern Ireland operation as the London Midland & Scottish Northern Counties Committee (LMS NCC). The CDRJC therefore became a joint concern of the GNRI and the LMS NCC.
By the late 1920s the political upheavals had settled down but competition from road transport began to have an impact. To make economies the CDRJC was an early advocate of diesel power. It introduced diesel railcars onto the lines to the west of Strabane but the Londonderry line continued to be worked by steam locomotives.
In 1934 the engine shed at Londonderry Victoria Road was closed and the passenger service was reduced to three trains in each direction. There were departures for Strabane at 7.55am, 11.05pm and at 3.10pm. Arrivals from Strabane were at 10.00am, 2.00pm and 6.00pm.
During the Second World War (1939-45) the CDRJC saw an upturn in traffic. There was a high volume of cattle movements from the Irish Free State to Londonderry. Because GNRI main line between Londonderry Foyle Road and Strabane passed through the Irish Free State it could not be used for the movement of war materials or troops (the Free State being a neutral country). The Londonderry Victoria Road and Strabane line was located entirely within Northern Ireland consideration was given to making it dual gauge (3ft and 5ft 3in) so that GNRI trains could reach Londonderry without having to pass through the Irish Free State. In the end the idea proved to be too complicated and all war related traffic had to operate via the LMS NCC main line.
In 1948 the LMS NCC was nationalised by the Northern Ireland Government and placed under the Ulster Transport Authority (UTA). This meant that Londonderry Victoria Road station and the line to Strabane became part of the UTA. The other CDRJC lines became a joint concern of the GNRI and British Railways (the GNRI was not nationalised as its network was located in two countries). In the same year the Irish Free State became the Republic of Ireland.
The CDRJC continued to operate the train services between Londonderry Victoria Road and Strabane which remained at three trains in each direction.
By 1953 the GNRI had become financially unviable. It was taken into the joint ownership of the Republic of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Governments and operated as the Great Northern Railway Board (GNRB).
The UTA was a notoriously anti-rail organisation and it had been closing lines throughout Northern Ireland since its inception (on 16 January 1950 it had closed almost the entire network of the Belfast & County Down Railway). The UTA had no use for the Londonderry Victoria Road – Strabane line which it considered to be a duplicate route (there being the Londonderry Foyle Road – Strabane route of the GNRB). The passenger service was withdrawn on 31 December 1954. The last passenger train was a Londonderry to Strabane service and it had to be strengthened to seven coaches to cope with the number of passengers who wanted to have a last ride along the line. It departed from Victoria Road at 7.05pm.
On Thursday 30 June 1955 a Sunday school special was run from Strabane to Londonderry (where the 600 passengers made the short walk to Londonderry Waterside for onward travel to Portrush). Because no trains had run since 31 December 1954 an engine was run along the line the previous day to ensure that it was safe to use.
On 23 September 1955 the UTA announced its intention to abandon the line completely. It was lifted shortly after.
Londonderry Victoria Road station was taken over by a firm of wholesale grocers.
In 1958 the GNRB was wound up and the network was divided between the UTA and the CIE (the Republic of Ireland’s nationalised railway company). This brought about the end of the CDRJC as a railway operation, the last section of line (between Strabane and Killybegs) closing on 1 January 1960. The closure did not end there as on the 15 February 1965 the UTA also closed the former GNRI route from Londonderry Foyle Road. Only the former NCC line between Londonderry Waterside and Belfast survived.
For a brief period in the early 1970s rails returned to Victoria Road station when it became the home of the North West of Ireland Railway Society. They laid track at the station site and brought in locomotives, rolling stock and a railcar. By 1980 the society had moved to the other side of the River Foyle.
In 2017 Londonderry Victoria Road station was extant and was being used as a bathroom showroom.
Tickets from Michael Stewart and route map by Alan Young
- Johnson's Atlas & Gazetteer of the Railways of Ireland - Stephen Johnson - Midland Publishing 1997
- One Hundred and Fifty Years of Irish Railways - Fergus Mulligan - Appletree Press 1983.
- Railways in Ireland, Part 2 - Martin Bairstow 2007
- The County Donegal Railways - Dr E M Patterson - Colourpoint 2014