Notes: Meeting House Halt was opened in 1939. It was situated on the 20 mile Lisburn – Antrim branch of the Great Northern Railway Ireland (GNRI). The branch was opened by the Dublin & Antrim Junction Railway (DAJR) on 13 November 1871 and became part of the GNRI in 1879. It connected the GNRI Belfast – Dublin main line at Knockmore Junction (Lisburn) to the Belfast – Coleraine line of the London Midland & Scottish – Northern Counties Committee (LMS-NCC) at Antrim.
The halt was located on the north side of the Meeting House Road bridge 4¼ miles from Knockmore Junction. It was not provided with a platform so folding steps were provided to assist passengers to board the trains.
Meeting House Halt would have been served by local trains running between Belfast Great Victoria Street and Antrim.
The Second World War (1939 – 1945) was a busy period for the Antrim branch as a USAAF base was opened at Gortnagallon in 1942 and it was linked to the Antrim line by its own 2¼ mile branch. The branch opened in May 1942 and passenger services were operated over it to enable workers to reach the base. The service had ceased by August 1945.
After the war there was stiff competition from road transport and that put the GNRI in a difficult financial situation. At first it was aided by the Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland governments (the company’s network extended into both countries) but that was set to change with the creation of the Ulster Transport Authority (UTA).
The UTA was created by the Northern Ireland government in 1948 to run nationalised transport undertakings. All of the railways in Northern Ireland, with the exception of the GNRI, came under its jurisdiction in 1949. The UTA, along with the Northern Ireland Government, was notoriously anti-rail (in January 1950 it closed the entire Belfast & County Down Railway system except for the Belfast – Bangor line). In 1953 the GNRI was jointly nationalised as the Great Northern Railway Board (GNRB).
The 3 September 1956 timetable (extract shown below) showed 4 trains in each direction Monday-to-Friday and 4 each way on Saturdays. No trains ran on Sundays.
During this period the UTA was busy closing lines throughout Northern Ireland but the joint nature of the GNRB arrangement staved off closures on the former GNRI system until 1958. Frustrated at not being able to close the lines of the former GNRI the Northern Ireland government dissolved the GNRB in May 1958. They divided the assets between the two states depending upon which side of the border they were located. Meeting House Halt and the former GNRI lines in Northern Ireland became part of the UTA.
On 12 September 1960 the passenger service between Belfast Great Victoria Street and Antrim was withdrawn and all of the stations on the Antrim branch, including Meeting House Halt, were closed.
The line had to remain open to serve goods services that ran to and from the Republic of Ireland. From 1965 when the former GNRI line to Londonderry closed it became particularly busy with freight as all of the Dublin – Londonderry freight services had to use it. The line was also used for passenger diversions and for special workings.
On 28 January 1974 the Antrim branch reopened for passenger services but Meeting House Halt did not. The line was used by passenger trains until 30 June 2003. The branch was retained after this date but with no freight services surviving in Northern Ireland the only traffic since 2003 has been occasional diversions, special workings and engineers’ trains.
Tickets from Michael Stewart, timetable from Edwin McMillan, route map by Alan Young
- Along UTA Lines, Ulsters Rail Network in the 1960s - Ian McLarnon Sinclair - Colourpoint 2009
- Dark Days and Brighter Days for Northern Ireland Railways - Edwin McMillan - Colourpoint 2016.
- 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 Great Northern Railway, an Irish Railway Pictorial - Tom Ferris - Midland Publishing 2003
To see the GNRI Antrim branch click
on the station name: Knockmore, Knockmore Junction Halt, Brookmount, Brookhill Halt, Ballinderry,
Legatiriff Halt, Glenavy, Crumlin, Aldergrove and Millar's Bridge Halt