By David Medcalf
Sean Browne from Castlerea in County Roscommon must be the only publican in Ireland, if not the world, to have a railway locomotive in his bar.
The engine was built in the fifties and saw service around the country with CIE for almost four decades before it was retired and sold to Sean in 1995 for scrap value.
That was just the start of the expense as he then had to pay to have his prized purchase transported from Dublin to Castlerea where the brass band and half the town turned out to welcome it.
He also footed the bill for a specially constructed extension to the pub, with planning permission from Roscommon County Council, to accommodate his latest acquisition.
Locomotive 550, re-painted in the original green livery of Coras Iompair Eireann, is only the biggest and most eye-catching item in an amazing collection of railway memorabilia.
The souvenirs assembled at the Hell’s Kitchen pub include everything from tiny tickets for journeys long since completed to heavy steel equipment for level crossings.
Sean Browne has every reason to believe that his is the biggest such collection in private hands in the country and it is almost exclusively Irish in origin.
His extraordinary stash evokes memories of the old companies which used to own and run a comprehensive network of lines criss-crossing the island in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Here is a fender from the original WLWR (Waterford, Limerick & Western Railway), there is a set of fish knives used by passengers in the dining car of the GSWR (Great Southern & Western Railway).
Also on show is the station sign from Ballyglunin, splendid in blue enamel, a reminder of the redundant line between Tuam and Athenry in County Galway.
The station was used in the filming of ‘The Quiet Man’ starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara but the movie makers reckoned Ballyglunin would be too much of a mouthful for American cinema goers and re-christened it ‘Castletown’.
Amidst all the timetables, uniforms, photos, badges and signs, Sean is particularly proud of the staffs – the keys used to ensure that two trains never met in head on collision.