While today connectivity is measured in speed, the railway is fondly remembered for linking people and communities. A fascinating book by Corkman Chris Larkin explores the history of the railway in West Cork and the important role it played in the development of the area, writes Carina McNally.


Rail enthusiast and author Chris Larkin has many interests – music, history, transport, politics, collie dogs, country life, sport and design just to name a few. Feeling all were well served by fine books, lectures, films, etc. he noted a glaring exception – Irish railways. In an effort to rectify this he has published The West Cork Railways and it has proven an excellent remedy.

An avid collector, Chris has amassed one of the finest collections of West Cork railway memorabilia, with notable railway historians such as Joe St. Leger, Walter MacGrath and Colm Creedon entrusting him with much of their valuable records.

Since a youngster Chris has written everything down on Browne & Nolan jotters. In what has taken over 50 years, his love and knowledge of the railway is carefully documented in this magnificent collection of contemporary photographs and slides, the railway proving an invaluable source of social history. Photographs, vintage posters, postcards, colour slides, tickets, advertisements and objects from the railway fill the pages together with art and poetry.

Growing up near iconic Cork landmark the Chetwynd Viaduct, outside Bishopstown, Chris’ love of transport began at a young age. He and his brother Jerry, avid ‘train spotters’, termed the railway ‘their holy grail.’

He describes their bird’s eye view of the viaduct from Arthur Sweetnam’s field. With Rover, their collie dog, following behind, they watched the goods and passenger trains passing Milepost 4 (milestones used to pinpoint the exact location of a train at any given time and are still in use today). Now, a senior member of the Irish Railway Record Society, Chris is a well-known transport and military historian, giving presentations to railway, heritage and historical societies.

The West Cork Railways offers the reader a warm remembrance of the lifetime of this rail system, a travelogue opportunity to hop onto a West Cork train and savour the journey of a bygone era. Time-travel from the famine right through to the rocking 1960s and allow yourself to be whisked to West Cork villages, towns and cities, carrying along the dreams, needs and aspirations of bygone travellers. Observe railway life and the harmonious existence of dogs, cats, hens, ducks and geese at the level crossing halt-keeper’s houses.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own