THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Ulster beaten by storm, railway worker saves holiday train

From the News Letter, July 29, 1947

GNR Engine No 12 at Omagh Station on 7th September 1957
GNR Engine No 12 at Omagh Station on 7th September 1957

A cloudburst which climaxed the violent thunderstorm which had struck the north-west of the province the previous day had wreaked havoc over a wide area reported the News Letter on this day in 1947.

Many homes were flooded, bridges were swept away and road surfaces torn up, while the Great Northern Railway (GNR) service was dislocated near Pomeroy in Co Tyrone by subsidence at a culvert.

East and North Donegal, North and West Tyrone and Co Londonderry bore the brunt of the storm, but North Antrim did not escape, and at midday Knockahollett, in the Ballymoney district, had what one correspondent described as “a shower of ice blocks – hailstones so big that they smashed skylights”. Hailstone were also reported in other areas.

In Tyrone, the 9.25am GNR train from Londonderry to Belfast had a narrow escape from accident between Pomeroy and Donaghmore.

About a mile from Pomeroy a culvert over which the line passed had collapsed. A railway employee who noticed the subsidence hurried along the line to give warning to the approaching train, and succeeded in getting it stopped a short distance from the damaged track.

The train was backed into Pomeroy station and passengers, numbering between 300 and 350 mainly Scottish holidaymakers returning home, were taken in buses to Dungannon and from there by train to Belfast.

Unfortunately many of the Scottish travellers missed their boat from Belfast to Ardrossan.

All railway traffic between Dungannon and Pomeroy station had been stopped, and passengers were being carried between the two points by bus.

The Road Transport Board services had been affected in Co Londonderry. No buses had been running on the Coleraine-Limavady coastal route, and a service was maintained between Limavady and Garvagh only by diverting buses from the main route. Early in the day the only Belfast-Londonderry buses passing through the county were those running via Magherafelt.

An official of the Board told a News Letter reporter: “The Board fared very well, considering the extent of the damage, and outside of Co Londonderry services were kept running.”

Among the travellers who suffered delay was the Governor of Northern Ireland (Earl Granville) who was on his way to Londonderry to re-open the Sailor’s Rest, which had been closed for about two years for redecoration and renovation. He told his audience at the opening ceremony that he had to try three routes before getting through the city.

Meanwhile, the resident magistrate who was to have adjudicated at Londonderry Petty Sessions was unable to make the journey to the city, owing to floods and obstructions on the roads, and the cases listed for hearing were adjourned.

Telephonic communication between Belfast and Londonderry was also cut because to a cable between Coleraine and Londonderry. At noon there was a delay of about nine hours in calls, but by late that night it had been reduced to four hours.

For a call from Londonderry to Castlerock, about 30 miles distant, the link-up was via Omagh, Enniskillen, Belfast and Coleraine.