The last two trains, both steam, one of the Great Northern Line and one of the Sligo Leitrim and Northern Counties Line, left Enniskillen, bound for Omagh and Sligo respectively, on the evening of the 30 September 1957. The following day the Enniskillen Railway Station closed – never to reopen.
The Northern Ireland Government’s decision to close the western section of the Great Northern Line would have left the privately run, cross-border, Sligo Leitrim and Northern Counties Line financially unviable, given the closure of its Northern Ireland terminus. Accordingly, the Sligo Leitrim and Northern Counties Line also ceased operations on 30 September 1957.
So ended the golden age of the railways in County Fermanagh and the western border counties of Southern Ireland.
Today, there are very few vestiges of the former railway service to be seen in the County. Coming into Enniskillen from the east end a dilapidated and crumbling railway bridge can be sighed.
Picture above is a painting (by Gordon Johnston, one of the museum’s owners) of this bridge in earlier times, replete with a steam train. In the town itself, the former railway station and yards are now a car park with nothing to suggest their former use. The Railway Hotel closed its doors in early August 2015, while I was actually visiting the town.
In 2002 three brothers – Selwyn, Nigel and Gordon Johnston – the latter two of whom are barbers, put on display, in their barber shop, a small collection of railway memorabilia relating to the local railways. Over the years the Headhunters Barber Shop and an adjoining room have become a veritable Aladdin’s cave of all things (no rolling stock for obvious reasons!) related to the western section of the Great Northern Line and the Sligo Leitrim and Northern Counties Line.
Despite an obvious lack of space the collection continues to grow through acquisitions and donations from former railway employees and enthusiasts around the world. This is one of the greatest labour of love collections I have seen on public display anywhere in the world.
When brothers Gordon and Nigel are not cutting hair (it is a busy barbers) they come and have a chat with visitors to the museum. There appears to be nothing worth knowing about these railway lines that the Johnston’s do not know.
Do take time to visit what is the world’s only combined barber shop and railway museum. A railway buff could easily spend a day in here. The less infatuated visitor should allow between half an hour and an hour for a brief overview.
The first (second if you are an American) floor museum/barber shop is easy to miss given its dearth of ground floor street frontage. Look out for the small museum sign above the entrance and the traditional red and white barbers pole, across the road from the more obvious Enniskillen Methodist Church.
Dear Reader, a piece of poetry to end (courtesy of Headhunters/Gordon Brand), if I may?
We never treasure water until the crystal spring is dry
We never know what sorrow is till friends they say goodbye
Yet friends return and water falls from heaven down in rain
But grief unending is a thought of the Sligo Leitrim train.
A hundred weary years are a century to me
I’m penning now a eulogy, it saddens, saddens me
A sorrow is around me and numbness in my brain
At the silent, silent passing of the Sligo Leitrim train.
Tuesday – Saturday 9am-5.30pm
Free though donations are appreciated.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on many trips to Enniskillen. I suggest you continue with my next entry – St Macartin’s Cathedral – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – “Fare thee well Enniskillen, ………..”