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Brewery Visit - Europe

Part 2: The internal railway and the main line connection

Wednesday 13th May 2015

Bob Thompson

Before I get on to the No 2 Brewery, partially opened in 1877, it is probably time to look at the vitally important railway system, without which this the new Brew House would not have functioned. The Railway’s basic layout was constructed between 1873 and 1877 and connected the Grain House with the Brew Houses and the cask racking and distribution area.

Guinness2 1It was used for raw materials in, and waste products, such as spent grain, out. It also connected all of the Vat Houses and later the Store House, where beer were matured and it carried the casks to distribution area.

Please see photograph of some lines still en situ in front of the No 2 Brew House.

Samuel Geoghegan joined the Engineering department in 1872 and became Head Engineer in 1875. He designed the railway, actually more accurately a tramway, with a track gauge of 1’10” (559mm).

The wagons (and locomotives) had a maximum height of 6 ft and width of 5 ft. The maximum gradient was 1 in 40.

There was a tunnel under James’s Street to the middle and on to the lower level. Initially it was accessed by a lift from the upper level on the south side. This proved to be impractical and very soon a connecting spiral tunnel with 2.5 turns was constructed at a gradient of 1 in 39. I visited the brewery in 1969, I believe, as part of a group from the I.R.R.S. (Irish Railway Record Society). Most of the railway had closed by then but I clearly remember our guide lifting a metal cover to give us a view of the railway in the tunnel below.

Guinness2 2The tunnel was entered behind the narrow gauge loco shed which was in the yard in front of the No 2 Brew House; the sole brewery in use when I visited back then. The shed was a quarter roundhouse with six or seven roads. One fascinating feature of the tunnel is that there was a branch off it on a lower level that runs under the No 2 Brew House before the line crossed under the road. This was to take coal to heat the boilers and remove the ash.

Around 1901 there was a horrible accident when a train derailed and the locomotive fell into the ash pit; the driver was burned alive.

Once under James’s Street the tunnel continued for some distance after. The tunnel was the only part of the extensive system to be signalled.

As a train entered the tunnel the driver turned a disc from “clear” to “halt”. This engaged a similar signal at the end to display the same indication. All other movements were performed by flagmen walking in front of the train.

The tunnel exited on the middle level and continued downgrade towards the River Liffey where it turned through 180 degrees to descend further to reach the lower level. This was where the filled casks were destined to the main storage area prior to despatch, it was also where the empty barrels arrived and stacked in huge pyramids before cleansing and re-use. Naturally the railway took them back up the hill up to be filled.

Guinness2 3Several types of steam locomotives were purchased in the early years yet all proved to be inadequate for the tasks to be performed.

The first, naturally No 1 was built by Sharp Stewart in 1875 and was an inside cylinder 0.4.0. Saddle tank. The inside cylinders, which were very unusual on such a small locomotive were probably incorporated in the design because it was thought undesirable to have the motion exposed when running on the cobbled ways, yet this still didn’t stop it from being clogged with dirt.

This loco also had too little power for the tasks required. However it was not scrapped and was used on the small 3 car passenger trains that were used by visitors to the brewery and did not meet its end until 1913.

In the next year, 1876 two further locos, Nos 2 and 3, were ordered from Stephen Lewin of Poole, Dorset. These were an adaptation of a typical road traction engine of the time and could certainly haul the loads but as they were unsprung they damaged the track so didn’t last very long.

Two years later another design was ordered from Sharp Stewart. Like the first loco these were also of 0.4.0. Wheel arrangement but this time had side tanks and outside cylinders. There were two, Nos 4 and 5. Although they were effective in moving the loads they were often stopped for long periods of time because of dirt in the motion, an affliction that all these early engines suffered from.

Guinness2 4Samuel Geoghegan set about solving the problems by designing his own locomotive. This was also a 0.4.0. and was rather odd-looking. To solve the dirt problem it had a heavy box-like frame with the two cylinders mounted on the top horizontally. Their valve gear drove vertical connecting rods which engaged the wheels below. The boiler was inside the “box” with the funnel barely visible. The side tanks were an integral part of the frame. Please see the drawing above left.

The first of these locomotives, No 6, was built at Avonside Engineering of Bristol in 1882. It proved to be successful and from 1887 to 1921 Nos 7 to 24 were constructed, all by William Spence of Dublin. After the Second World War they were replaced by 12 “Planet” type 4-wheeled Diesels built by the F.C. Hibberd Co from 1947 to 1950.

Guinness2 5Two steam locos were retained as back-up until 1957 and today six of them are preserved.

On the lower level there was another railway element as the brewery was connected to the national network. There was a link to the goods yard of Kingsbridge (today’s Heuston) station of the Great Southern and Western Railway. This was authorised by an act of Parliament in 1874. It was a tramway and ran for most of its length along St John’s Road, passing the passenger station on the way.

Naturally it was built to the Irish standard gauge of 5’3” (1,600mm), which is actually a broad gauge. No specific locomotives were built to handle the transfers as Geoghegan had designed a haulage truck whereby one of the narrow gauge locomotives was lowered into it and it could power a broad gauge train through rollers under its driving wheels.

Please look at the photograph above right that shows an inward train on broad gauge with the Geoghegan locomotive inside one of these contraptions.

Guinness2 6On the right of the picture is the lifting gear that lowered the narrow gauge engine into the truck with an empty truck alongside awaiting a loco to be placed within it. Please also note the flagman that walked in front of all trains, broad or narrow gauge.

Ultimately this proved wasteful as it tied up a locomotive that could otherwise be used on the internal system so a 4-wheeled petrol locomotive (No 1) was purchased from the Straker-Squire Company in 1912. This was unsuccessful so a 0.4.0. saddle tank was bought from Hudswell Clarke in 1914 and numbered 2.

This worked very well so a second, No 3 (see photo above left), was purchased in 1919. This allowed one to be always in steam with the other out of service for maintenance. These locos were standard in most respects but did have their wheels covered and a large bell fitted for the street working.

Guinness2 7Finally in 1949 a 0.4.0. diesel locomotive was bought from Hudswell Clarke. This worked most of the time with the steam locomotives as stand-by.

The last transfer trip to the main line goods yard was made on Saturday 15th May 1965 by steam loco no 2. Thereafter the transfers were made by road to the yard. Please see the photograph right with two lads watching the train from the brewery with quite a load as it is just about to enter the main line goods yard hauled by the diesel, No 4.

No 2 and No 4 were scrapped in 1965 but No 3 was presented to the R.P.S.I. (Railway Preservation Society of Ireland) in 1965. At the time of writing it is undergoing an overhaul. Until recently it gave rides at the RPSI’s site at Whitehead, Co Antrim. It now carries the “Guinness” plates from scrapped diesel No 4. Please see its photograph, above left. You can clearly see the downward stanchion that once secured the side sheets over the motion.

The side sheets over the moving parts are now removed but whilst they were still attached, the locomotive worked an afternoon tour around all the dock lines of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners’ Railway which is a tramway like that at Guinness. It was achieved despite rain pouring on the passengers who were in open wagons. That was Saturday 23rd March 1968 and I was lucky enough to be on it.

In Part 3 I continue with our tour of the brewery encompassing the No 2 Brew House.

Part 2 of 7