Irish railway project takes Scottish sleeper cars
The rolling stock formely used for the Caledonian Sleeper, the overnight service between London and Scotland, has found a new home. In an exciting development for railway enthusiasts, the Connemara Railway Project has taken delivery of several former Caledonian sleeper coaches at Maas Cross in the west of Ireland. The coaches are being used for their original purpose – almost. They’re to serve as accommodation at the project, deep in the rural heartland, 30 miles (50 kilometres) west of Galway Town. The project intends to create what they are certain will be a world-class tourist attraction in the Irish countryside.
From Glasgow to Galway, and from the West Coast Main Line to the less intense surroundings of the west of Ireland. To make up for hotel accommodation that’s no longer available, the Connemara Railway Project has taken delivery of a former Caledonian Sleeper car at Maam Cross, at the site of their intended headquarters. The intention is to use the car as accommodation, now that the local hotel has been commandeered to house Ukrainian refugees.
Almost a century since closure
The Connemara Railway Project aims to restore the Maam Cross railway station on the former Galway to Clifden branch of the Midland Great Western Railway of Ireland. The project is being undertaken by a non-profit company with the goal of recreating a snapshot of the west of Ireland country railway with heritage trains and a working railway experience.
The station opened in 1895 to serve the Maam Valley and Joyce Country to the North and South Connemara. However, the station closed in 1935 due to economic decline and remained unused until the early 1960s, before closure once again. The project plans to reinstate railway track and refurbish the platforms, signal cabin, and goods store, among other features, to restore the station’s original layout.
Sleepers set for life in Ireland
The former Caledonian sleeper coaches are a welcome addition to the project’s rolling stock. The coaches were originally built in the 1970s and were used on the sleeper service between London and Scotland. They were replaced in 2019 in a multi-million pound deal that brought the service up to date. However, the Caledonian Sleeper service has faced numerous problems in recent years, including frequent delays and cancellations. Early problems with the new coaches, and continued operational shortcomings left customers questioning its viability.
The service is operated by Serco, as a franchise. It’s a separate operation from the daytime services branded as ScotRail. Serco has faced criticism for the quality of the service and the condition of the rolling stock, which prompted calls for the service to be nationalised. The Scottish government has duly obliged and exercised a contract break clause. Holyrood will take the service into public ownership in June. As for the old rolling stock, the Connemara volunteers are delighted with their first delivery, and hope the project is on its way to becoming a popular tourist destination for the west of Ireland.