News Letter – 24 April, 1950
Fog signals were detonated, fireworks crackled and the engine driver blew a series of gallant blasts on the whistle as groups at cottage doorways waved and cheered. It might almost have been the opening of a new railway line – in fact it was the closing of an old one.
The last train from Donaghadee to Belfast left the platform of the Down town on Saturday 22 April, 1950, and another chapter in the history of the old “County Down” was closed.
Large crowds came to all the stations on the route to say goodbye. There was a lot of joking and a great deal of the party spirit – inevitably because the twelve coaches were mainly filled with people who were making the trip for the sake of the occasion. They were re-capturing the childhood fun of a train journey made for its own sake.
There were also sad faces along the line – railway men who would be starting work the following Monday working in some connection or the other with “buses”.
In some cases they had years of railway tradition behind them, Mr W J Taylor, station master at Newtownards, although only 49 years old, he had worked on the line for 35 years – for 22 of them as a station master. His father has also worked on the line for 55 years and his brother for 30 years. Small wonder that he was not a happy man that final day.
The railwaymen on the line had come to realise that change was inevitable. Indeed the view that the closure of the line would in fact bring a new security was acknowledged by many. The station master at Donaghadee, Mr A E Jameson, summed up the situation: “We have a future now. Before we had none.”
Most of the people cheering at the stations had brought children with them so that in years to come they could say: “I saw the last train out of Donaghadee.”
There was one person who attended who had in the past century been brought as a little girl to see the first train in. She was Mrs Miskimmin of Ballyvester, now 90 years of age. She attended with her daughter, she took a taxi-cab from her home to watch the train leave. Eighty years before she had stood on Logan’s Arch, just outside Donaghadee, to watch the first train steam into the station. She was on the same bridge to wave to the last train to steam out of the town.
Although there was no hostility shown at any of the stations the inveterate train travellers were well represented by the “Wavers Club”. This club was formed of travellers to the city who made the daily journey a social occasion. They waved at people along the line and discussed a variety of topics “from theology to football” and they hired a special saloon for the last trip.
Arriving at Belfast they emerged as a solemn “funeral” procession. The “body” of the defunct line – “foully murdered by the UTA” – was borne to the end of the platform where the “funeral pyre” was lit and dirges chanted