It is proposed to form a railway from the south to the North of Ireland, commencing at Limerick and ending at Clones, a distance of 122 miles with a branch from Parsonstown, through Roscrea, to Templemore of 18 miles. The Railway will proceed northwards by Killaloe, Nenagh, Cloughjodan, Shinrone, Parsonstown, Banagher, Shannon Harbour, Athlone, Ballymahon, Kennagh, Longford, Granard, Arvagh, Cavan and Ballyhaise, to Clones, at which point it will meet the traffic supplied by the Belfast and Ballymena, the Ulster, the Newry and Enniskillen, the Dundalk and Enniskillen and the Coleraine, Londonderry and Enniskillen Railways, thus concentrating in its northern Terminus, the intercourse of all the lines in that important portion of the country ; and on the South being in direct communication with the various existing and projected lines to Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Tralee &c., it will bring the two extremes of the kingdom into immediate connection, effectually open up the interior of the country, and necessarily tend to develop its almost hidden resources, while the fact of the line crossing from East to West of the country, without competing with any of them forms a singular and strikingly advantageous featured in the undertaking.
To those intimately acquainted with Ireland, its capabilities and requirements, this general outline might suffice ; but for the information of others, it may be requisite to enter more into detail of the advantages to be derived from this important project, as well as with reference to the benefit to be afforded to the country at large, as to the certain advantages which it promises to the Shareholders.
This line will afford facilities, heretofore unknown, fo exporting Agricultural productions of Ireland to the markets of England and Scotland, whether of livestock, grain, flour, butter or poultry, as well as the valuable minerals of slate, marble, lead and copper in which the country in its vicinity abounds, while to the merchants of Galway, Sligo, Londondery, Belfast, Newry, Dundalk, Waterford, Cork and Limerick, it will give means of communication with, and of supply to and from the central towns, fairs and markets from the want of easy and direct communication. Taking the natural level presented by the valley of the Shannon, above 2/3rds of the line will pass through the great wheat district of the country, in which the principal Corn Mills are situated, and from which the Northern and North Western counties are at present chiefly supplied with flour by long and expensive cartage.
It will render the Water-power and Mill sites of the Shannon and its tributaries now improved by the Shannon Commissioners, and about to be disposed of by them, available to the commercial enterprise of the country ; but as the importance of this feature may not be sufficiently known, the following extracts taken from the valuable work of Professor Kane, upon the “Industrial Resources of Ireland” are submitted, pointing out, as they do, not only the extraordinary advantages presented for the formation of a Railway parallel with the Shannon, but also describing many of the benefits to be derived from the work, the remarks on the facilities afforded by the river as a mode of communication being infinitely more forcible when applied to a Railway. The water power on the Shannon is thus spoken of by Professor Kane:-
“That great river, which penetrating the interior of Ireland, navigable from the ocean to its source, rising in one coal formation , emptying itself through another, and washing the banks of our most fertinle counties, passes slowly along falling but 50 feet in 150 miles, until it arrives at Killaloe, where its waters rush down the great rapids towards Limerick, and in a space of 15 miles present a difference of level of 97 feet of which the available power may be estimated, at least with tolerable approximation from the returns and the reports published by the Commissioners for the improvement of its navigation.”
“I shall take the average force of water available per foot of fall, at 350 horse-power ; which gives for the 97 feet of fall between Killaloe and Limerick, a total of 33,950 horse-power in continuous action, day and night throughout the year.”
“This however, is by no means the whole power of the River, for although in the upper portion of its course it flows through a district unusually level, there is yet between Lough Derg and Lough Allen, a total available fall of forty six feet six inches.”
“The total continuous power is therefore 4,717 horse, which added to that of the River from Killaloe, 33950, gives a force existing between Limerick and Lough Allen of 38,667 horse power supposed in constant action.”
Speaking of the slate quarries of Killaloe, Professor Kane continues
“The most extensive slate quarries of Ireland are near Killaloe. ***** The slates are of the very finest quality and can be had of almost any magnitude ; there are some in the museum of the Royal Dublin Society of 10 feet square area. The stone is for building purposes one of the best in Ireland. ***** These two quarries produce about 10,000 tons of manufactured slate per annum, and if a greater demand occurred the water and the spout quarries could be put into immediate operation. By the operation of this Company (the imperial) employment is given to more than 700 men and boys, and all who visit the district are equally struck with the unexpected size and magnificence of the quarries, as with the good order and appearance of the men.”
Of the marble quarries immediately upon the line he says –
“At Clonmacnoise, King’s Co., and Dromineer in Tipperary, are fine grey marbles variously tinted and peculiarly sound and useful. ***** A brownish red, mottled with grey of various shades, occurs at Ballymahon in Longford. “
Again with reference to the suitableness of the neighbourhood of the Shannon, for the staple trade of Ireland :-
“The rivers which flow into the Baltic afford also, on the low grounds along their banks, the seats of the flax agriculture of Russia and Northern Prussia ; and guided by these analogies, may we not ask, where are the similar soils or districts in our own country? They are abundant and available along the line of the principle river. The lands hitherto liable to flood, by the irregular risings of the Shannon, but, by the improvement of its channel, about to be permanently rendered available to agriculture amount to not less than 32,500 acres above Limerick, whilst below that city the caucasses or marshy grounds of the extraordinary fertility mentioned by Wakefield, are to be found. Such soils afford the most complete parallel to those districts of Egypt and of Belgium, which have been for ages the seats of the growth of flax. The water power at Killaloe….. places at the hands of the manufacturer the means of every mechanical preparation of the crop”
As showing the disadvantages under which Ireland must labour in the absence of a central line of Railway, intersecting those two projected, and in progress from East to West of the kingdom, the following may be extracted from the same high authority.
The expense of land carriage is so considerable even on the best roads, as to present material obstacles to the extension of commercial intercourse. It may be estimated , for general goods throughout the country at 6d per ton per mile, and even under the conditions of steady traffic with returns as in the case of the carriage of coals from the colliery district, I have been obliged to estimate its minimum amount at 3d per ton per mile. The cost of manufactured goods as well as of produce is thus heightened considerably by the cost of carriage their use is limited to a smaller circle of the people and therefore, every means that can be devised for lowering the cost of transport should be energetically made available.
No doubt appears to be now entertained that the Government will select a harbour upon the South or West of Ireland, for the American and West Indian Packet station ; in that event it is plain that the proposed Railway must form the main trunk in connexion with the Northern lines already mentioned, from the whole of Scotland and the North of England by Belfast, for the Americans and West Indian Mails, Passengers and Merchandise. Whether the Port selected be Galway, Limerick, Kilrush, Tarbert, Cork or Valentia – the obvious advantage of such a route in saving of time and avoiding the dangers and difficulties of Channel Navigation, are too obvious to require more particular mention.
Neither need the vast importance of this line to the Government and the country, in a military point of view , be dwelt upon ; suffice it is to say that it will connect by a direct road, the several garrisons of Derry, ENniskillen, Belturbet, Belfast, Armagh, Monaghan, cavan, Granard, Longford, Athlone, Banagher, Birr, nenagh and Limerick ; and by the proposed branch Roscrea, Templemore, Fermoy and Cork – thus affording the means of concentration of the force of the country at any one point in the north, south or centre, in a few hours time while looking upon it as the medium for ordinary conveyance of Troops and Military Stores to and from these several posts, a considerable return may be calculated upon from this branch of traffic.
This line will supply he want so long and severely felt by the Agriculturalists and Dealers of England, Ireland and Scotland of direct and speedy carriage for cattle to and from the large fairs of Mullingar, Athlone, Banagher and Ballinasloe – that great emporium of Irish Stock – bringing the coast of Scotland, by Belfast within a few hours of those well known and important markets – the traffic thus accommodated ensuring the large returns of profit.
From the Census returns, it appears that the population of the several towns upon the line amounts to 128,675 ; and taking the average population of the rural districts through which it runs, and assuming that the railway will be used by those living within a range of five miles it will have the carriage of a rural population of 359,655, making, with the towns, a total, in immediate connexion with the line of 488,331 ; but taking an equally legitimate but more extended view, and looking upon this as a portion of a great line from North to South, the same authority points out a population North of Clones of 1,920,865 in habitants, making with the amount already stated a gross total of nearly 4 millions and a half, independent of collateral traffic from the counties, cities and towns lying East and West, including the important port of Galway, to which this must also form the direct line from the Northern and North-Eastern Harbours.
A few more paragraphs not included here.
Taken from :
The King’s Co. Chronicle
Vol. 1 No. 3
Wednesday, Oct 6th, 1845