Celebrating volunteers, heritage and the seaside

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The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s Portrush Flyer steam train will be offering holidaymakers and daytrippers the opportunity to travel on a unique and stylish excursion to Portrush on Sundays 26th July, 9th and 23rd August.

Passengers on The Portrush Flyer will travel in vintage carriages from the 1960’s and 1970’s behind the beautifully restored, 103-ton, blue locomotive, “Merlin”. Merlin was re-launched last year at the end of a 10 year engineering overhaul carried out at the workshops of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland, in Whitehead, County Antrim. A lot of the work was carried out by volunteers and, this volunteer activity, over the last 50 years, has earned the RPSI a coveted Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2015.

Railway Preservation Society of Ireland operations officer Mervyn Darragh commented: “We are pleased to be able to share our wonderful steam train The Portrush Flyer again. These annual trains are the high point of a great year for our Society. The Flyer will start from the RPSI depot at Whitehead Excursion Station, picking up at Carrickfergus and Belfast Central en-route to Portrush and we love to see the passengers on the train waving at the holidaymakers on the beach as we weave along the coast for our arrival at leave Portrush.

“To be awarded the Queen’s Award, the equivalent of a MBE for a voluntary group like ours, is the high-point of a very busy year. Our volunteers have now restored three mainline steam locomotives to active service and are preparing one of them, our largest, Merlin for Portrush action.

“Each train will offer passengers travel in lovingly restored carriages, the opportunity for children (and more nostalgic adults) to get close to the steam engine and talk to the driver and fireman (if he has the energy after shovelling up to 4.5 tons of coal into the fire), and a relaxing journey through city suburbs, leafy countryside and North Atlantic seascapes to Portrush and back. We’ll be operating this train on 26th July, 9th August and a final time on 23rd August.

“We always enjoy helping the public and especially children get closer to the industrial heritage we maintain. A steam train just oozes atmosphere and we would especially appreciate the public sending us drawings, notes or poems about their day out on the steam train for posting on our website.”

The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland is a charitable not-for-profit organisation and has it’s main workshops at Whitehead in Co Antrim. Restoration and preparation of the trains is entirely managed by and, largely carried out by, volunteers.

The Portrush Flyer departs Belfast Central at 1130 sharp on 26th July, 9th and 23rd August with pre-pickups at Whitehead Excursion Station (0935) and Carrickfergus (0950). Return tickets to Portrush cost £22 Adult, £15 Child and £66 Family (2 adults and 2 children). Tickets can be purchased in advance by telephone or call-and-collect from Belfast Welcome Centre, tel 028 9024 6609 or online from www.steamtrainsireland.com.