Mr. Charlie Finlay, Retired Signalman
We interviewed Mr. Charlie Finlay, a retired signalman, who worked at the station for almost 40 years. He was there to see the changes that happened over the years:
- Goods: Cattle used to be transferred by train, and An Post used to deliver post also. Now there are no cattle transferred, instead the goods trains carry materials for Coca-Cola and cement for Irish cement.
- Signal System: Charlie used to operate a mechanical lever system to signal the trains to come into/go out of the station. This then changed to an electronic display board that Charlie worked on, which was located on the other end of the station to the old signal cabin.
- Passengers: Charlie would have been used to a lot of goods trains coming into and going out of Tullamore…there were not that many passenger trains…then this changed when people began to work in Dublin and travel up and down to Tullamore because of a new commuter service that was started.
Here’s a poem that Charlie wrote, one evening after seeing off a train from the station:
The signal is green for the train to proceed
The platform is crowded with people to travel
The laughter and chat fill the evening air
The hooter is sounding the train’s arrival
People all hurrying and waving goodbye
The stationman looks at his watch
Then waves to the guard, it’s time to move on
The train moves away and the rail lights fade in the evening glow
A blackbird flutters in a nearby bush
How lonely it can be… to be standing alone
On a platform that was crowded a few minutes ago
Mr. Charlie Finlay
Mr. Joe Craig, Retired Stationmaster
We interviewed Mr. Joe Craig, retired stationmaster of Tullamore train station.
Here’s some of the information Joe gave us:
- Joe’s father worked for the Midlands Great Western Railway. He started in 1923 in Ballinrobe, was transferred to Carrick-on-Shannon in 1939 (the beginning of World War II) and then onto Drumshanbo in 1940
- During the war, Joe’s father would have witnessed the trains bringing coal from the mines of Arigna in Cavan, to the sugar factories at Carlow, Mallow, Tuam, Thurles and Pigeonhouse in Dublin.
- They only had 5 engines at those stations when the war started and had to order in 40 more (which were built in Inchicore and also Woolwich in England)
- The day was long: 5am to 9pm!
- Joe’s first memory of a train is when he was 5 years of age (1936): He was going to see a ‘Flying Circus’ in Boyle, Co. Roscommon and remembers getting a steam train to it. He remembers the steam blowing out of the train and he jumped and it really made an impression on him!
- When Joe was about 8yrs old he really didnt like school and his father and the teacher came up with a plan where Joe would do his schoolwork at home and then go out and help his father with the railway work!
- He went to second-level school in Carrick-on-Shannon and had to cycle 10 miles each way (one hour over and one hour back) and his school was an All-Irish school which Joe found really difficult!
- Eventually the school transferred to teaching through English and Joe got the highest results in his Intermediate Certificate (almost like the Junior Cert these days)
- Joe had thought of emigrating to either America or England. If he had gone to America he would have had to enlist in the American army and go fight in the Korean war! So instead he applied for the exam to work for the railway company (CIE at the time, Ireland had become a Republic)
- Joe did the exam and got the job and started on 23rd February 1950 in Ballisodare station. He spent 3 months there and then went on to Longford as a goods clark.
- He worked his way up through the various jobs: he was doing office work, booking fares for the wagons going through. He remembers 250 wagons leaving Longford station one time!
- He was promoted from Clerical Officer Class 3 to Clerical Officer Class 2 (in charge of lorries leaving Longford station) and eventually to Clerical Officer Class 1 in 1961 when he transferred to Wexford station
- When Joe came to Tullamore in October 1963, he was the Senior Clerical Officer.
- He lived in Henry St. in Tullamore at first and then the railway built a house for him beside the station (the previous stationmaster, Mr. Ted O’Brien, had bought the house the railway had given him so they built a new one for Joe)
- When Joe arrived in 1963, there were 3 signalmen working at the signalcabin in Tullamore. There were 2 signalmen in Clara and 1 signalman at Geashill (this station is now closed)
- Joe remembers lorries that collected goods off the train each day: one went to Banagher, one to Edenderry.