The Dublin & Blessington Steam Tramway

Electrification in Dublin

The Dublin & Blessington Steam Tramway had been given running powers over the lines of the Dublin United Tramway Company, and with this in mind, experiments were made with a first class double deck trailer car which was designed to be operated through to Nelson's Pillar. However, the type of rail used by the DBST was different to the rail used by the DUTC, and the running of passenger stock through to the city was never feasible due to the risk of derailments.

Electrification of the Dublin trams began when the Dublin Southern Districts Tramways ran their first electric trams between Ballsbridge and Dalkey in 1896. Within a short period of time, electric trams were running throughout the city, and the last horse tram worked to Sandymount from the city on 13th January, 1901.

In 1898, electric trams first arrived in Terenure. This brought with it the possibility of working goods traffic through to the city, and this became an important part of the business of the DBST for many years. A rail connection had been made with the DUTC line at the junction of the Terenure and Rathfarnham roads. A goods train would be marshalled on the Templeogue Road outside the terminus yard, and a small electric powered locomotive of the DUTC would haul the train by night over the Dublin tram network, with wagons heading to Kingsbridge and Ringsend depots to link with the mainline rail network as well as with shipping on the banks of the Liffey at Ringsend. Coal traffic was an important business, as well as the transport of cattle, for which special wagons had been supplied.

The 1911 Scheme

The locomotives of the DBST were coming into disrepair due to the unsuitable nature of the work, especially the six initial locomotives known as the 'kettles'. Number 4 had already been retired to the Templeogue depot to work as a static engine to power machinery. In 1911, a major proposal was put forward for the electrification of the line as far as Crooksling. A new depot and power station would be provided near Jobstown, which would provide electric power for the line, and also for electric lighting throughout the local district, and which would enable the closing of the Terenure and Templeogue depots.

The advantage of this, apart from the better economy that would be enabled, was that through traffic from Nelson's Pillar in the centre of Dublin could finally be accomplished. Electric cars could work through all the way as far as Crooksling. Thereafter, a small, portable electric power plant carried in a special van would be hooked on, and this would supply the necessary power for the remainder of the journey to Blessington and Poulaphouca. The steam locomotives would be abandoned altogether.

This was a very ambitious scheme, which could have had long lasting implications for the success or otherwise of the line. The next thing to happen, however, was the First World War, and that put paid to any further developments. The DBST did receive two petrol-electric tramcars in 1915, but as we have seen, these were unsuccessful.

The End of the Line

All the while, operating costs were rising, especially during the First World War. After the war, much consolidation of the railway network in Ireland took place, with smaller railway companies being taken over by the larger groups. In 1917, suggestions were made to have the Dublin & Blessington and Dublin & Lucan tramways taken over by the state. In 1918 a proposal was put forward for the electrification of the Dublin & Lucan Steam Tramway, and there were suggestions that a link might be made with the DBST, for the electrification of both lines. Neither concern could afford to undertake such an onerous task.

During the early 1920s, the Irish Civil War caused much disruption to services. Much business was lost to the road hauliers, and rates were cut to try to remain competitive. Losses continued to grow, and in 1927, the Blessington & Poulaphouca Steam Tramway ceased, with the rails on this section of the line quickly lifted. The DBST lost a lot of it's tourist traffic due to this decision. The Dublin & Blessington was eventually taken over by a joint committee of the Dublin and Wicklow County Councils.

In 1929, the Paragon Omnibus Company began operating a through bus service between Blessington and the city centre, eliminating the tiresome requirement for passengers to transfer between the DBST and the Dublin tram at Terenure. This struck a fatal blow to the DBST, and although fares were cut drastically in a vain bid to compete, the end would soon be in sight. The DBST even applied for permission to operate it's own buses between the Embankment, Saggart and Rathcoole, to meet the trams. This was a hopeless cause, as another independent bus operator, the Excelsior company, began running buses direct from the city to Newcastle and Rathcoole via Inchicore.

Last ditch efforts were made in 1931 to have the DBST taken over by either the Dublin United Tramway Company, or by the Great Southern Railways. Unfortunately, this never came to pass, and so it was, that on the 31st December 1932, a wet Saturday night, the last trains ran on the DBST lines, the 6:15 p.m. from Terenure to Blessington, and the last of the last, the 10:30 p.m. from Terenure to Tallaght. This final journey was made by 2-4-2 locomotive number 9, hauling just one double deck car with a full load of passengers, doubtless there to give their final farewells to an operation that had served the area well for almost half a century, and opened up the town and hinterland of Blessington to the rest of the country at a time when Ireland would begin to see major changes and advancements as it headed into the twentieth century.