The Bottom Line
The Clonmacnoise and West Offaly Railway has been shut down at the end of 2008 and will not be operating for the foreseeable future. A different tourism concept in the area is in development by Bord na Mona. The old machinery mentioned, as well as a number of railway engines and coaches, are, however, still on display.
You have to be a railroad buff or seriously interested in peat bogs to make your way here. But if you can spare the time (or are planning to visit the nearby monastic site of Clonmacnoise anyway) make sure to ride on the train and explore the small exhibition.
- Offering unique views of peat harvest operations and recultivated boglands.
- Enjoyable and informative, albeit sometimes bumpy, ride on narrow gauge tracks.
- Bizarre older machinery on display.
- Out of the way.
- A passenger railway on around six miles of track, part of the immense bord na móna rail system.
- The Blackwater Bog near Shannonbridge is still being actively exploited.
- Tours explain bog history, natural processes and the industrial use of milled peat.
Guide Review - Clonmacnoise and West Offaly Railway (Shannonbridge, County Offaly)
Follow the signs to the "Bog Railway" or the "Blackwater Railway" and you will finally arrive at the terminus of the Clonmacnoise and West Offaly Railway. A railroad known by many names, runing on a round track of some six miles through a "active" peat bog - a bog where peat is milled by bord na móna for the nearby Shannonbridge Power Station. Along the way guides will explain the history of the bogs and the process of winning peat in detail. And you will see enormous machines at work as well as long trains trundling by. Bord na móna owns and operates the largest rail network in Ireland, constructed out of prefabricated track pieces just like a Lionel set!
In the middle of the tour you will be able to leave the carriage and walk on the bog, a feeling like walking on a trampoline. Your guide will also demonstrate the traditional way of cutting turf. An activity you might try for yourself if the mood takes you.
After the train ride make a point of visiting the exhibition of old machinery nearby. Constructions seemingly straight out of a dystopian science-fiction-movie await you, as well as tractors on wooden tracks, small rail-motors and similar unusual transports. Especially on weekends a sneak peak into the neighboring bord na móna workshops is usually possible (technically and legally there is no visitor access here).
A small café and souvenir store cater for the tourist crowd, both are worth a visit.