A mobile museum, the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI) is an Irish railway preservation group operating throughout Ireland. It was founded in 1964. The society has its headquarters at Whitehead, County Antrim, and a base at Mullingar, County Westmeath. Restoration work is also carried out in the Dublin area. The Society runs mainline trains on the Irish railway network using steam traction and vintage carriages. It also owns a small fleet of vintage diesel locomotives. Its longest running and most famous train, the Portrush Flyer, takes day trippers from Belfast to Portrush during the summer. Out of Dublin, several trains are operated over the scenic Rosslare line to Greystones and Wicklow over the course of the summer.
RPSI excursions include: 'Easter Shuttle': These are Easter-themed steam trains operating from Dublin; 'Easter Eggspress': These are Easter-themed steam trains operating from Belfast; 'May Weekend Railtour': A weekend Railtour visiting various parts of the island; 'Bangor Belle': Steam train between Whitehead and Bangor; 'Steam & Jazz': Operating on Summer evenings, taking passengers to a mystery destination with jazz music played at stations; 'Portrush Flyer': The RPSI's most famous and longest-running trip, to Portrush and back; 'Sea Breeze': Steam train between Dublin and Rosslare; 'Whitehead Summer Open Day': Open days at the RPSI's Whitehead base, including tours and mini train rides up and down the platform; 'Steam Enterprise': Steam train between Belfast and Dublin, used to switch the RPSI's operational locomotives between the 2 cities; 'Broomstick Belle': Halloween-themed steam train operating between Belfast and Whitehead; 'Santa Special': Christmas-themed steam trains operating in the Belfast and Dublin areas; 'Mince Pie Special': Steam train operating on the last or first day of the year. Each year the society organises a major weekend event, operating usually from Dublin in May and covering major routes in Ireland at a leisurely pace. Many visitors return year after year from homes as far flung as New Jersey and Berlin. The 2008 tour operated to Waterford and the 2009 tour to Westport. The May 2014 tour, the Saint Canice, operated in the Dublin area.
Excursion trains run throughout the year, primarily at weekends, from both Dublin and Belfast. An operational set of vintage carriages is kept both at Whitehead and in Dublin for these purposes. These trains are frequently packed to capacity, and advance booking is recommended. An RPSI steam locomotive has on two occasions been used for permanent way work by subcontractors for Northern Ireland Railways. In 2000, R. H. Smyth was employed to pull ballast dropping wagons on the Bleach Green to Antrim line, and in 2005 the engine performed a similar role on the Bleach Green to Whitehead route. On many occasions the RPSI has provided trains for films and television dramas, notably The First Great Train Robbery in 1979.
The Whitehead Railway Museum is a recently opened visitor attraction in Whitehead, County Antrim. The exhibitions tell the history of the railways in Ireland and of some of the pioneers who brought rail travel to Whitehead in the 19th Century. Further panels celebrate the contribution of volunteers to the organisation and the processes and methods used to renovate steam locomotives and carriages. The exhibitions are enhanced by a comprehensive programme of multi-media touch screens used throughout all areas of the museum and also simple interactive activities for children including brass rubbing and a dressing-up cart.
This is an unusual working museum. Teams of volunteers have worked here for over fifty years to save and restore retired railway stock. The engines and carriages aren't wasted as static pieces to look at in a hall, they work taking special trips all over Ireland. This is their base, actually in Whitehead, now opened as a spectacular visitor attraction. They have steam trains, carriages, more recent vehicles, and huge repair sheds where period heavy machine tools and cranes are used for restoration work. They have reassembled an outdoor turntable.
The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland have a large collection of carriages, steam and diesel locomotives. The first locomotive, the Guinness Engine, was donated to the society in 1965. Over the years other locomotives such as Ex-GNR(I) No. 171 "Slieve Gullion" were added to the collection, and in 2015 the society purchased No. 131, 184 & 461. The museum is fully accessible with a tea-room and toilet facilities. As this is a working facility some of the sheds are not so easy to access. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and will be happy to assist. There's a big, free car park just outside on Castleview Road. Two streets away are the bus and regular train stations. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Whitehead Railway Museum, Castleview Road, Whitehead, County Antrim BT38 9NA
Transport: Whitehead (NI Rail) then 10 minutes. Bus Routes : 163, 169, 263, 563 and 568b stop nearby.
Opening Times : Thursday to Saturday, 10:00 to 17:00
Tickets : Adults £7.00; Concessions £6.00; Children (3 - 16) £5.00.
Tel: 028 9337 3968