This has to be one of the most unusual railways in the world. Technically a monorail, but built on a triangular track, with two guide rails at the base, the Lartigue Monorail was the brainchild of a Frenchman, Charles Lartigue and ran between Listowel and the seaside resort of Ballybunion in County Kerry, in the West of Ireland.
Built in 1888, it ran until 1924.
Originally designed as a desert railway, the concept was inspired when Lartigue saw camel trains with panniers making their way across the desert. A prototype was built in Algeria, where the concept was designed to overcome the problem of sand drifting across conventional railway tracks.
The residents of Kerry were petitioning for a railway between Listowell and Ballybunion, and, after a prototype was demonstrated by Lartigue in London, it was decided to try the idea in Kerry.
It opened in 1888 at at cost of £30,000. Carrying passengers and freight at a speed of around 15mph, there were practical difficulties, especially when carrying cattle to market. Farmers had to bring 2 calves along to balance the load if selling a single cow, the calves would then balance each other out for the journey home!
The line barely made ends meet during its short working life, and after it suffered serious damage in the civil war, it finally closed in 1924.
There’s a mention of the line’s only fatal accident, in 1914, on the Old Railway Accidents site.
Just after the line’s centenary in 1988, moves were made to restore the line. A committee was formed in the mid 1990’s, after much fundraising, work commenced at the new station site, less than 100 metres from the original station site, and the rebuilt railway finally opened in 2003.
The site has a very comprehensive museum and displays of the line and wider railway history, with a 1000 metre running track, a replica loco and two replica carriages. The loco, built by Alan Keef of Ross On Wye, is a diesel replica of the original steam engine.
There’s a really good recent You Tube film of the railway here
The line is run by volunteers, and is an excellent place to visit, with a detailed history of the line, audio-visual displays, models and of course the chance to ride on one of the world’s most unusual railways. This wonderful railway needs visitors and supporters in order to survive. Find out more at their website
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