Frustrating Council Inaction on Tourism Train – Committee member.

UK born, Castleisland based poet, Peter Howarth inset against a backdrop of the Blennereville to Tralee engine about which he composed a poem. Photograph of Peter Howarth by John Reidy

A respected and seasoned businessman in Tralee found that dealing with Kerry County Council on an issue of vital tourism infrastructure as one of the most frustrating experiences of his life.

Eddie Barrett is one of a committee whose ambition is to get the Tralee to Blennerville Railway back on track.

In Working Order

“We’re now at the stage where the track will have to be relayed and the engine put back in working order.

“We were ‘on track’ for a funding windfall of €300,000 from Europe and had sourced a firm in Belfast to do the work on the engine. Kerry County Council wanted us to send it to Wales.

The council is simply sitting still on the project since and we had to give up our claim on that grant money,” said Mr. Barrett.

A Billion Euro Asset Rotting Away

“What we now have is a Billion Euro asset to the town of Tralee and county and it’s just rotting away because of the inaction of those who should be pushing to have the project restored.

“It’s a shocking indictment of our politicians and council officials that the project has been derailed simply because of their lack of action on the project, Mr. Barrett concluded.

Peter Howarth’s Poem

Like many other train lovers, Castleisland poet, Peter Howarth harbours a hope that the train will eventually be back on track. And it’s not something that came over him today or yesterday.

It fact it’s a good few yesterdays that he wrote a poem in honour of the little engine and journey between Tralee and Blennerville which ran from 1993 to the late 2000s.

Here, Peter explains the origins of his love of trains and of the poem which became a song on a CD and video.

The Engineer of Blennerville

By Peter Howarth

I first fell in love with trains as a small boy when I got a Hornby train set for my birthday. I would add bits and pieces to it whenever I could, and soon had an extensive layout which would help pass away many a happy winter’s day. I recently gave it to a charity so that someone else could follow in my enjoyment.

Fascination for Steam

As I grew older, my facination for steam locomotives increased and many a great time was spent with friends sitting on a railway embankment in Surrey watching the trains go by. It was the main line from London to many towns on the South Coast, and several trains would pass every hour in both directions. We would record their identification numbers and compare our notes with other trainspotters when we met up.

Holidays in Yorkshire

When on holidays in Yorkshire, we stayed near the London to Scotland line, and again, my trainspotting notebook would come out. This was particularly good as it needed two engines to pull the train up the relatively steep slopes – two for the price of one!

The advent of electric and diesel engines almost relegated the steam train to extinction, but rail enthusiasts have reopened many disused lines in Britain with privately owned steam trains.

Castleisland’s last Steam Train

The last steam train out of Castleisland was 1957 so it was a delight for me to see that a steam locomotive was to reappear in Kerry, even if it was almost forty years later. There was no telling how long this train would continue to last, but if its existence was recorded in verse, the poem could last for ever!

Legendary Entertainer

When the legendary entertainer Johnny Barrett was looking for songs for a new album I suggested that my poem, The Engineer of Blennerville could be put to music and included. He agreed and we started to discuss the music. Although I had originally thought it would go well to a waltz, we later agreed that a quickstep would be more suitable.

Often Heard on Radio Stations

Rather than write a new air, we thought that a lesser known established tune would be better, and concluded that The Westmeath Bachelor would be a good match.

This finalised, it was off to Billy Donegan’s recording studio in Causeway so that the audio tape, CD and video could be completed. There is lovely footage of the train on the video if you are lucky enough to see one.

The song is now often heard on Radio Kerry, as well as various other radio stations up and down the country.


There was a lonely city girl, she was just twenty-three,

Who took a two-week holiday and came down to Tralee,

And after all the tourist sights in summer sun and rain,

She went to take a trip aboard the Blennerville steam train.

She bought her ticket at the desk and then to her surprise,

She saw her dream man standing there before her very eyes,

And as the fireman fed the fire with shovels full of coal

She only could admire the man who stood there in control.

In overalls and peaked blue cap he made the whistle blow

To tell the waiting passengers it’s nearly time to go;

The guard, he waved his big green flag, the train was on its way

Along two miles of narrow gauge on that hot summer’s day.

She sat down on the carriage seat as she began to dream

To throbbing of the pistons and the hisses of the steam;

This man had made her heart beat fast, was this the real thing?

Would she become the driver’s wife and wear his wedding ring?

She rode the train to Blennerville, she rode it back again

And every day for those two weeks her journeys were the same;

Her feelings for the engineer she was too shy to share

So no romance developed from this one-way love affair.

And now she’s back in Dublin Town and works from eight ’til four,

She is a sad and lonely girl who chases men no more;

She’s never met another man, no doubt she never will,

That can compare to the engineer on the train to Blennerville.


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