THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Engineers travel aboard a passenger train pulled by a locomotive fueled by ‘condensed’ peat

The Belfast to Kingstown Mail Train of the late 1910s and early 1920s with S class 4-4-0 No 172 "Slieve Donard" in charge.  The traveling post car is next to the locomotive.  Sister Locomotive No. 171 "Slieve Gullion" is now in the custody of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland
The Belfast to Kingstown mail train of the late 1910s and early 1920s with S Class 4-4-0 No. 172 “Slieve Donard” in charge. The traveling post car is next to the locomotive. Sister locomotive No. 171 “Slieve Gullion” is now in the care of the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland

‘Condensed’ peat had been used to run a locomotive from Belfast to Ballymena over the past weekend, the News Letter reported on that day in 1862.

The ‘ordinary’ passenger train had left Belfast at half past nine that morning for Ballymena and the locomotive was powered by fuel which the newspaper said had been made at Ballymena under the direction of Mr Ponsonby Moore and Mr Tennent.

On board were a number of notables who traveled on the train that day to Ballymena to assess fuel usage.

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These included Mr Stephenson, Resident Engineer of the Ulster Railway Company, Mr Domville, Resident Engineer of the County Down Railway Company, and Mr Yorston, Superintendent of Locomotives of the Northern Counties Railway Company.

It was also noted that the quality of the fuel used that day was “of a higher quality” than that which had been used on a previous occasion when the fuel had been tested.

And the choice of route from Belfast to Ballymena had been chosen to ensure that the new fuel was up to the task.

In fact, the News Letter notes, from Carrickfergus Junction “where the gradient is almost 1 in 70”, the steam was maintained at 100 pounds while on the rest of the line it rose to between 110 and 120 pounds .

The machine operator and the fireman, reports the News Letter, had told the newspaper representative that they approved of the new fuel and would “be only too happy to have it for constant use” and had stated that they would prefer it to coal or coke.

Jose P. Rogers