Recently the “Emerald Isle” Steam train traversed Ireland. At hefty prices up to €3,000 for a week it is not for those light on cash. This did include 6 nights at a luxury hotel though, so it was not that bad.
It was the largest steam tour of Island since 1964 and signals a promise of things to come.
Next year 10 special carriages are being used for an “Orient Express” type train, the ‘Belmont Grand Hibernian’, featuring luxury sleeper cars.
This will be a special occasion for steam train enthusiasts and history buffs alike although recent information is that it will be diesel hauled throughout.
There was a welcome increase in tourism last weekend as the passengers of the Emerald Isle Explorer steam train arrived at Ceannt Station, bringing with it plenty of business for Galway’s tourism sector.
The Emerald Isle Explorer is run by Surrey-based rail-tour operator Steam Dreams, who arranged a seven-day tour around Ireland – the first trip of its kind in the modern age.
The train arrived with a group of 277 passengers who were each personally greeted by the Mayor of Galway, Cllr Frank Fahy, who was delighted to welcome the first steam train to arrive at Galway’s station in half a century.
“I met them at the station and I just greeted them all and welcomed them to Galway. They’re going around Ireland on the steam train and staying in different locations and different hotels – the Meyrick, the g, Ashford Castle – all the hotels around the city. And they stayed here for two days and then moved on to Killarney,” said Cllr Fahy.
Run in association with the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland, the Emerald Isle Explorer is the biggest steam train to tour Ireland since June 1964. Locomotives and coaches owned by the RPSI were used throughout the tour.
“It was beautiful. It was lovely when it came up the track. I’ve seen steam trains in the Isle of Man 20 years ago, but I’ve never seen one in this country and I thought it was fantastic for tourism,” said Cllr Fahy who went on to say many of the passengers had travelled from America, Canada, the UK, Germany, Sweden and many other places to take part in the tour.
Several optional activities were available for passengers when they arrived in Galway, where they stayed for two days. Many took tours of Connemara, the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands, and enjoyed a real taste of Galway’s culture in the City Centre.
“It was a smaller scale of a cruise liner coming in,” said Cllr Fahy.
The crew of the Emerald Isle Explorer steam train on arrival at Galway Railway Station. (PHOTO: JOE O’SHAUGHNESSY)
The tour kicked off on Thursday, June 18 with an optional day trip to Belfast to visit The Titanic Exhibition. Those who did not go to Belfast had the option to visit the Guinness Storehouse.
On Friday, June 19, it started its journey to Galway, with the RPSI’s Southern Coaching stock formed of preserved Craven Coaches, stopping for a break in Athlone. Passengers enjoyed much of what Galway has to offer before hopping back on the Explorer on Sunday to start their journey towards Kilarney via Limerick.
The remainder of the tour included a day of leisure in Killarney on Monday, a trip to Waterford on Tuesday and, finally, the last leg of the journey from Waterford to Dublin via Kilkenny on Wednesday.
Prices for the Steam Dreams tour ranged from £1,695 per person for a non-dining option and three-star hotels, up to £2,250 for Premier Dining Class and four-star hotels. For £2,950 passengers could experience the lap of luxury with the Pullman Cost, which provided accommodation in five-star hotels.
The Emerald Isle Explorer was a dry run for Ireland’s own version of the Orient Express which will traverse the country in the summer of 2016.
Unfortunately, this train is going to be diesel hauled.
The ‘Belmont Grand Hibernian’ was launched after Belmond Ltd acquired ten carriages from Irish Rail with plans to transform them into a luxury sleeper train.
The ‘Orient Express’-style train will be the first luxury overnight rail experience of its kind in Ireland, with all-inclusive prices starting from €3,200 per person.