During the late fifties my parents, my three brothers and I enjoyed many a day’s outing, during summer time, to the seaside resort of Tramore, County Waterford. Dad would mind us, while my mother organised the picnic; she packed togs, towels, “Tramore” buckets, shovels and everything else we needed before we made our way, on foot, to Railway Square, Waterford City, to board the Tramore train. The distance of the train journey was a little over seven miles, with no stops in between.
Long queues would greet us outside the station and our minds struggled to make sense of all the activity, the hustle and bustle, people pushing and shoving, the deafening noise of the train’s engine, the steam, the clanking of carriages. The excitement building as we looked forward to our trip. Dad would buy the tickets and eventually we would all board the train. Finding seating was never easy in the packed carriages but eventually we would squeeze in somewhere. We would worry that when one of our parent’s, usually our Dad, went to place the baby’s pram in the Guards van that the train would leave without him.
We eagerly waited for the man in the cap and uniform to blow his whistle, for his famous cry to ring out “All aboard” and then for him to wave his green flag. Now that the train was ready we would, not so gently, lurch out of the station and we were on our way. Clickety clack, clickety clack, was the sound the train seemed to be making as it rolled over the tracks.
As we travelled along my brothers and I looked out for a railway bridge or tunnel and then screamed out in delight when one was in sight. On arrival in Tramore there was a mad rush to get off the train and to head immediately for the beach and straight away the smell of the sea would hit your nostrils. Our favourite spot on that long sandy beach was a place called the “Ladies Slip”, situated on the right hand side as you faced the water and the sight of a shimmering sea at full tide was a joy to behold.We regularly met cousins, aunts and uncles at that spot. Togs were put on and the shout would go up of “Last in is a slow coach”. We ran, intending to plunge into the waves of the ocean only to stop suddenly as soon as our feet felt the cold water. Eventually someone would get wet and on cue they would splash and drench those still remaining dry.
We would play on the huge golden beach for hours, making sand castles, writing messages in the sand with our fingers or shovel. We also loved running with a long piece of sea weed between our legs pretending we were on horseback. We played football or picked periwinkles off the rocks. We boasted about how many swims we had that day. Dad would go to the shop or somewhere to get a kettle of boiling water to make the tea and we all then sat on the rug to enjoy our picnic and to eat our “sand” sandwiches. A rare treat for us would be a visit to the fairground and the most popular attractions were the “Bumpers” and the “Swinging Boats”. As we made our way back to the Tramore train station Mam would take turns to give us a spin on my youngest brother’s tansad. On the homeward journey we were, usually, exhausted from our day out and we dreaded the trek up Bunkers hill as it was a steep hill, but climb it we did and sleep came easily when we arrived home.
The 15th of August was the busiest day of the year and the train worked non stop carrying thousands of passengers to Tramore for what was officially regarded as the end of the summer. Many would make their way to the Waterford and Tramore racecourse to enjoy a flutter on the horses.
Sadly the Waterford / Tramore train service was discontinued in 1960 and replaced by a bus service. There was a wooded area between Waterford and Tramore near the Half Way public house and before the new bus service could begin, trees were chopped to provide clearance for the new buses.
Double Decker buses came to Waterford for the first time and that was how we would travel to Tramore in future. The 50th Anniversary of the closure of the Waterford/Tramore train service occurs on the 31stDecember 2010.
Imagine the tourist attraction if that train service still existed.