A CAMPAIGN to save the last Northern Ireland Railways 80 Class ‘Thumper’ DEMU – used during the Troubles for the Peace Trains to Dublin and back – has been launched by the Downpatrick & County Down Railway, and for every pound you donate, a DCDR volunteer will match it pound for pound up to £4000.
Nine of the Class 80 sets were ordered from British Rail Engineering Limited and were in service between 1974 and 2016. Structurally, they were based on the BR Mk.2b bodyshell, although no BR version of the 80 Class was ever produced, leaving it unique to Northern Ireland.
In 1965, huge swathes of lines were axed in Warrenpoint, Dungannon, Omagh and the West and it looked like the rest of the network would follow suit. The railway was still largely an Edwardian relic, with mechanical signalling and jointed track, and indeed, retained steam until 1971.
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However, NIR gave the surviving system a new lease of life with the arrival of the 80 Class sets.
Despite bombs and hijackings, these sets became regarded as the train that would get through the Troubles, reliable and strong enough to keep the people of Northern Ireland moving. There were a few withdrawals due to continuing terrorism but the majority of the fleet kept on going.
In the 1990s they were also used for the famous Peace Train movement, operating between Belfast and Dublin, with one of the surviving units, No. 69 operating the last Peace Train to Dublin.
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