The signboard read “Rathmines & Ranelagh,” but although Rathmines was then generally as being what house-agents now describe as being “upmarket” to Ranelagh, the station was never known by any name but Ranelagh. On any fine Saturday in summer, my father would hand me my bathing costume and a small bucket and then lead the way out through our back gate and to the lane which bordered the railway embankment, to the little wicket which admitted to Mr Walker’s nursery and a short cut to Dunville Avenue where was the station entrance. Strategically placed outside to attract the custom of small boys was a machine by which for 1d one could emboss one’s name on a short metal strip. No dalliance with this was allowed in our family while my father bought the tickets: “Return to Shankill please, Mr Carey.” Mr Carey was the stationmaster, a kindly man who knew his passenger by name, and who was not offended if some over-burdoned mother asked for his help with her luggage up the long flights of wooden steps which led to the platforms. His office was a snug one, with an iron stove glowing in the winter, and beside the hatch, carefully arranged rows of cardboard tickets for stations from Harcourt St to remote and romantic places like Woodenbridge and Wexford. Below these was the machine which printed the date on the ticket with an impressive bang as Mr Carey stamped on the pedal.
The subway under the tracks to the down platform was well built with walls of white porcelain bricks into which were set some bearing the inscription “Ham Baker & Co, Westminster, London.” I often wondered if this was an unusual address for a firm making porcelain bricks. At the top of the stairs was a wooden partition with a heavy gate where “Andy” the station foreman, as attested by his cap band, checked the tickets and gave warning that the train was coming by banging the gate loudly off the paling. This noise always caused some excitement because trains from Harcourt St were often full and it was a point of honour to get a corner seat for the half-hour journey.
Under two footbridges and past the allotments where Herton Rd was later built, we were soon in Milltown, a neat little station with a background of fields, over which there was a shortcut to the village. Immediately, we would be high above the Dodder on the “Nine Arches” with the steaming laundry below and the view upstream to the narrow bridge and curiously named tavern the Dropping Well. Dundrum was a busy station, larger than others: it boasted a notice “Station for St Columba’s College.” I wonder if many of the pupils of that distant establishment travelled there by that route? Between Dundrum and Stillorgan, we felt that we were really getting into the country, with the view to the Three Rocks, as the train toiled up alongside the reservoir, with its cut stone building perched on the embankment. Hiding at the end was Stillorgan station, always clean and tidy, with its name showing in the evergreen topiary of a tiny box hedge beside the curve of the granite boundry wall. On to Foxrock & Leopardstown which could provide real excitement on race days, with horse boxes being shunted from the mainline to the numerous sidings and a dense crowd of race-goers hurrying across the long bridge which led to the course.
A quiet run then past the new houses of Torquary Rd and the lonely “Barrington’s Tower” to Carrickmines, where the blackberry bushes hung thickly over the high walls, and the station was the starting point for walks over the lark-loud golf course to Ballycorus with its secluded mill pond and wind-swept lead mine chimney.
Now came the best scenery of all, the beautiful woods and corn fields at the head of Druid’s Glen with a glimpse of old Tully Church and nearby cross on the skyline. Then, across the Bride’s Glen viaduct to glide down to Shankill with its arboured gardens and the signalbox from which the telegraph bell tinkled softly to the background of the murmuring pigeons which always nested on the station house. Our way was across the main road, with perhaps a warning klaxon from an infrequent motor car, then down the beautifully tree-shaded Corbawn Lane with a triumphant cry of “I can see the sea!” as we toiled up the bridge over the Killiney line, then down the broken steps to the beach. The reason for the bucket became obvious as my father set us to collect white stones for the garden path, for there was no hope of building sandcastles on this stark beach with its foot-torturing pebbles and tiny patches of sand. After the compulsory swim, some of our time would be spent lazing on the cliff top, from which in recent memory, the railway had retreated because of the encroaching high tides, which had battered downthe magnificent sea wall, great lumps of which still provided some shelter from the goose-pimpling breeze, which always blew on that long stretch of shingle.
Tired, and sometimes unusually sunburnt, we would start for home, perhaps up what is called “the private way” or Quinns Lane, which had a shortcut – a narrow path alongside the track to the station wall. The up platform, with a background of a field of golden barley, had some little wooden seats built into the sheltering embankment and, far from casual eyes, a well of the cleanest, coldest water anyone knew: it was part of the ritual to drink from it with the folding aluminium cup which was brought on every picnic. The return journey seemed to be shorter than the outward one, with that awe-inspiring dash between the echoing walls from Milltown, but we could be sure that the train would stop at Ranelagh: ever since that day, which my parents remembered, when an impetuous engine had burst its way through the end wall of Harcourt St station, all trains had to pause there, even the mainline express, giving that normally somnolent place an undeserved importance for a few moments.
[Editor’s note: I am grateful to David Wynne for the above material. The author, now deceased, used the nom de plume “A Moyner” and lived all his life on Moyne Road in Ranelagh]