Edited by Adrian Hanna.
Comber Historical Society


"The train now standing at Comber Platform 2 is for Belfast."
see below
By Len Ball.

          With childhood memories, having originally lived in the Comber townland of Castleavery below Scrabo, I recall the trains wending their way around the foot of Scrabo hill on their journey between Comber and Newtownards. On the wee high road, now the Scrabo Road, we could watch down on the long trains of carriages or goods wagons as they clanked heavily across farmer Davy-John Orr’s accommodation bridge (still standing behind the modern Lansdowne Estate near West Winds). Railway travel began from Belfast to Newtownards way back in 1850, and by 1861 had extended to Donaghadee. This was the Belfast and Co Down Railway which also went to Bangor via the Belfast lough shore route through Holywood, and also to Newcastle via Comber.
          As a child of seven years I witnessed the eventual closure of the railway in 1950 due to the onslaught of the developing road transport strategy. Buses, lorries and the motor car were to enjoy the monopoly because of the greater convenience, affordability and the all out plans of the authorities to expand the road network as soon as the railways were abandoned. Bangor, however, just across the way fortunately avoided the loss of the railway to Belfast, where the authorities retained a vestige of good sense and, at much expense it must be emphasised, has kept the railway to the seaside town running to this very day. And what a service it is! With excellent modern railcars, timetables and comfortable regular services it is a real asset to the corridor it serves.
          Bangor, as is the rest of this area of North Down, is enlarging enormously all around, and not least Conlig with its housing developments continuing at pace. To glance at the old railway network when the train services were closed in 1950 the course of the line from Belfast called at Dundonald, Comber and Newtownards, and then to within a couple of miles of Bangor at Conlig, before swinging east on its way to Donaghadee. Present maps of the North Down and Ards districts show massive housing programmes continuing around all these areas, right along the very route of our old abandoned railway! Just think, if the government bodies in 1950 had at their disposal a reliable working crystal ball with which to foresee the future, would this North Down area of the old railway have been closed down so expediently?
          Now, there isn’t any law against dreaming, so let’s imagine the following scenario – with the old original line such a short distance from Bangor, wouldn’t it be a heart-warming thought if a connection had been made from Conlig to Bangor? We could today be enjoying an incredible circular rail transport system in this vastly burgeoning part of the province; a service to avail so many of our population from the present overcrowded, environmentally unfriendly and accident prone road legacy that we are invariably locked into today!
          Just study the map for a few moments and ponder the advantages – Belfast, Holywood, Bangor, (not forgetting Conlig), Newtownards, Comber, Dundonald, Belfast, and vice versa. A modern contra-rotating rail route for the social, domestic, business and tourist commuters who would so passionately welcome such an alternative to the depressing and rapidly increasing road chaos which reigns today! Developed as a light rapid transit diesel or electric train or tram service it could have fitted very nicely into the current demand for a safer and more eco friendly environment, providing a step in the right direction towards the climate change question – at least in our wee part of the world! What a jewel in the crown might it have been today?

Ah well, it’s just a train of thought.

Len Ball
‘The railway map that might have been!’

This page consists of photographs supplied by Mr Archibald thankfully we can let you see them before they were lost forever.
These pictures are available in a higher resolution available on CD upon application, please remember P&P.

The plan view of the layout of Comber Railway station.

The list of all stations on the BCDR railway line

Belfast and County Down Railway Coat of Arms.

A small collection of tickets issued on the BCDR Line.

The map of the stations on the BCDR Line.

The Andrews siding on the BCDR line at Comber

The Goods Yard at Comber BCDR.

Steam engine with integral carriage probably stopped in Comber
This is a most unusual train or "Rail Bus" it may be more correctly classed as a "Rail Motor"
which is a very rare vehicle. If you have any information regarding this engine we would
love to hear from you.

Copied from the Website at:-
This picture shows a BCDR Railmotor. Three of these were built, two in 1905 and one in 1906. They were numbered separately from the main locomotive stock as Nos. 1, 2 and 3. This photo is of No. 1. They were used as local trains from Belfast to Holywood and Dundonald until 1918.
It would appear that these engines were constructed by Kitson’s of Leeds which went out of business during the 1930s.
Three railmotors were supplied to BCDR but they were not identical. Motors No 1 and No 2 were 50 ft long and seated 60 passengers. No 3 was 63 ft 6 ins long with 76 seats.
All three railmotors were used extensively and by the time World War One came about they were wearing out.
No 3 railmotor derailed at Ballymacarrett because of unreported damage caused the previous night. By November 1915 No 3’s firebox was badly damaged and needed serious repair.
It was decided to purchase a replacement railmotor for No 3 during October 1916 but permission to purchase was denied because of the war. The other engines eventually became unusable because of boiler tube and valve failures.

Citation #1
Bob Rush (British Steam Raiicars, Oakwood Press 1971)

Citation #2
Desmond Coakham, An Irish Railway Pictorial, Midland Publishing 2003
Coakham is a prolific author of many books on the subject of trains and coaches.

Comber Railway Station, view looking towards Newtownards and Newcastle.
The shed still exists and is now used by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.
The line has become the bed for the Comber Bypass.

Comber, Train arriving from Donaghadee via Newtownards.

The Signal Box at Comber BCDR

The front of the Old Railway Station at Comber.

Comber Railway Station.

Comber Railway station with stationary trains.

Comber Railway Station.

A view of the houses in Railway Street Comber, the white building to the right
is now the TT Restaurant and Lounge.

A train on its journey from Comber on the line towards Newcastle.

Engine No 5 leaves Comber with the lunchtime train for Ballynahinch.

Engine No. 30 Leaving Comber.

An unidentified railway cutting close to Comber on the BCDR.

The "Gullet" cutting just outside Comber BCDR..

Unidentified train at Comber Station.

Train No 19 at Comber Station.

Train No 7 At Comber Station.

The following images with thanks to Mr Colin Little.
Please note these are full sized images.
Train No 10 At Comber Station 7th September 1935.

Train No 7 At Comber Station Comber to Glassmoss 20th August 1932.

Belfast to Newcastle and D1

Trains No 18 and 30 Belfast to Newcastle. 11th April 1939

No 15 at Comber.

Comber staff,   : Andy MaGowan ... Alex Neill ... Jim Minnis, 4th May 1932.

If you have any comments about what you have just read
then please contact
We will be pleased to hear from you.