Many years ago when I set up this site I didn't know much about the Thumpers in Northern Ireland as it was only thought we would cover the units used in the South East of England.
When we set up the Facebook page we quickly got a number of Thumper fans from Northern Ireland so bit by bit the section on the N.I Units grew.
During this period the Thumpers had their final demise and we had a few articles but for many years I wanted to visit to see the last units so in 2017 I decided to bite the bullet and go over.
The 450 Class had all ready been withdrawn but one unit had been preserved at The Downpatrick & County Down Railway but there was also a surviving 80 Class still in use as a Sandite Unit on the mainline.
The 450 was east to see but the biggest challenge was the 80. It is kept for reserve Sandite duties incase there is problems with the new MPV which was purchased to replace it, so if it heads out on the main line it is at short notice, so another way of seeing it was needed.
I spoke to Robert Gardiner the Chairman of the Downpatrick Railway who put me in touch with NI Railways and through many emails I gained access to the main depot at York Road.
So that was my manic weekend in Belfast and what a great place it was which I will be returning to.
It is hoped that next year Downpatrick will have an 80Class when they are finally withdrawn so thats another reason to visit but even without Thumpers there is a vast variety of heritage and some really good museums and is well worth a visit.
Finally I want to thank Ian Campbell and Richard Noble from Translink (NI Railways) and Robert Gardiner, Mike Beckett and Norman Bodel from the Downpatrick and County Down Railway
The next day was the trip to Downpatrick to see 450 Class No 458
On arrival I was given a wonderful warm welcome even though the railway was closed to the public.
After having a tour round the entire base including the off limits areas (I will do an article about all of Downpatrick at a later date) I was informed they were going to fire up the Thumper to keep the batteries charged. For a Video of that click Here
To finish the tour there was the spare Driving Trailer in the depot No 794, I must be honest I had forgotten all about this so of course I had to photograph it from all angles
The best view I could get of trailer 752, which has sadly recently been graffitied
The cab and engine room of No 90
Power car No 90 parked alongside its replacement 3006
The interior is being modified but done in a way to make it look original.
The seating was 3+2 but is being changed to 2+2, this is for a couple of reasons, firstly the 3+2 seating is very cramped and secondly there is more room for wheelchairs which is a bonus as when in service they had to remain in the vestibule by the doors.
A Buffet is also being fitted and this looks like it could have been fitted when the train was in service.
Another modification is the addition of tables, these were recovered from Mk3 coaches so are period to the train and are another feature which could have been fitted whilst in service
69 or 8069 as it was later numbered was at the far end of the train
Finally the last Thumper vehicle is 728, like 550 was part of a 70 Class formation and is used as part of the normal running set on the railway.
When this was saved the railway also saved a Driving Trailer but sadly this was destroyed in an arson attack.
After leaving the Thumper I photographed 112 but as we went round the corner I had another surprise of 111 & 113
A weekend in Belfast
The best shot I could get of 97 along with the interior and Sandite equipment
458 Sits at Downpatrick ready to be started
After the depot visit it was time to head north to Whitehead which is the Northern base for RPSI, The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland.
Many people will say they don't have a Thumper but in a way they do, there is a former LMS/NCC Buffet Car 87 which towards the end of its life was renumbered 550 and marshalled into a 70 Class so therefor is part of a Thumper
Upon arrival at the depot I was given the usual safety briefing but as I am a driver it was kept to a minimum, when asked what I wanted to see I was taken through the main maintenance shed where there was some of the new units being serviced. Also another thing I would of liked to see was the big American built GM locomotives from the 071 Class No's 111-113, as there is only three I thought id be lucky to see one but as I was lead through the shed I could see one outside.
Then we got outside and I took a few shots of 112 before going round the corner to see the reason for my journey, the Sandite unit parked in the siding with the engines running.
I was given free access to take photos but I couldn't go too far down one side as it was adjacent to the main line so shots of the middle vehicles were limited.
The unit is made up of 4 vehicles 90 at the front followed by trailer 752, coupled to that is Sandite car former power car 97, this is used as a trailer as the engine is a non runner and finally at the other end Power Car 69