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Transport Galleries

The railway collection is housed in the largest single museum gallery space in Ireland. Steam locomotives, passenger carriages and goods wagons are combined with extensive railway memorabilia, interactive displays and visitor facilities including a children's play area (get close by clicking on the images).

Irish Railway Collection

Just how did we get all these huge locomotives into our gallery? Watch this short film to discover the secrets of a large object move:

Click to enlarge: Transport Galleries at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum holds one of the best collections of Trains in Europe The Irish Railway Collection tells the story of over 150 years of railway history. The earliest vehicle is a carriage from Ireland's first railway, the Dublin and Kingstown Railway. The star attraction, however, is Maedb, the largest and most powerful steam locomotive, to be built and run, in Ireland; pictured left. 

Click to enlarge: Transport Galleries at the Ulster Folk & Transport MuseumThe first railway in Ireland opened in 1834. It transported mail and passengers between Dublin and Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire). It was soon followed by a railway between Belfast and Lisburn. Within a decade, railways became very popular and it was realised that they would eventually all join together. Therefore it was important that they all ran on the same width track (gauge). This was agreed as 5'3'' and remains the standard gauge today. The museum has a good selection of standard gauge railway vehicles from all over Ireland.

Click to enlarge: Narrow Gauge Railways in the Transport GalleriesNarrow Gauge Railways

The Tramways Act of 1880 allowed for the construction of smaller light railways with a narrow gauge of 3'. The resulting reduction in construction costs meant that it became feasible to build railway lines in even more remote parts of the country. The museum has an excellent collection of these narrow gauge vehicles including a number from County Donegal.

Industrial Railways

Click to enlarge: Industrial Railways in the Transport Galleries

The use of rails to provide a smooth running surface for wheeled vehicles was known long before the age of steam. The earliest rail track in Ireland was built in the 1740s by Hugh Boyd of Ballycastle, Co Antrim, during the construction of a pier. Industrial railways continued to be built as part of factories and quarries or on large construction sites such as the Silent Valley reservoir.

Useful links:

  • The Railway Preservation Society of Ireland maintains a museum at Whitehead, Co Antrim and operates steam-hauled excursions over the present day Irish railway network for families and enthusiasts.
  • The Downpatrick & Co. Down Railway is Northern Ireland's only standard gauge (i.e. full size) heritage railway and is based in the county town of Down.

Road Transport Gallery

Exterior Road Transport Gallery Along side the Irish Railway Collection is the Road Transport Gallery. This gallery space boasts a fine collection of road-going vehicles ranging from cycles, motorcycles, trams, buses, cars and plenty more besides. The museum collects vehicles from our everyday past, along with some very special oddities. The Road Transport collection is unique, being the only one in the world to feature Irish-built motor cars.

Click to enlarge: DeLorean Car on display in the Transport GalleriesCars
We have a varied collection of cars concentrating mainly on popular everyday examples. We also have a number of rare locally built motor cars including a DeLorean.Click to enlarge: Get your picture taken with the famous DeLorean Car in the Transport Galleries

Transport Museum the cycle collection features representative bicycles from the earliest Dandy Horse, through Penny Farthings up to the Derry-built Viking bikes of the 1980s.

There was great interest in lightweight inexpensive motor scooters both after the end of the First World War in 1918 and again in the 1950s. The gallery has an extensive collection of these economy vehicles on display, many of which were capable of 100 miles to the gallon.

The museum's motorcycle collection shows a representative collection of vehicles dating from the early 1900s through to the café racers of the 1960s. Most of the bikes date from the 1950s when British bikes like Norton and Triumph were household names.

Click to enlarge: Board the Trams in the Transport GalleriesTrams
The tram collection is the most extensive in Ireland with examples of most significant Belfast trams alongside vehicles from Fintona, Howth and the Giant's Causeway.

The gallery has examples of a Belfast Corporation trolleybus and a rear-engined double-decker bus. The museum is also proud to host Ireland's largest bus rally every April.

Fire Engines
Horsedrawn tram Our collection of fire-fighting vehicles includes early hand-hauled pump, hand and steam pumping horsedrawn versions, along with well-known examples made by Merryweather, Dennis and Land Rover.

Vans and Lorries
Our commercial vehicle collection ranges from hand carts and delivery bikes, to larger vans and lorries, mostly from the first half of the Twentieth Century.