Brian McCann's Irish Narrow Gauge layout


3mm/ft TTn3 9mm gauge


Castlefinn is a small town in north-west Ireland. It nestles in the valley of the River Finn on the County Donegal side of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Fifty years ago, Castlefinn was the location of the most picturesque station on that most quintessential of narrow gauge lines in Ireland, the County Donegal Railways.

Castlefinn’s other claim to fame is that it was the location of the main Irish Customs post on the County Donegal Railways. Throughout the period from 1922 to the closure of the system at the end of 1959, all trains had to stop at Castlefinn for Customs examination. Thankfully, this practise has now disappeared. Unfortunately, so has the CDR but not for the same reason.

Set during the Summer of 1959, Castlefinn depicts the swansong of the County Donegal Railway in the Finn Valley prior to its closure at the beginning of 1960. Notwithstanding the closure of the Strabane – Derry section some five years earlier in 1955 with the consequent decrease in coal and oil traffic, the CDR continued to maintain a variety of traffic through Castlefinn.

Railcar passenger services in a variety of formations formed the backbone of the CDR operation in tandem with steam hauled goods trains, mixed trains and passenger specials. Most railcars used the Up platform where services were subject to Customs examination by officials in white hats, a hardship which was abolished with the advent of the EU, albeit after the closure of the CDR.

Supported on a plywood box baseboard, the station features a single track with passing loop and two sidings supported by a six-track fiddle yard at the rear. With the exception of the three railcars, which feature brass bodies from Worsley Works, the buildings and stock were mostly scratchbuilt from plasticard of varying thickness and shape. All of the stock is fitted with Microtrains couplings and runs on highly modified N gauge chassis from Minitrix (railcar), Kato (steam locos), Lima/Grafar (coaches) and Peco (goods).

Operation is based on the 1959 timetable, which provided 13 services each way each day. The timetable provides for two railcars to pass in the loop while the eastbound goods is subject to Customs examination on the Down platform and the sidings are occupied by the stock for a passenger special.

Photos by XXX

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Last updated: 06-09-2009