Hello, and welcome to my personal review of photographic highlights of 2016. This part 3 covers July to September and all aspects - rail, bus and air - but hopefully with something to interest everyone. I have not covered all newsworthy happenings by any means, but have seen some interesting workings and a couple of unique and unusual items over the year; but I hope the collection gives a feel for the year - both the ordinary, and the less usual.
Obviously these are only a small selection of the shots uploaded over the year. These pages are arranged so that if you click on one of the images, the gallery it is from will open up. In most cases, this will cover the day and category - eg the first image will open a gallery of rail photographs from 1st September.
Enjoy the pictures - and feel free to comment on any of my feeds (Facebook, Twitter or E-Mail) if you have any comment or queries.
In Portlaoise, the Electric Picnic festival created additional rail passengers, and the need to bus large numbers of people to the small village of Stradbally. Other than that, an unusual stock move and some regular movments through the Midlands.
Day 3 of the first Belmond tour sees 226 head through Portlaoise on the 1st September with the 0820 Charleville - Galway leg. Cork driver Tom Ryan is at the controls, giving a friendly wave as he passes; he'll be relieved at Portarlington.
The crewing arrangements have been quite complicated. Mark 3 sets require a guard, a role that has largely disappeared from IÉ, and several staff were retrained to the role. A small group of drivers from several depots were also selected to work the train. Complications over propelling and running round have also resulted in some complicated moves to get the service to and from the Northern line for its runs to Belfast.
The annual Electric Picnic music festival in Stradbally attracts many thousands to the small village near Portlaoise. As railhead, many arrive at the Laois county town by train, and onward transport is arranged, with local operator Martleys providing the shuttles for the last few years. This gives the chance to see some older, more interesting vehicles on service work rather than schools, where photographing the buses can be an issue.
Here we see Plaxton bodied DAF SB3000 00-WW-1498 picking up outside the station after the arrival of a train on the 2nd.
A glimpse up at teh loop while photographing the Electric Picnic shuttle buses revealed celebrity 071 standing in the loop facing Dublin. A quick dash up the stairs and over the bridge resulted in shots of this PW working, an 1130 Portlaoise - North Wall, being obtained.
The sequel was that news of this working spread quickly, and several people gathered in Dublin to see it, only for the loco to be removed at Inchicore. Sorry, lads :)
Not what it seems at first glance!
The whole Bus Éireann VG Class passed to Bernard Kavanagh for onward sale, and this coach has arrived at Martleys along with at least one other of the same batch. This one still retains Bus Éireann livery, minus lettering.
The former VG16 is seen preparing to depart for the festival on the 2nd.
The oldest coach seen on the shuttles was this 1990 Plaxton Paramount bodied Volvo B10M - a classic late 1980s / early 1990s combination. It is seen here pausing briefly while the loading area clears on the 2nd.
Now here's a rarity - a brand new bus operating in County Laois, with a County Laois operator!
162-LS-396, a Volvo B8RLE with MCV Evolution bodywork, is currently unique in Ireland and is seen in Portlaoise on its scheduled regular working to and from Tullamore via Mountmellick on 6th September.
With a growing fleet of Solos, and now this, Slieve Bloom operates by far the most accessible fleet in the county.
A rare catch was this Plaxton Supreme bodied Volvo B58, new to an operator near Derby. It has been converted to an "eco-friendly" café and party bus, although I'm not sure that a 1980s Volvo engine can be defined as green by todays standards!
It is seen in Portlaoise on the 6th, having spent the previous weekend at the Electric Picnic festival, ministering to the needs of the festival goers.
And still the variety on the Athlone-based 73 diagram continues! This time we see SP67, still carrying branding for the 64 service from Derry to Galway.
I finally got a front end shot of the dedicated loco on the Belmond on the 15th!
216 brings the 0820 Charleville - Galway through Portlaoise.
The failure of 22027 in Rosslare set of quite a sequence of events. After attempts to repair it on site failed, it was decided to drag it back to Laois Traincare. This set in train a two-day movement at limited speed via Dublin hauled by 084.
The very rare movement is seen at Portlaoise on the 15th. A minor panic ensured here, as the 0920 ex Cork arrived in the platform at just the wrong moment, meaning a clearer shot was not possible.
Whether planned all along, or the NTA were getting complaints about the vehicle variability on the 73 I know not, but at the end of September NTA sponsored SC339 was transferred from Galway to Athlone and ensconced on the 73 diagram, on which it became regular for the rest of the year.
The transport for Ireland branded coach is seen on the 0915 from Athlone on the 27th. While Wi-Fi is available, despite the branding suggesting otherwise Leapcards are definitely not!
Some of the black and silver 071s are now looking extremely rough. I remember the days when th orange livery was disappearing, and although dirty, I don't remember the rust and holes seen currently.
073 is seen on the 30th departing the station loop with the semi-regular Portlaoise - Waterford empty rail train. Scheduled at 0915 on this occasion, this shot was taken at 1052; one of the joys of trying to photograph these workings!
To round of the month, class pioneer 071 is seen in Portlaoise PW yard with a spoil train, highlighted by the sun. Taken from the gate on Mountrath Road, the positions of both the loco and the sun were right for once!
In addition to regualr movements through Portlaoise, I took a trip to Limerick in order to ride the Nenagh branch line and take a brief look at the city's bus services. The Belmond Grand Hibernian also came to the end of its first short season, and at the end of the month a trip to Raheny for a model railway exhibition included DARTs in the main Connolly trainshed as well as a look at bus and train services in the capital.
Emphasising the comments about 071s in the previous shot of 073, here we see the loco heading a PW train south from Portlaoise with a 0955 working to Clonmel on the 4th October.
Not only are there rust patches, an old orange door panel is fitted, and the loco looks like it hasn't seen a wash for a considerable time. While it no longer works passenger services, it is still seen by the public and does not reflect well.
A fairly unusual visitor was this Eamonn Spruhan Plaxton Premier bodied Volvo B7R, 02-CW-3064, seen passing through Portlaoise on the 5th.
The Belmond Grans Hibernian again, this time passing Clonminam on the approaches to Portlaoise with the 0820 Charleville - Galway leg. A hadn't looked at this location for a wile, and was rather disappointed with the lineside growth.
Bus Éireann SE23 passes junction 17 on the M7 with a Cork - Dublin Airport X12 service. This used to divert into the town centre and run via the old N8 (now N77), but ceased to do so not long after the final section of motorway was completed - leaving Portlaoise without a proper bus link to Cork, and several towns villages with no service at all.
Eventually the NTA contracted M&A Coaches to run the 828, but this has had several timetable variations since introduction to try and balance costs and revenue. Connections are ostensibly provided via Expressway services to and from Dublin at Portlaoise, and to and from Cork at Cashel, with through fares (single only) available. while those at Portlaoise are reasonable, those at Cashel are poor, with long waits required at streetside bus stops. The alternative for Portlaoise - Cork passengers is the rather more expensive train service.
On the 12th, I took a chance to have a ride on the threatened Ballybrophy - Limerick line. Here we see 2808+2807 waiting in the bay at Ballybrophy to form the 1005 to Limerick via Nenagh.
It was a pleasant enough, if slightly tedious 2 hour ride, seldom exceeding 40mph and stopping to do little business at most of the intermediate stops en route. What the future there is for the line remains to be seen, but in its current form it is not sustainable.
As I left the station, I was pleased to see this! SR50 arrives in to bus station with a local service. Still in the old livery, there are very few of these left in local service, and not that many in the schools fleet. Unfortunately it left empty for the depot a few minutes later, or I would have been tempted to go for a ride!
From the old to the new. VE14 is seen loading up before running an X51 service non-stop to Galway. It is an interesting thought on the economics that the 51/X51 Cork - Galway corridor can apparently support brand new SE and VE class vehicles, but the Limerick - Dublin route is still using SP and LC Class vehicles all over 7 years old.
I'm well used to Dublin Coach in Portlaoise, but the company also operate a local service in Limerick. This is more unusual in that it is operated with Citaro artics, not something normally associated with smaller cities!
03-KE-16223 is seen on the 12th in Patrick St, with a 307 service to Cappavilla. Dublin Coach use similar vehicles in Dublin, under the Quickpark brand linking an off-site car park with Dublin Airport.
I was hoping to see at least one of these, for record prurposes at least; VWD51 is seen on Sarsfield St with a local service.
The Streetdeck style front end is a bit like Marmite - you either love it or hate it. While I love Marmite, I am not a fan of this ugly looking creation. With disjointed, uncoordinated angles at the front, and a very unbalance look of the sides with the huge difference in window heights, they just look a mess to me. In fairness, the BÉ livery does sit on it slightly better than some I have seen - but that is rather damning with faint praise!
Most local services in Limerick are provided by VWL class Volvos. Here we see VWL174 in Sarsfield St after arriving with a local service.
Again we see evidence of advertising revenue taking priority over passenger amenity, with a large fixed ad panel over the first window on the off-side. Many VWLs have the "feature" both here and in Cork.
I have many shots of JJ Kavanagh 735 in Portlaoise, so here for a change is one in Limerick! 06-W-11, a Setra 415GT-HD, is seen in the city centre.
A surpise was this ex Dublin Bus Olympian, now on sightseeing duties in the city of Limerick operated by Carrig Coaches.
90-D-1011, formerly Dublin Bus RH11, is seen on Henry SDt with what appears to be a fairly meagre load - perhaps not unexpected in mid October!
074 is seen at Portarlington with the late running (thankfully, for me!) 0815 Portlaoise - North Wall empty steel working on the 20th. It is being signalled into the loop, to wait for a gap in services before the next hop to Kildare.
216 arrives with the final scheduled Belmond tour of the year on 20th October. After crew relief, it will run into the down loop at the East end of the station to allow the loco to run round, before continuing West to Galway.
While the livery looks smart (at least when clean!), it is a complete pain to try and photograph in less than perfect conditions!
22057 brings the 1022 Portlaoise - Heuston local service over the junction with the Galway line into Portarlington station.
It's a while since I've watched a 201 take a rake of mark s onto the Galway line - they were a different colour then, and rather less expensive to travel on!
216 takes the luxury train round the tight curve before accelerating on towards Tullamore and Galway.
With the Belmond clear, 076 was unhooked from its spoil train in the yard and sen light engine to Portlaoise. Here it opens up through Portarlington station.
With one Neoplan out of action long term due to fire damage, a period of single deckers appearing on the Dublin coach service occurred from the middle of the month. Here we see King Long coach 141-KE-120 running round to form the 1030 to Dublin Airport on the 25th. With a very high floorline, and narrow entrance and stairs, it is not perhaps the best vehicle for use on a stopping service, but it does add interest!
The marque has not been without issues, both over the dealership arrangements in the UK and build quality issues, but it is likely that this will be addressed as China tries to push its exports higher up the quality spectrum.
A trip to Raheny for a model railway show gave a late opportunity to visit Dublin on the 31st. Due to engineering work at Pearse, the DART was split with no services between Connolly and Grand Canal Dock. As a result, the rare sight pertained of DARTs in the terminal trainshed at Connolly rather than the loop line platforms.
8615+8615 stand in platform 5 with a Malahide bound service.
Revisiting old haunts! Now with Bernard Kavanagh, former Bus Éireann VG4 is seen on hire to its former owner working a duplicate service. It is seen on Storew St, Dublin on the 31st.
One of the newest Dublin Bus deliveries, SG248 is seen on Berresford Place with a 15 to Clongriffin.
It is interesting that Dublin Bus has stuck with their modified version of the Gemini 1/2 front end, rather than going for the Streetdeck inspired Gemini 3 front, in contrast to sister company Bus Éireann. How long Wrightbus will be willing to offer this option remains to be seen.
Arrgghh! Not only are the windows covered with an advert plastered over them, the advert is for a direct competitor to bus services! As one operator who eschewed private advertising on their vehicles said to me once - "If the advertising space is that effective, why not advertise our own services there?" That operator is known as one of the best in the UK, and a pioneer in customer service and route marketing.
First Aircoach 142-D-15753 is seen on O'Connell Bridge wit one of the shuttle services fro the Airport to South County Dublin.
Dublin Coach operate sightseeing services under the Cityscape name. The core fleet is now a batch of these Plaxton President bodied Tridents, such as 03-KE-16278 seen here on O'Connell St. However, the service started using single deck coaches, which do sometimes appear, and there are also runs by various heritage vehicles, including the inevitable Routemaster but also some rather more interesting vehicles.
The service had a troubled start - initially the standard green was used, but Dublin Bus objected to this - and went to court to back it up - on the rather spurious grounds that it would be confused with thier services - depsite that being quite a different shade and application. Nonetheless, Cityscape had to be rebranded in this gold colour.
Finally for the month, 222 is seen on the 1900 to Cork at Heuston station on the 31st. We were quite early, hence the lack of people cluttering the background!
Largely local this month, with some unusual workings on the 726 and X12, and a new low-floor operator.
1st November, and an unusual visitor on the X12. Formerly branded for Eurolines and used on services to the UK, here we see SP90 picking up in Portlaoise with the late running 1530 to Dublin Airport.
As with many cascaded vehicles, the debranding has not been complete, with the previous branding still evident on the front dome.
Laois Offaly Local Link operate this Mercedes midi on rural services in both counties. Good luck trying to find what they are though - I have never found any information online!
It is seen on the 1st in Laois Shopping Centre car park.
Still apparently short of Neoplans, Dublin Caoch had two saloons on the 1330 Dublin Airport - Portlaoise - a sight repeated several times during the month.
Here a pair of Setras - 04-D-22632 and 12-D-28993 - drop off after arrival at Portlaoise.
Recently overhauled 234 is seen on the 18th with the 0920 Cork - Heuston. The livery does look good when clean, however the light grey underframe and bogies are not practical, and quickly turn brown with a combination of brake dust and track dirt.
The introduction of the EVN numbering system has meant that the front numbers are now somewhat smaller than previously, and the cabside numbers are now not shadowed, but other than that the current round of repaints has not simplified the livery as has happened with the 29000s and 071s in particular.
When introduced, the "bread van" minibuses were seen as short term, and not robust enough for bus operation. While the Vario was a development of those early buses, this one has gone on to give a very respectable lifespan worthy of a purpose built PSV.
Now operating with Francis, Daingean is this 18 year old example is seen in Portlaoise on the 18th.
The 0830 from Dublin Airport on the 18th was again in the hands of a pair of single deck Setras on the 18th, on this occasion these being 04-D-34316 and 04-D-22845. The first is in the branding for the shuttle between Dundrum and the Airport, calling at Red Cow interchange and providing connections from longer distance services.
The Dublin Coach operation has grown significantly over the last couple of years, and has shown some inn ovation. The concern maybe that they have grown too quickly, and must be careful to ensure that back up services - especially management and maintenance, are boosted to adequately support that growth.
Another operator joined the low-floor club this year. Seen on the Kyle Centre on the 29th, Optare Solo 08-CE-44 is now with M&A Coaches, and has been used on the 828 service to Cashel, supplementing step-entrance Mercededs midis on the route.
The bus was new to Pat Keogh, Clarecastle.
Generally sunny weather with low sunlight led to some interesting conditions for photography! Highlighs include a new bus service in Portlaoise, the discovery f an error dating back nearly 20 years, and a new arrival at Universal PSV.
The 0700 Tralee - Heuston passes Portlaoise at speed on a frosty December 1st with Premier Class set 22031 in charge. This is the longest through service on Irish Rail, running daily (different times on Sundays) in each direction.
The impressive length of the Skyliner is caught as this example departs from Portlaoise and catches the sun broadside on the morning of the 1st December. 04-KE-16272 departs with the 1130 to Dublin Airport.
Operated by local company Whelans, this Transit is somewhat customised, with visor, bullbar and additional front and bodyside lights. 12-LS-1416 is seen on the 5th on a school contract working.
Another rare event involving Slieve Bloom! On December 5th, a new service was started between Moutrath and Kilkenny via various villages including Stradbally, Balleyragget and Castelcomer. The service operates twice daily, and vastly increases some local trips (eg Portlaoise - Stradbally) as well as longer ones.
Here, we see Optare Solo 07-LS-3184 arrive at Portlaoise on the first journey of the new service. Here's hoping the service will be a success!
Scania / Irizar combinations are common in Ireland - Bus Éireann is a very large user of the combination. Here we have a more unusual visitor to Portlaoise, in the shape of Glasheen of Thurles.
07-D-48952 is seen passing through the town centre with a private working on the 5th. Sadly, many independents in Ireland rely on dealer white with basic lettering, mainly due to the costs of developing and applying bespoke liveries in areas of relatively low population where margins are tight.
Ballast regulator 703 is seen passing through Portlaoise southbound on the 5th December.
Workings such as this are seldom known in advance, and while the main base for these machines is in Kildare, they can occasionally be found in the yard at Portlaoise, and elsewhere if the sidings or yard are convenient for the worksite. Pathing machines running at relatively low speeds can be an issue on busy main lines!
I have mentioned how timekeeping of PW workings can be, at best, variable. On the 5th, there was a 1030 Portlaise - Platin relay train expected. AS I walked past the yard earlier, I noted that there was no loco in the yard, but arriving at the station at 1015 I was welcomed with the sight of 083 running into the station loop from the Portarlington direction. I therefore hung around to see what would happen.
Fortunately for me, the two coincided although the train was held in the loop for some time before a path could be found. Here 083 leaves the loop with this PW service at 1105.
This photo unravelled a bit of a mystery!
Elderly MAN / Caetano 97-D-23699 is seen entering Portlaoise with a school trip, but searches on my usual sources picked up no information. Sharing online resulted in the information that it had been recorded from new in several publications under the registration 97-D-23669. It had been new to Eirebus, before sale in the UK and eventual return in 2013 to Healy, Rochfortbridge.
083 again, this time on the 9th with an empty rail train bound for Waterford.
To even things up, on this occasion the train was ready to depart on time, but issues and delays to other services - including Garda attendance to an up Cork service - caused a near 40 minute late departure.
I took a ride round to Clonominam for the first ime in a while on the 16th, and was rewarded with the sight of this new arrival at local operator Universal PSV.
Seen parked at Conniberry Junction is MAN/Beulas T3AXL (lovng the UK "Private" plate!), with replacement lettering on the livery of its previous owner, Wilkins Bros of Port Talbot.
As we head into the end of the year, 220 heads into the sunset on the 19th with the 1500 Heuston - Cork. This was its first day out following overhaul, and is the second loco to receive yellow-backed nameplates - the first being 217.