Development of the Railway

On 16 November 1845 the Belfast & Ballymena Railway (B&BR) started building the 33¼ miles of track between Belfast and Ballymena via Greenisland. Advertisements were placed in the newspapers on 8 April 1848 to inform the public that the B&BR would be open for passenger traffic on 12 April. Due to a delay in starting operations, it was decided not to have an official opening ceremony; however, two special trains ran on 11 April to give members of the press and potential customers a foretaste of rail travel. The normal train service was five trains each way per day. The railway line was later extended to Londonderry via Coleraine and a branch line to Carrickfergus was opened later in 1848 and extended to Larne in 1862.

Site of former level crossing Site of former level crossing (subway is on the right)

Carrickfergus Junction,as Greenisland was then known, was important because its turntable was used to turn the trains coming from Londonderry and Coleraine to join the line to Belfast. This was undesirable but a direct line would have had to cross Valentine’s Glen near Whiteabbey and manage the steep incline to Mossley. It was only in 1934, as part of a government unemployment scheme, that the engineering difficulties were overcome and a new “loop line” over the Greenisland Viaduct at Bleach Green was opened. Although the distance covered by the Loop Line was only two miles less than by the old route, eliminating the reversal at Greenisland saved as much as fifteen minutes per journey.

Site of former stables Site of former stables

The opening of the railway encouraged people to move out of Belfast and the building of houses in Greenisland increased. The 1860 Railway Company offered inducements to commuters by providing owners of newly-built houses within one mile of any of the stations between Belfast and Carrickfergus with free travel to Belfast for ten years. The class of ticket (1st, 2nd or 3rd) depended on the Poor Law Valuation of their house. Houses began to spring up in the vicinity of the railway station and soon the main centre of the population shifted from the shore. In 1893, after a bigger station was constructed, the name ‘Greenisland’ was adopted. Transport was provided for passengers from their home to the nearest station by horse drawn buses. These buses travelled along the Shore Road transporting passengers to either Whiteabbey or Greenisland stations. The old stable at Station Square is now the hairdressers and this also marks the site of the original level crossing.

During the air raids of April and May 1941, York Road Station in Belfast was severely damaged. Offices and accommodation were almost completely gutted and the stores at Greenisland Station were taken over as offices for the Belfast staff.

Horse bus on Shore Road Horse bus on Shore Road

One local resident has fond memories of helping herd livestock transported by train.

“Cattle were imported from Glasgow to Belfast by McClelland’s Auctioneers, Ballyclare. Several hundred cattle were brought to Greenisland by train. The cattle were released from the wagons and herded up the Upper Station Road to their destinations. Locals including children would help by standing in gateways to prevent the cattle straying into gardens. It was as though the Ulster version of Rawhide was taking place and everyone became a ‘Rowdy Yates’ for that moment.”

Local children had a treat when they were able to visit the famous, horse Trigger. Roy Rogers and his wife Dale Evans had flown to Northern Ireland to promote Sunday Schools, Trigger had travelled by ship and train and was kept overnight in his horse box at Greenisland so that he wouldn’t be disturbed by the noise in Belfast.

Platform 1 Platform 1 (water tank to right)

At this time the railway station was open from early morning until late at night and staff worked shifts. Staff included a station master, 2 booking clerks, head porter, foreman, 2 porters and 3 signal men. The porters had to clean and oil lamps in the lamp room and in the evening they carried lighted lamps out to the signals. A water tank was used to fill up the engines and the water for the tank came from a small dam behind Mullaghmore Park. Greenisland got an award for the best kept station in Northern Ireland for 4 consecutive years in the mid to late 1950s.

Platform 2 View of Platform 2 from Platform 1

“Platform 1 housed the station house, garden and stores, Platform 2 housed the booking office, station master’s office, gent’s toilet, ladies’ waiting room and toilet. During the cold weather there was always a lovely big fire in the waiting room.”

In the mid 1950s a ramp replaced the steps on Platform 2 to facilitate mothers with prams.

A local resident remembers the generosity of business man Mr Murray of Murray’s Bookmakers who lived in School Lane.

“He cut quite a figure in his long gabardine raincoat, Churchillian hat and wearing those very dark horn rimmed glasses. Every Friday night without fail, as he emerged from the train and came up the ramp towards School Lane, he would throw a handful of sixpenny pieces to the assembled group which created what resembled a rugby scrum. You had to be quick to capture the rewards.”

Parcel Deliveries Parcel Deliveries at Whiteabbey Station (mid 1940s - mid 1950s)

The station house and stores had already been demolished when the station was burnt down in 1986. The current station was rebuilt to a smaller specification with an office and waiting room on Platform 1 and a sheltered area on Platform 2. The station is now single manned at peak times only.

Parking at Greenisland Station is limited to a few spaces in Station Square. This lack of parking for those who wish to commute to Belfast by train combined with the congestion around Greenisland Primary School at drop-off and pick-up times has led to the proposal of a significant ‘Park & Ride’ facility with turning circle to be located just above the station.

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