Guinness Brewery Railway

Gauge: 1ft 10in (560mm)

The Guinness Brewery in Dublin, Ireland, had an extensive railway system between 1873 and 1975.

Guinness Brewery in St James’s Gate, Dublin was founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759, one of dozens based on the pure water available from the River Liffey. Guinness outlasted and outgrew all its competitors to become one of the greatest brewing empires in the world. During the nineteenth century the business benefited from an explosive growth of sales in Britain. Output reached 750,000 barrels in 1875 and 1.2 million barrels in 1886, by which time St James’s Gate was the largest brewery in the world.

Between 1868 and 1886 Guinness spent over £1 million on capital projects. A Grand Canal tributary was cut into the brewery to enable special Guinness barges to carry consignments out onto the Irish canal system or to the Dublin port. Much of the work was drawn up by Samuel Geoghegan who joined the engineering staff in 1872 at the age of 28 and in 1875 became Chief Engineer.

Guinness having outgrown its site had acquired land between the brewery and the Liffey to allow for expansion, access to the railway network via a direct link with the Kingsbridge terminus of the Great Southern & Western Railway and access to the Port of Dublin via a river quay. As well as despatch and receipt of empty casks, the cooperage, washing and filling facilities, and discharge of waste products were all transferred to the lower site. But with the two sites, movement of ever larger quantities of heavy, bulky raw materials and waste products became even more of a problem. Existing manpower and horse drawn methods were slow and inefficient.

The solution was the construction of a narrow gauge railway network serving the entire brewery. Much of the system was laid between 1873 and 1877 supervised by Geoghegan. He set the track gauge at 1ft 10ins, with a loading gauge of five feet wide and a headway of six feet.

St James Street split the old brewery from the new extension and there was a difference of some 50 feet in levels as the new land dropped sharply down to the Liffey. To connect the two halves of the brewery and overcome the difference in levels Geoghegan built a spiral tunnel in the old brewery leading under the street. The spiral had the steepest gradient on the network, 1 in 40 and 2.65 turns dropped the line about 33feet. A marshalling yard was laid out in the lower half of the brewery and the railway took in the Liffey Quay. Some years later a broad gauge line was built to connect the lower brewery with the Kingsbridge rail terminal.

The narrow gauge system served all parts of the brewery and most operations. At the lower level over 8000 casks could be moved in a day, serving the broad gauge link, the quay and washing plant. On the middle level trains ran between the malt store and the maltings. On the upper level malt and hops were taken to the brewhouse. On both upper and middle levels trains removed used hops and spent grain to disposal points lower down

In 1875 the first steam locomotive was delivered from Sharp, Stewart. It proved to be unsatisfactory as did four further locomotives due mainly to maintenance problems. Geoghegan designed his own loco, an 0-4-0 side tank with horizontal cylinders mounted above the boiler. Drive was via vertical connecting rods. Instead of being fixed to the boiler, the cylinders were attached to the side frames which were the full height of the loco. An independent spring frame could be wheeled out from under the lifted loco. The entire design was based around ease of maintenance and maximum protection from dirt.

The prototype locomotive was built in England in 1882 by the Avonside Engine Co. All eighteen others were built by William Spence in Dublin. The last Geoghegan loco, No 24, was built in 1920. Geoghegan also designed a standard side tipping wagon and flat bogie wagon of which large numbers were built.

For use on the broad gauge link, Geoghegan built ingenious converter vehicles which he called “haulage trucks”. A narrow gauge loco could be lifted and dropped into the frames of the “haulage truck” where its driving wheels rested on rollers geared to drive the running wheels of the truck. Thus a broad gauge loco was produced. Four “haulage trucks” were built and continued in use even after conventional broad gauge locomotives were purchased in 1921.

In the early 1940s it was decided to begin replacing the ageing steam locomotives with diesels. The restricted loading gauge and sharp curvatures of much of the system presented many design problems. Finally F C Hibberd & Co. produced its 37hp “Planet” loco in 1947, of which 12 were supplied by 1951.

By 1964 much of the narrow gauge system had become redundant, with other means of handling available, and locos began to be laid up. The lines in the lower brewery and quayside had already closed in 1961. The broad gauge link closed in 1965, but the narrow gauge system lingered on until the last train, diesel powered, ran on 5th August 1975.

Number / NameManufacturerTypeNotes
1Sharp, Stewart & Co. No.2477 of 18750-4-0STScrapped 1913
2 HopsStephen Lewin & Co. of 18760-4-0T gear driveScrapped 1914
3 MaltStephen Lewin & Co. of 18760-4-0T gear driveScrapped 1927
4Sharp, Stewart & Co. No.2764 of 18780-4-0TScrapped 1925
5Sharp, Stewart & Co. No.2765 of 18780-4-0TScrapped 1925
6Avonside & Co. No.1337 of 18820-4-0TWithdrawn 1936. Scrapped 1947
7William Spence & Co. of 18870-4-0TScrapped 1948
8William Spence & Co. of 18870-4-0TScrapped 1948
9William Spence & Co. of 18870-4-0TScrapped 1949
10William Spence & Co. of 18910-4-0TScrapped 1949
11William Spence & Co. of 18910-4-0TScrapped 1949
12William Spence & Co. of 18910-4-0TScrapped 1954
13William Spence & Co. of 18950-4-0TTo the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum 1956
14William Spence & Co. of 18950-4-0TScrapped 1951
15William Spence & Co. of 18950-4-0TWithdrawn 1957. Now at Stradbally Woodland Railway, Co. Laois
16William Spence & Co. of 19020-4-0TScrapped 1951
17William Spence & Co. of 19020-4-0TWithdrawn 1962. Preserved on site
18William Spence & Co. of 19020-4-0TScrapped 1951
19William Spence & Co. of 19020-4-0TScrapped 1951
20William Spence & Co. of 19050-4-0TTo Ulster Folk and Transport Museum 1956
21William Spence & Co. of 19050-4-0TWithdrawn 1959
22William Spence & Co. of 19120-4-0TWithdrawn 1957
23William Spence & Co. of 19210-4-0TTo Amberley Museum 1966
24William Spence & Co. of 19210-4-0TSurvives?
25F C Hibberd & Co. No.3068 of 19474wDM
26F C Hibberd & Co. No.3255 of 19484wDM
27F C Hibberd & Co. No.3256 of 19484wDM
28F C Hibberd & Co. No.3257 of 19484wDMWithdrawn 1961
29F C Hibberd & Co. No.3258 of 19484wDM
30F C Hibberd & Co. No.3259 of 19484wDMWithdrawn 1961
31F C Hibberd & Co. No.3446 of 19504wDM
32F C Hibberd & Co. No.3444 of 19504wDM
33F C Hibberd & Co. No.3445 of 19504wDMWithdrawn 1961
34F C Hibberd & Co. No.3448 of 19504wDM
35F C Hibberd & Co. No.3449 of 19504wDM
36F C Hibberd & Co. No.3447 of 19504wDMDelivered 1951 after display at the Festival of Britain