Kilkenny’s Railway Station
Irish Railways were built between the 19th and early 20th Centuries, the Dublin to Dun Laoghaire line been the first to open in 1834. Kilkenny Station first opened its doors in September 1847 and not without controversy as the cost having been estimated at £14,000 had more than doubled to £31,471.
The first train did not arrive until May 1848 when the line to Thomastown (11 miles distance) was opened. Passengers disembarked and completed their journey to Waterford by horse and car, until the line from Waterford to Kilkenny was achieved in 1864.This was known as the Waterford & Kilkenny Railway.(W & KR)
The Great Southern & Western Railway Co. (G S & W R) built the line from Dublin to Carlow in 1846 and extended it to Kilkenny by 1850. Unfortunately as a result of the great famine and lack of finance, the first public train from Dublin did not arrive in Kilkenny until 14th November 1850.
For the official opening of the line on the 7th November a dinner was served to 150 guests in the Freemasons Hall, after which the guests departed Kilkenny at 10.45p.m arriving in Kingsbridge, Dublin at 1.15a.m. The journey time been 2 and quarter hours allowing 15 mins stoppage time. Addressing the guests the Chairman spoke of his personal experience of travelling to Dublin by coach,it usually took a full day, spend a day transacting business and a day on the return journey. This journey to the capital could now be accomplished in 3 hours. The cost with every luxury was 21shillings, or 15 shillings with limited convenience. He then alluded to the advantages of the railway such as the transmission of the military, the conveyance of cattle, and the passenger traffic, this would be of great benefit to Kilkenny. The Club House Hotel was advertising an Omnibus leaving the premises to meet the daily trains and conveying passengers to any part of the town for 6d, hotel clients were free. The Victoria hotel advertised likewise. Bitter disagreement between the rival companies caused the G S& WR to lay a second line from Lavistown three miles South to Kilkenny in 1867.This still did not sort the problems as very often cattle and goods had to be off loaded from one wagon to another. The G S& WR scheduled its services so, it was quicker to get to Dublin from Waterford via Limerick rather than via Kilkenny.The situation improved when the GS&W absorbed its rival in 1900 but not before it had an adverse effect on Kilkenny businesses. By Dec. 1867 the track had been laid from Kilkenny to Maryborough (nowadays Portlaoise ) and a regular service was provided. However passengers had to travel to a temporary platform on the New Road to avail of this service. It was 1868 before the line was finally laid to Kilkenny station. A spur line was laid at the junction of the Castlecomer/ Ballyraggett road to convey coal from the Castlecomer coal fields to supply fuel for the British Navy’s warships during the first World War.
All railway companies within the Irish Free State were grouped into Great Southern Railways in 1925. This was later amalgamated with road transport and the Dublin tram companies to form Coras Iompar Eireann (C.I.E.) in 1945. The decision was taken in 1962 to close the Kilkenny to Portlaoise line, so passengers now had to travel to Dublin via Carlow.
The Government in 1966 named major national stations in memorial to the 1916 executed leaders, and Kilkenny Station was renamed Mc Donagh station as Thomas McDonagh was a professor at St Kierans College for a number of years. The old station which stood on the McDonagh Junction complex ceased to operate from 1997. When a new station was relocated in a former goods building. While this is a modern building serving to days needs, it is a fraction of the scale of the original station.