A unique railway was established in North Kerry 135 years ago, taking inspiration from a camel train of all things.
Unveiled to the public on the magnificent date of February 29th, 1888, this extraordinary creation was the brainchild of the visionary French engineer, Charles Lartigue.
The Lartigue Design
Inspired by the graceful camels of Algeria, Lartigue ingeniously devised a method to effortlessly transport heavy loads with impeccable balance.
This event served as inspiration for him to create a new railway design.
The transportation system had a unique design with a single rail elevated above the ground and supported by A-shaped trestles. Specially-designed carriages would rest on the trestles.
In a daring feat of engineering, Lartigue constructed a mind-boggling 90-kilometre monorail that defied the harsh conditions of the Algerian desert.
Picture this: mules gracefully pulling carriages of panniers as they effortlessly glide along an elevated rail, transporting esparto grass with unparalleled efficiency.
Only 2 Lartigues Railway Created in the World
Lartigue’s brilliant monorail system captured the attention of European railway companies, who were intrigued by its potential for being lighter, easier, and more cost-effective than traditional twin-track conventional railways.
On the historic day of February 29th, 1888, a groundbreaking marvel emerged – the world’s very first passenger-carrying monorail! The future was optimistic and potentially unique in shape.
The Listowel and Ballybunion Railway.
Kerry’s extraordinary Lartigue Railway transported everything from cargo and livestock to eager vacationers heading to the picturesque seaside retreat of Ballybunion, while also ferrying away the golden sands from the stunning beaches. It ran for 36 years.
While Lartigue’s design thrived in the African desert with mule trains, it faced a daunting challenge when it came to pulling passenger freight across the captivating landscapes of North Kerry.
The Steam-Powered Engine
The creation of these magnificent locomotives required a hefty investment as each one boasted not one, but two boilers and two cabs, perfectly balanced on either side of the rail. Picture this: the driver is comfortably seated in one cab while the fireman is in the other.
The Single Track
As the elevated railway stretched across the country like a mighty fence, bridges became an absolute necessity to seamlessly carry roads over this magnificent line. The concept of a level crossing was simply inconceivable.
The process of balancing loads, especially when it involved cattle, was time-consuming and required careful attention.
The Lartigue Railway was known for its nauseatingly rolling motion as it glided along. It was known for being loud, often late, and slow, taking 40 minutes to travel the 15 kilometers between Ballybunion and Listowel.
Irish Civil War
The hopes of a thriving railway were crushed as the route withered away from lackluster traffic and the devastating blow of the Irish Civil War, leading to the closure of the once-promising railway in 1924.
A single fragment of track managed to escape the clutches of destruction, while the rest of its comrades were ruthlessly condemned to the scrap yard.
The Listowel Recreation
Against all odds, the resilient people of Kerry refused to surrender and brought a small piece of history back to life.
In 2003, the public was treated to a glimpse of the past as a 500-meter section of the Lartigue Railway, once thought lost to time, opened its doors in Listowel.
The original steam-powered monorail is now powered by a diesel locomotive. This remarkable achievement took place at the very location where the legendary Great Southern Railway station once stood.
A groundbreaking, state-of-the-art locomotive equipped with two luxurious carriages, designed to whisk away up to 40 lucky passengers, has been ingeniously crafted by the esteemed railway specialist company, Alan Keef Ltd, based in the U.K.
Step aboard the magnificent Heritage Railway, a marvel brought to life by the passionate and dedicated Lartigue Monorailway Restoration Committee.
With no original drawings in sight, this remarkable engineering accomplishment allows people to once again embark on a one-of-a-kind transportation experience. So if you are a train enthusiast it is well worth seeing.
What is the distance covered by the restored Lartigue Monorail?
At present, the Lartigue railway line goes for 500 metres. I don’t think it will go any further because it is heading for a new roundabout
Where is Lartigue Monorail and Museum?
It is a 10 -15 minute walk from Listowel Castle out the Ballybunion road. If you reach the Ballybunion roundabout you have gone too far. It is right beside McKenna’s hardware store.
When is it open?
It is open from the 1st of May to the 30th of September. 7 days a week from 1 pm to 4:30 pm. It is also open for group bookings of 10 or more outside of these dates and times