On Wednesday 3rd December 1862 thousands of excited people lined the platforms of Sligo Railway Station to witness the arrival of the first ever passenger train.
The train, which had travelled from Dublin was welcomed by the Station Master Arthur Fleming, while the band of the Sligo Rifles played for the crowds.
At 2.15pm, after taking three hours and forty five minutes to cover the journey from Dublin, the shrill sound of a steam locomotive whistle was heard, followed shortly afterwards by the arrival of the train.
First class tickets for the train journey from Dublin to Sligo cost £1-4-6d Second class tickets cost 18s-6d and third class tickets cost 12s-4d and parliamentary(?) tickets cost 11s-2d.
After the trains arrival and the first passengers had alighted from the crowded carriages, a celebration lunch was held in the Imperial Hotel (now known as The Embassy).
The second train to reach Sligo arrived at 3.30pm was a special train carrying the directors, principal officers and other guests in the State carriages. Amongst those on board were The Earl of Granard, The Earl of Clancarty who, in 1889, married the English music hall singer Belle Bilton, Company directors and members of Sligo Corporation and Sligo Harbour Commissioners.
Later, at 6.30pm, the VIP’s gathered in the Grand Jury Room (in the Sligo Courthouse prior to the present day building) where the Mayor of Sligo, W.H. Williams presided, and where toasts were drank to Queen Victoria and Prince Edward.
The Midland-Western Railway Company line from Longford had taken three years to complete and cost €450,000, thats just under £7,760 for each mile to extend the railway line from Longford to Sligo Town.
150 years later, on December 3rd 2012, Longford based train driver John Mulhern, drove a special train into the platform, hauled by one of the new 22000 Class “InterCity Railcar” diesel multiple units.
Once again this special train carried VIP’s, like the Chief Executive Officer of Iarnrod Eireann, Dick Fearn, The Mayor of Sligo, Councillor David Cawley and the Minister for Small Business, Deputy John Perry.
Once inside the waiting room of MacDiarmada Station, Mayor of Sligo, David Cawley, unveiled a plaque to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Sligo-Dublin railway line.
Whilst there was also a large collection of old photographs of the railway station and its staff, some dating back at the 1880’s, on display in the station’s waiting room.