By Dan Walsh
The railway station at Wellingtonbridge is a desolate place these days, the remains of the 20-lever-frame signal cabin, platform and station buildings and some rusting tracks lie behind the level crossing gates, but the gaping landscape indicates that this was once a busy working railway serving a well populated historic area of south Wexford.
Located on the Limerick to Rosslare line, the station at Wellingtonbridge opened on August 1st, 1906. It presented cross-channel travel in a way never before envisaged. From Limerick, via Waterford and Rosslare Harbour to Wales and London Paddington, and vice versa. It was possible to travel by rail and ship on the same ticket! It was known as a ‘through’ fare!
The railway system was a lifeline for the farming community and allowed access to markets far from their immediate location with wagons available for the transport of sugar beet, cattle and horses which sustained a healthy freight trade and offered multiple employment opportunities up to the early 1960s.
Wellingtonbridge enjoyed the seasonal sugar beet trade and was a major beet loading installation with local growers bringing their produce to the station where it was loaded on to wagons and conveyed to the sugar processing plants at Carlow, Thurles, Mallow and Tuam, which operated between 1926 and the cessation of sugar beet processing in this country in 2006.
The season lasted about 16 weeks and required 1,000 wagons, but sugar beet was a good source of income for farmers and south Wexford became one of the principal sugar beet growing districts in the country.
All stations on the line, including Wellingtonbridge had single cabins and island platforms with a running line on each side. Many of them had level crossing gates.
It could be argued that the arrival of the railway diminished Bannow as a commercial centre and transferred the trade to Wellingtonbridge, however, it is recorded that summer rail excursions once brought massive numbers of bathers to Cullenstown beach.
Changing times and the loss of the sugar beet traffic meant the station was poorly supported for many years and then the inevitable happened. Wellingtonbridge Railway Station was closed on September 18th, 2010. It has been left to decay and may soon have the rails permanently removed and replaced by a 70kms modern ‘greenway’ from Waterford to Rosslare.