Station Name: GLENAVY

[Source: Les Fifoot & Paul Wright]

Date opened: 13.11.1871
Location: South side of Glen Road to the west of Crumlin Road
Company on opening: Dublin & Antrim Junction Railway
Date closed to passengers: 30.6.2003
Date closed completely: 30.6.2003
Company on closing: Northern Ireland Railways
Present state: Platform extant
County: Antrim
OS Grid Ref: J154726
Date of visit: 6.6.2017

Notes: Glenavy station was situated on the 20 mile Lisburn – Antrim branch which was opened by the Dublin & Antrim Junction Railway (DAJR) on 13 November 1871.It connected the Belfast – Portadown line of the Ulster Railway (UR) at Knockmore Junction (Lisburn) to the Belfast – Coleraine line of the Belfast & Northern Counties Railway (B&NCR) at Antrim. At the time of opening there were 5 stations on the line including Glenavy.

The station at Glenavy was opened with the line on 13 November 1871. It was located on the southern edge of its namesake 8½ miles to the north of Knockmore Junction. The station was on the south side of Glen Road which passes under the line.

The line was a single track railway built to the Irish standard gauge (5ft 3inch). A passing loop was provided at Glenavy so the station had two platforms. The platforms were on a tight curve that was said to be the tightest of the Irish standard gauge.

The main facilities were located on the southbound (Knockmore Junction direction) platform. At the time of opening this was designated as the down line platform. They were accessed from the Crumlin Road by a driveway. The northbound platform was connected to the southbound by a barrow crossing.

Goods facilities were located on the east side of the line. They included two sidings and a goods platform.

Passenger services were operated by the UR mostly running between Belfast Great Victoria Street and Antrim.

On 1 April 1876 the UR was absorbed into the Great Northern Railway Ireland (GNRI) and from that date they operated the train services. In 1879 the DAJR was taken over by the GNRI.

In 1882 the GNRI improved the facilities at Glenavy. A single storey brick built building was provided on the Antrim direction platform. It was built to a design that had been developed for the GNRI by architect William H Mills. A timber waiting shelter with a glass front was provided on the northbound platform (Antrim direction).

A signal box controlled the main line and the connection to the goods yard. It had a brick base with timber upper cabin and it was located on the southbound platform to the south of the station building.

A Station Master’s house was located at the Crumlin Road end of the driveway on its south side.

As well as the ordinary timetabled service special passenger trains were also run from Glenavy, such as the train that was run on 12 May 1886 for the Antrim Fair. The train departed from Glenavy at 9.17am and returned at 3.30pm.

The December 1896 timetable showed 4 trains in each direction Monday to Saturday and a train each way on Sundays. At this time the up direction was still considered to be to Knockmore Junction and the down to Antrim.

On 17 January 1903 an accident occurred at Glenavy which resulted in the death of William Chambers a signalman at the station. At 10.10am a goods train was despatched from the station and as it was leaving someone shouted that one of the wagon covers was not tied down. William Chambers was on the platform at the time and he went over to the moving train to tie down the cover. In doing so he slipped and fell under the train. The train was stopped and Chambers was lifted off the track badly injured. He died later of his injuries in the Antrim County Infirmary. At an inquest evidence was given by William Sherlock the Station Master, Robert Armstrong the station porter, Daniel Maddon the goods train guard and some passengers who had been present. It was against the GNRI rule book for staff to approach moving trains and as a signalman Chambers was not responsible for the wagons on trains. He was though in the habit of helping his colleagues during busy periods. On the day of the accident a passenger train had been due within 5 minutes and the staff would not have wanted to delay it. The inquest also heard evidence from doctors and the cause of death was given as exhaustion and shock due to the serious injuries sustained when the wheels of the wagon passed over William Chamber’s legs.

The 1904 Railway Clearing House Handbook of Stations listed Glenavy as being able to handle passengers, parcels, general goods and livestock. The yard crane was capable of lifting 2-tons.

On 14 April 1906 the Station Master William Sherlock was presented with a gold watch and chain by passengers to mark his retirement after 10 years at Glenavy and 50 years’ service on the railway.

The July 1922 timetable showed the same level of service as there had been in 1895 as seen in the table below. By this time the GNRI had reversed the direction protocol for the line. Up was to Antrim and down to Knockmore Junction.

Up Trains - July 1922 Destination Down Trains - July 1922 Destination
8.53am Antrim 8.07am Belfast Great Victoria Street
12.08pm Antrim 10.42am (Mondays & Tuesdays Only ) Belfast Great Victoria Street
2.50pm (Saturdays Only) Antrim 10.56am (Mondays & Tuesdays Excepted ) Belfast Great Victoria Street
4.02pm (Saturdays Excepted) Antrim 2.02pm Belfast Great Victoria Street
7.05pm Antrim 6.12pm Belfast Great Victoria Street
Sundays   Sundays  
10.22am Antrim 8.06pm Belfast Great Victoria Street

In 1922 following the Irish War of Independence (1919 – 1922) the island of Ireland was divided into two separate states, The Irish Free State (after 1948 Republic of Ireland) and Northern Ireland. The GNRI network was located in both countries which caused it some difficulties. The Antrim branch was entirely within Northern Ireland so little changed with regards to its train services.

During the 1920s and 1930s the GNRI suffered competition from road transport. Local bus services hit passenger receipts and private hauliers using lorries had an impact on freight.

Excursion trains continued to run from Glenavy during the 1930s. On 5 July 1939 a special train was run to Portrush for the ‘Grand Pageant’. It departed from Glenavy at 2.45pm and returned at 10.00pm. A third class ticket for the train cost 2 shillings and 6d.

The Second World War (1939 – 1945) was a busy period for the GNRI and traffic levels increased significantly. In 1942 a branch line was opened between Crumlin and Gortnagallon where the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) opened an air base which was known as Langford Lodge Base Air Depot Number 3. From May 1942 passenger services were operated to and from Gortnagallon for workers and military personnel. The passenger services to Gortnagallon had ended by October 1945 and the branch was lifted by 11 April 1948 (when the Siding Junction was removed).

After the war there was a resurgence in the competition from road transport and that put the GNRI in a difficult financial situation. At first it was aided by both governments but that was set to change with the creation of the Ulster Transport Authority (UTA).

The UTA was created by the Northern Ireland government in 1948 to run nationalised transport undertakings. All of the railways in Northern Ireland, with the exception of the GNRI, came under its jurisdiction in 1949. The UTA, along with the Northern Ireland Government, was notoriously anti-rail (in 1950 it closed the entire Belfast & County Down Railway system except for the Belfast – Bangor line). In 1953 the GNRI was jointly nationalised as the Great Northern Railway Board (GNRB). During this period the UTA was busy closing lines throughout Northern Ireland but the joint nature of the GNRB arrangement staved off closures on the former GNRI system until 1958. Frustrated at not being able to close the lines of the former GNRI the Northern Ireland government dissolved the GNRB in May 1958. They divided the assets between the two states depending upon which side of the border they were located. Glenavy station and the former GNRI lines in Northern Ireland became part of the UTA.

The 1956 Handbook of Stations listed Glenavy as being able to handle the same traffic as it had in 1904 but the yard crane was only capable of lifting 1.5 tons.

Sometime before May 1959 the northbound line (at this time still the up) was lifted.

On 12 September 1960 the passenger service between Belfast Great Victoria Street and Antrim was withdrawn and all of the stations on the Antrim branch, including Glenavy, were closed. Occasional special services and excusions continued to run from Glenavy in the 1960s.

The line had to remain open to serve goods services that ran to and from the Republic of Ireland. The goods sidings were lifted and the northbound platform waiting room was demolished sometime after 1964.

After 15 February 1965 when the Portadown – Londonderry line was closed additional freight traffic started to use the line as it formed the only surviving route between Londonderry and the Republic of Ireland.

In 1968 the UTA was abolished and what was left of the Northern Ireland railway network became part of Northern Ireland Railways (NIR). NIR was a more pro-rail organisation and it set about making improvements to the network in the Belfast area. One of the most significant improvements saw the creation of a Belfast Central station which opened on 12 April 1976. The new station was designed to replace three termini that were located in different parts of the city and bring the train services together. At the time of opening it was able to replace two of the stations (Belfast Great Victoria Street and Belfast Queens Quay). It was also able to handle Londonderry services through a reopening of the Antrim branch.

To facilitate the running of Londonderry services into Belfast Central the Antrim branch was refurbished. Under NIR the line reverted to up being the Knockmore direction and down the Antrim direction.

At Glenavy the curve was eased and the platform was rebuilt. The easing of the curve meant that there was no space for a passing loop and none was provided. The station building was altered so that part of it became an open fronted waiting shelter.

A local passenger service was introduced between Lisburn and Antrim on 26 January 1974. It called at Glenavy and the other stations on the line. From 23 January 1978 Londonderry services started to run along the Antrim branch but most of them didn’t call at Glenavy.

The June 1980 timetable showed 7 trains to Belfast Central and 6 trains to Antrim Monday-to-Friday. On Saturdays there were 6 trains to Belfast and 5 trains to Antrim. No trains served Glenavy on Sundays.

The aspiration of linking all of the Belfast termini had not been achieved in 1976 as Belfast York Road station had remained open to serve the Larne line. After 1976 this line was physically isolated from the rest of the system and NIR continued to pursue its objective of connecting it to Belfast Central. In the early 1990s work began on the Belfast Cross Harbour railway which opened on 28 November 1994. Larne line trains could now reach Belfast Central. The former NCC route between Belfast and Londonderry was shorter than the route via the Antrim branch and this led to NIR reopening the Antrim – Bleach Green Junction line to passenger services on 15 October 2001. From that date Belfast – Londonderry services ceased to run via Glenavy.

By 2001 the station building had become heavily vandalised and it was replaced with a simple steel and glass shelter.

To serve the former GNRI Antrim branch a limited Belfast – Antrim service was operated. The July 2002 timetable showed 3 trains in each direction Monday-to-Friday. On Saturdays there were 4 services to Belfast, 2 services to Portrush and 1 service to Antrim. There was also a Sunday service of 1 train in each direction. The service was withdrawn completely on 30 June 2003 and Glenavy station was closed once again. The waiting shelter was removed after closure.

In 2017 the station was extant and line was used by occasional passenger diversions, engineering trains and enthusiasts’ specials.

Tickets from Michael Stewart and route map by Alan Young


  • Along UTA Lines, Ulsters Rail Network in the 1960s - Ian McLarnon Sinclair - Colourpoint 2009
  • Dark Days and Brighter Days for Northern Ireland Railways - Edwin McMillan - Colourpoint 2016.
  • Johnson's Atlas & Gazetteer of the Railways of Ireland - Stephen Johnson - Midland Publishing 1997
  • One Hundred and Fifty Years of Irish Railways - Fergus Mulligan - Appletree Press 1983.
  • Railways in Ireland, Part 2 - Martin Bairstow 2007
  • The Great Northern Railway, an Irish Railway Pictorial - Tom Ferris - Midland Publishing 2003

To see the GNRI Antrim branch click on the station name: Knockmore, Knockmore Junction Halt, Brookmount, Brookhill Halt, Meeting House Halt, Ballinderry, Legatiriff Halt, Crumlin, Aldergrove and Millar's Bridge Halt

Glenavy station looking south in 1902. The station employees are posing for the camera on the southbound platform. At this time the GNRI designated southbound as the Down direction. The DAJR had designated it as the Up direction which NIR would later revert to.

Glenavy station shown on a 6-inch scale map from 1882.

There had been little change since 1882 at Glenavy when this 6-inch scale map was drawn in 1950.

A Belfast Great Victoria Street to Antrim service is seen departing from Glenavy station in May 1959. At this time the line was under the control of the UTA who had recently lifted the passing loop.

On 12 June 1964, UTA 2-6-0 number 97, "Earl of Ulster", stands at Glenavy station on its way north to
Antrim. This was part of a joint "Farewell to Steam in Ireland" rail tour, which took place in June 1964..
Copyright photo from Ernies Railway Archive

Looking south at Glenavy station on 12 July 1965. Passing through the station is a return 'Orange'' special working from Ballinderry to Antrim. At the head of the train is ex-NCC locomotive number 51.
Photo by Roger Joanes from his Flickr footostream

A train for Antrim arriving at Glenavy on 27 June 2003, three days before withdrawal of passenger services for the second time. By this time, the original station building had been demolished, and replaced with a "Bus Shelter".
hoto by Roger Joanes

Glenavy station looking north on 6 June 2017.
hoto by Paul Wright

Click here to see more photos




[Source: Paul Wright]

Last updated: Tuesday, 07-Nov-2017 17:27:33 CET
© 2004-2017 Disused Stations