Celebrating the 160th anniversary of the Castleconnell Station in Limerick offered a never-before experience opportunity to travel as my Irish ancestors would.

It so happened that my arrival into Ireland for the genealogy and DNA conference IrishCentral are hosting this weekend (The Genealogy Event) coincided with a special celebration of the 160th anniversary of the Castleconnell train station in Limerick.  The fact that this train station was in the very village in which I have been able to trace my Irish ancestry made the experience that much more special.

To mark this historic occasion, Iarnród Éireann, along with Castleconnell Tidy Towns and Love Castleconnell, created an evening of family and community fun on Tuesday, August 28. The platform was filled with people of all ages - and all eras -  as there were several historically-dressed guests also awaiting the special train that would depart from Colbert Station in Limerick to Birdhill in Tipperary in honor of this celebration.

“There is great history and heritage attached to Castleconnell Railway Station and we are proud to have celebrated its 160 years with this amazing event," said Tara Hartigan, Love Castleconnell founder member. 

"We estimate over 400 people showed up in support of this event to pay homage to this very valuable amenity. We see this as a hugely significant sign as to just how important this service is to the village and the community as a whole.

"This event not only helped to promote the service to both new residents in the village, but it showed those living in the city just how easy it is come out and enjoy a day out in this stunning village on the banks of the Shannon.”

Want to learn how to trace your roots? Tickets for the Genealogy Event 2018 are on sale now

According to local historian and railway expert Joe Coleman: “The Limerick & Castle Connell Railway was the third railway line to be built in the Limerick area and opened for business on the morning of Saturday, August 28, 1858. The other two lines were the Waterford & Limerick (opened 1848) and the Limerick & Foynes (opened 1856/57).

“Castleconnell at that time was spelt as two words and the new line diverged from the Waterford and Limerick line at Killonan, and ran over relatively easy country for 5 1/2 miles to the new terminus and completed at a cost of £25,000.

Leslie Hartigan, Megan Freeney (with parasol) & Margaret Freeney. Image: Tara Hartigan.

Leslie Hartigan, Megan Freeney (with parasol) & Margaret Freeney. Image: Tara Hartigan.

“The journey time was just 15 minutes, in both directions, serving three stations, at Killonan,  Annacotty, Lisnagry. There were three trains each way seven days a week, with accommodation for first and third class passengers. This was part of a line that eventually became the through direct line between Dublin and Limerick as an alternative to the earlier route via Limerick Junction.”

Want to learn how to trace your roots? Tickets for the Genealogy Event 2018 are on sale now

Today six services a day call at Castleconnell and three to Limerick and three to Ballybrophy, which connects with the line to Dublin.

Speaking at the event Noreen Clohessy, District Manager said: “Being rail-connected offers a great quality of life and economic benefits for towns such as Castleconnell and I and my colleagues are delighted to provide the services.”

Connecting to one’s ancestral village or town can be instrumental in expanding the family tree and knowledge around your ancestral origins. I have had the good fortune of benefiting from journeys to my ancestral home; learning more about how my ancestors’ lived, where they lived, and even what they looked like (through generous photos being given to me by locals).

I encourage anyone embarking on or continuing with their genealogy research to find opportunities to the past and to the present in their respective ancestral villages and towns, such as I did at Castleconnell's 160th train celebration. It’s ability to enrich your knowledge of your family past, to strengthen your passion for your Irish heritage and to deepen the connection you have to your own corner of Ireland is second to none.

IrishCentral, in partnership with Ireland of the Welcomes, Irish Tatler, and EternallyIrish.com is pleased to announce the 2018 dates and program for The Genealogy Event at the Fitzgerald’s Woodlands House Hotel, Adare, Limerick, August 30 - September 1, 2018. Find all the info here.

Can't get to Ireland at such short notice? The NYC-edition will be taking place on October 13. Tickets available here.

Leslie Hartigan, Megan Freeney (with parasol) & Margaret Freeney. Tara Hartigan