The legendary County Donegal Railways once had a narrow gauge network of over 200 miles stretching out to even the remotest parts of Donegal set up in the 1880's-1890's by Light railway Orders granted under the auspices of the Congested
Districts Boards these lines were economic arteries which revolutionised the communities they served. 1889 saw permission given to construct the light railway between Glenties and Stranorlar, the line was to be 24 miles long. 1890 work began with the contracts undertaken by Mc Farlande of Derry. Because of bad work practices Mc Farlande lost the contract and the station at Cloghan had to be re-built. The Finn Vally Company finished the line and the first steam engine was heralded into Glenties by bell ringer on the 3rd June 1895. (This bell can still be seen in St. Connells Museum in Glenties). The service was in operation 4 times daily and the journey from Glenties to Stranorlar took - (Glenties-Fintown 20 minutes) and (Glenties-Stranorlar 1 hour). Steam powered locomotives were in operation at that time. Overnight, what was a days travel by horse
and cart became an hour by train. The easy movement of commodities in and out led to a higher standard of living within a small rural community. Wool, turf, cattle, fish, potatoes could be easily imported and exported, luxury items such as sugar, tea, biscuits, not seen before became a part of life. The boom times that followed the opening of the railways also provided much employment both on and off the lines. In the 1920's the use of diesel engines for both passengers and goods was pioneered. Diesel power proved a great success with the cutting of costs both in rolling stock and running costs. Purpose built diesel railcars came into operation and this probably extended the life of the County Donegal Railways by 25 years. Railcar No.1 and other County Donegal Rolling stock can be seen today at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra. Two modern day railcars are in full operation at the Foyle Valley Railway in Derry.Railways boomed again during world war II with freight having to be quickly and easily moved. 18 carraiges of turf left Glenties every day. 87 men were employed in Shallogans bog (just outside Fintown). Most of this turf was shipped to the Phoenix Park in case of a shortage in supply of coal. After the war the lines went into decline and Glenties suffered most from the reduction in passenger receipts leading to its closure to passenger traffic on the 13th June 1947. Closed to passenger traffic the line remained open to freight with approximately two trains per day carrying turf, barrels, shop provisions, wool etc but its final closure came in 1952. Danny Boyle (R.I.P) was the last station master and remained on as a road freight manager until 1968. With the onslaught of road transport in the 1940's the death knoll was sounded for the railway. Sadly also for rural Donegal the demise of the railways saw a parallel mass of emigration from the area.

Cumann Traenach na Gaeltachta Lair was founded in 1991, its aim was to restore the entire length of Permanent Way from Fintown station to Glenties station. Following a line survey which was carried out with the help of Foyle Valley Railways with whom we have a very close association, it was recognised that whilst West Donegal is a relatively well known tourist destination with Fintown on the main east/west axis located within short distance of Glenveigh/Gartan and Dunlewey, Narin/Portnoo and Glencolmcille what it lacked was a heritage attraction capable of stopping and holding the passing visitor, providing much needed employment to this small area where there existed a large unemployment black spot.
Primarily CTGL's main brief was the restoration of the railway, but it was recognised to be the vehicle to regenerate the social, economic and cultural fabric of Gaeltacht Lair area to the benefit of the local people. It became a flagship for overall tourist development and community self-help.

All the above became a reality on the 3rd of June 1995 (1895-1995) with the re-opening of the Railway. Since its closure in the sixties no work had been carried out until July 1993 when the first sod was turned by our Honerary President Brien Friel. Phase one of the project is the two and a quarter mile section from Fintown station to the west of the lake. Clearance work was undertaken by seven FAS employees armed with picks, shovels and barrows. Sceptics said that the removal of 40 years over growth without the use of diggers etc would be impossible but the men of Gaeltacht Lair proved them wrong! Eyebrows were again raised when the FAS team, their numbers now increased to thirty, started tracklaying in October 1994, the only additional aides being used were crowbars and sledgehammers. Consider the task the reballasting of the line to a depth of four to five inches, the sizing of sleepers, the levelling into position and the fitting of 60ft lengths of rail each weighing one tonne.
Words cannot adequately describe the quantity of work carried out by these FAS men with limited means in often harsh and inclement weather. The project is split into three phases for funding purposes and the time scale in which the work is to be completed. Included in the plans for phase one, together with the relaying of the two and a quarter miles of track, are the provision of a steam engine and a passenger boat on the lake. It is hoped to construct a visitors centre and shed to house the engine and carraiges. Other facilities planned for the station area are a childrens playground. Plans for the playground have been drawn up. It is a new and innovative plan to be constructed at the station area using local wood produce and labour.
We have also purchased some unique pieces of antiquated farm machinery and hope to restore and display some of these pieces in the coming year.Phase two and three will see the line continuing to Glenties with the restoration of the station building there. As evident by the opening of the first mile to passenger traffic much has been already accomplished in phase one. Visitors numbers have been extremely encouraging with over 35,000 people having travelled on the "Wee Donegal". The swamp that just three years ago surrounded the goods store is now a car park and the water tower and the platform have been virtually completely rebuilt by a local stone mason with the help of four able FAS men and also with the assistance of a leader grant. Last year saw the lease of a passenger boat for use on Loch Finn. We purchased five pedaloos and a rescue boat, this added attraction proved very popular and it is hoped to provide this again for the summer season if funds permit. Diesel traction is what CTGL have currently on offer in the form of a simplex 102t locomotive drawing three Belgian Tramcars. Whilst steam is the final aspiration the uniqueness of the vehicles being used attracted much praise.

The project is now a reality and is a shining example of community self-help. Due to the many valuable and skilled FAS participants who have joined and left the project over the years, each participant had made their own valuable mark on the project. Various other projects such as the Cafe, angling society, youth hostel and the many varied services such as the transport services and shops have also benefited from our vision. We feel that what we have achieved to date cannot be adequately described in words - what is required is to experience this nostalgic trip first hand.