Contents of the Monasterevin Railway Transport Report

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Foreword to Monasterevin Railway Transport Report 1999
Transport Policy An Overview
Survey Of Transport Needs In Monasterevin
Selection of Images and Maps

Background to the study


Monasterevin is a town in West Kildare, on the border of both Laois and Offaly.  The town has developed on the banks of the River Barrow, just south of its confluence with its tributary the Figile.  The main N7 road passes through the town as does the railway and the Grand Canal.  Monasterevin is situated thirty-eight miles south-west of Dublin, six from Kildare Town and twelve from Portlaoise.  The population according to the 1996 Census is 2,842 which demonstrates a 2.8% increase from the 1991 census.  The parish of Monasterevin is the largest in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin and has a population of 5,200.


The following section will give a brief outline of the development of Monasterevin.

1.2.1 St Evin's Monastery
The town’s name is known to derive from its first settlement, a monastery founded by St. Evin during the sixth century. Evin settled in a townland on the east bank of the River Barrow known as Ros Glas meaning the Green Wood. During the Viking raids it was plundered and subsequently abandoned.

1.2.2 The Cistercians
St. Evin’s Monastery lay in ruins until the 12th century when Dermot O’Dempsey founded the Cistercian Abbey of Ros Glas. It was founded in 1189 and was called De Rosea Valle or the Valley of the Roses. The last Abbot of Rosglas was Hugh O’Dempsey who surrendered the house to King Henry at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasterevin.

1.2.3 Moore Abbey Estate
The settlement of the Earls of Drogheda in Monasterevin was crucial to the future development of the town from a small monastic centre to a substantial manor town . During the time of Sir Henry Moore, Monasterevin underwent extensive planning and development. The town had previously consisted of a single long street. It was developed into a rectangular street pattern, with the Main Street widened and straightened. The building of Monasterevin occupied the period from 1790 to 1860.

1.2.4 Cassidy's Distillery
The emergence of Cassidy's Distillery saw a further growth in the town. Established by John Cassidy in 1784 and further developed by his son Robert, the distillery was of prime economic importance to the town. The business continued until the firm closed down in 1921 after one hundred and thirty seven years in business.

1.2.5 Monasterevin Today
When the distillery closed down there were three main sources of employment in the town.

1. An engineering works founded in 1903 by Samuel Holmes
2. A bakery founded in 1867
3. A maltings founded in Ballykelly

For about twenty years they were the main sources of non-agricultural employment in the town. In 1954 the establishment of a knitwear factory by W.A. Tynan introduced a great source of local employment. This began a tradition of this industry in Monasterevin. Today there are five knitwear factories in the town.

Other sources of local employment include the Hazel Hotel, Coole Engineering, Kildangan Stud and Moore Abbey. Moore Abbey provides a wide range of residential, day and clinical services to people with a disability and provides employment for over 200 people.

1.2.6 Monasterevin, Present and Future Population Projections
In the period ‘91-’96 Census figures shows that the area along the N7, for a distance of 5 miles south -west of Monasterevin experienced a population increase of 7%. The area adjoining Monasterevin to the north-east had an increase of 9.25%. The town of Monasterevin had an increase of 2.8%, which is low by comparison.

This reflects difficulties in obtaining planning permission owing to the following factors: an uncertainty as to the route of the proposed By-pass of the town and restrictions imposed by services such as the water supply and sewerage system.

These factors no longer apply.

The By-pass is now well into the planning stage and will be completed by         2004.

A contract has been placed for the upgrading of the water supply, to be carried out in 1999 and the sewerage system upgrade is planned for 2000.

This will result in a major expansion of the town and its environs. At present 60 housing units are being constructed by developers. Planning permission has also been granted for 128 units. The total figure of 188 units multipled by 4 (the average number of persons per housing unit) makes a total of 752 persons, an increase of 26.4%. There are also reports that another 200 units are being considered by developers at present, multipled by 4 = 800 people. This indicates that the population within the town boundary will increase by approximately 1,500.

Monasterevin, Co. Kildare stands at a natural crosswords of the canal, river, railway and road. The intricate lay-out of bridges facilitated for the overlap and development of each form of communication. All of these forms of transport have contributed to the growth and development of Monasterevin.

1.3.1 The Venice of Ireland, The Grand Canal and The Barrow
The most important inland waterway development was the Grand Canal. The canal reached Monasterevin in 1786. Before the Aqueduct was built in 1829 barges had to descend by lock into the Barrow to continue its journey.

The arrival of the railway in Monasterevin signalled the end of the golden age of the canals. By 1852 all the passenger boats had been withdrawn. In 1986 the Grand Canal was transferred to the Office of Public Works (O.P.W.) to be developed as a public amenity. In the development plan of the O.P.W. Monasterevin is proposed as one of the towns for a major boating centre to be established.

1.3.2 The River Barrow
The Barrow River is an important natural amenity to the town. The town was built up on the east bank of the river. Main Street runs parallel with the river, with the gardens sloping to the banks of the Barrow. At the end of Main Street where the Aqueduct carries the canal over the Barrow, the Community Council has developed the Riverside Park. This area of the town has been revitalised. There are major plans to develop the bell yard and the canal harbour. Should the railway station re-open it would significantly contribute to this areas development.

The introduction of the railway to Ireland broke down all barriers to mobility. Within a decade a new system of transport had developed which revolutionised travelling in the country and had major affects on the economy and social life of the population (Nolan 1980). For most of the country the most important railway line was the Great Southern and Western. This line linked Dublin to the South and West of the country. The Monasterevin railway station is located on this line.

1.4.1 The Railway in Monasterevin
The railway came to Monasterevin during Irelands darkest period, the Great Famine. Its construction was one of the principal public famine relief works. Sancton Wood, the G.S. & W.R. architect designed the station. "The buildings were compact, built of grey limestone, often cleverly planned so that they show a single storey to the platform, but have an impressive two-storied stationmasters residence towards the road. (Journal of the Irish Railway Record Society).

The opening of the 18-mile section from Cherryville Junction to Portlaoise took place on the 26th June 1847. The railway line was built through the townlands of Hybla, Borraderra, through the town to Coolnaferagh. The lattice-girder bridge over the River Barrow, was built in 1847 and replaced in 1927 by the present structure.

The Railway Station alongside the Grand Canal was the centre of economic activities in the town. Before C.I.E. closed the station, three trains each way halted daily. If a train was not due to stop then the mail was thrown out into a leather pouch on the side of the platform. The Guinness train came once a week bringing a cargo of feed grain for the local farmers. During the time of Cassidy Distillery, as many as fourteen men worked at the station.

The Railway Station closed in 1976.  According to the Journal of the Irish Railway Record Society 1975/1976, the reason given for its closure was to "allow for some speeding up of the 18.10 train to Galway (Monasterevin)". C.I.E. closed the station in Monasterevin during a time when a larger number of stations and routes were being marked off. Over twenty years later the station remains closed despite the economic boom in Ireland and the rapid growth in population in Co. Kildare.


The public transport system serving Monasterevin is of poor quality. Located on the N7, traffic congestion is chronic inhibiting people from travelling either to or from Monasterevin. When the proposed by-pass is completed Monasterevin will no longer be on the national route, leaving a commuter town stranded from public transport.


The rail service is needed in Monasterevin for the economic, social and environmental development of the town.

Economically, the future development of the town within the commuter belt depends on a large investment in infrastructure. Population growth is inhibited at present due to this, as is the growth in industry. Tourism is also inhibited. 90% of visitors to the annual Manley Hopkins Summer School are from overseas and depend on public transport to visit Monasterevin.

Socially, many sectors of the present population in Monasterevin are immobile due to the lack of a decent public transport service. Those who are socially excluded at present include old age pensioners, disabled people and Moore Abbey residents.

"Moore Abbey is the Headquaters of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary Services in Ireland. We provide a wide range of residential, day and clinical services to men and women with intellectual disability and learning difficulties. Our area of operation is South Kildare, Laois, Offaly,  Westmeath and Meath, with a staff of 350+ we provide services to 400 people. At our Headquaters in Moore Abbey we have a staff of 200+". Mr. J. Kelly, CEO Moore Abbey

The Monasterevin Railway Station Action Group was formed in 1995, to campaign for the re-opening of the towns' railway station.  Efforts have included lobbying Iarnród Éireann, M.E.P.'s and local politicians. In July 1998, A.S.K. (Action South Kildare Ltd.) agreed to sponsor and conduct an independent survey in the town, in co-operation with the Action Group, to assess the demand for the re-opening of the station. The findings of this survey have been very positive and indicate that it would be viable to re-open the station.

The Railway Station1999

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