The Metals, signs at the crossing of Dalkey Avenue. © Joseph Brennan.

Atmospheric Roads
Dublin and Kingstown Railway
BASE— Dublin via Dún Laoghaire.
OUT— Bus 59 to Victoria Road at the top of Killiney Hill. Killiney Hill Park.
The Obelisk. The Pyramid of Dublin. The Old Signal Tower. The Quarry.
BACK— The Metals. DART train from Glenageary to Dún Laoghaire.

This is a loop from Dún Laoghaire, going up the hill by bus and back down on foot. Dalkey Hill was the main source of stone for the harbor. Each of the inclines for the truckway had a continuous chain running around "friction wheels" at each end of the incline, and carts were hooked to it. The empties were brought up by the weight of the much heavier carts going down and helped control their descent. The atmospheric railway was built along the less steep part below the inclines, but it did not replace the truckway. Rather it ran parallel to it within the same property. Smaller quarries still used the truckway, and even after that ordinary citizens used its path to walk and sometimes drove their own carts on the rails. The two tracks, at ground level above the cut of the railway, were in some places on each side of the cut, and in some together on one side. Under its old nickname "The Metals" the truckway is still a popular route for foot and bicycle traffic.

There is a wonderfully detailed and well researched book, The Metals : from Dalkey to Dún Laoghaire by Rob Goodbody, published in 2010 by the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, to which I owe a great deal. Sadly it is out of print, but you might have a chance at a used copy just as I did. He gives as little as possible about the atmospheric railway, since it is not his main topic, and yet in a few pages he provides details about it and especially its routing that are not in any other source I know. Since The Metals and the atmospheric are so closely related I decided to start above the terminal, up on Dalkey Hill. The map below shows the three inclines and at the top the upper end of the atmospheric railway.


© OpenStreetMap contributors. Annotations © Joseph Brennan.

The bus drops you near the top of Killiney Hill. From the Victoria Road bus stop or the one before, visit the tea room, and walk in Killiney Hill Park past The Obelisk and The Pyramid of Dublin, and then across a dip and up the other peak, Dalkey Hill, to reach the top of the quarries at the Old Signal Tower. A stairway built along the rock provides a way down.

The first incline went from a point within the Quarry to Ardbrugh Road. I missed a turn into a dirt path so I did not see this part myself. Rob Goodbody reports that there are some stones in this section with grooves worn away by the chains, and he wonders how much more there is hidden in the dirt. Between the first two inclines is a triangular neighborhood of very narrow lanes and small houses, which Mr Goodbody identifies as an area of housing for the workmen's families.

Carts were unhooked at Ardbrugh Road and pulled across by horses to the top of the second incline, which I did find. The path has been kept open and is known as The Flags for the stones placed along most of its length. It brought the carts down to Dalkey Avenue.

The third incline was separated from the second by a horse-drawn section that ran onto an embankment to maintain level until the top of the incline. The section from Dalkey Avenue to Barnhill Road is the only part of The Metals that was almost completely wiped out by later works, so the best you can do now is walk around near where it was.

From Dalkey Avenue, walk around the grassy triangle marked with a signpost for The Metals, and into the street called Dalkey Park. You can walk across the lawn, which appears to include some remains of the embankment, or go along the street called Hillside and then along a paved footpath. Either way you end up in a street called Old Quarry. The name indicates what destroyed The Metals here, namely a quarry started up after the truckway inclines were out of use, by 1850. The original alignment of The Metals would cross the property of the houses on the east side of Old Quarry. At the end of the street is a paved footpath almost on the original path of The Metals, which curved here into the path of the modern Irish Rail line.

Below is a view from the terrace of Old Signal Tower (a relic of the Napoleonic wars) looking straight down the inclines. The top must be a little beyond and to the right of the rock climbers' red bag, from which it would sink out of sight. Beyond that, the space between houses is The Flags, and the right-hand side of the grass park beyond that is about where the embankment was at the top of the third incline. The neighborhood of narrow lanes and a jumble of small houses is on the left just outside the quarry.


View down the inclines from Dalkey Hill, Thursday, June 21, 2018. © Michael Wares.

From a nearby point is the view below showing the paved path I took instead of turning into the dirt path seen on the right, which is the one in the picture above. Another view from near this point is the title image on the Dún Laoghaire page.


The Quarry, from Dalkey Hill, Thursday, June 21, 2018. © Joseph Brennan.

Below is part of the stairway down into the Quarry.


Steps down to the Quarry from the Old Signal Tower, Thursday, June 21, 2018. © Joseph Brennan.

This view looks down along The Flags. Rob Goodbody mentions that a few of these stones also have grooves, but they are not lined up, and so he concludes the stones were moved to create this path after the incline was closed. The concrete block on the left was the base of a windmill.

The Flags

The Flags, Thursday, June 21, 2018. © Joseph Brennan.

The Google Streetview image below shows the scene from the bottom of The Flags across Dalkey Avenue and a small triangle of land into the lawn next to Dalkey Park. The signpost at left center is shown above the title of this page. The Irish Na Ráillí, or The Rails, is perhaps a better name than The Metals.

Below the Flags

Image capture: August 2018. © Google.

The atmospheric railway terminal was just north of Barnhill Road. Below is a small section of the 1843 Ordnance Survey Map, taken from Rob Goodbody's book. It shows the terminal station, marked "Shed", and the engine house together with the reservoir ponds that provided water for the steam engine. The atmospheric pipe ended a short way before the engine house. Notice that the hatching indicating the side of the cut comes gradually to an end before the station, which was evidently at street level. A slight incline toward the station assisted braking and starting out again. It seems strange that the shed is set back from the street until you read about trains occasionally coming in too fast and overshooting it. Mr Goodbody observes that truckway, marked by the dashed lines south of Barnhill Road, seems to disappear in the vicinity of the terminal facilities, but reappears in the form of a narrow roadway (now The Metals footpath) north of the engine house. There is no visible trace today of the station, engine house, or reservoirs.

Dalkey Terminal

Ordnance Survey map, 1843, via Rob Goodbody, The Metals.

Atmospheric 1

© OpenStreetMap contributors. Annotations © Joseph Brennan.

The map above shows almost all of the atmospheric railway, drawn in red where it differs from the modern railway alignment. The changes were all done in the interest of reducing curvature. It seems that the atmospheric tolerated as many kinks in the curves as the horse-drawn carts did, but the steam locomotives needed a smoother path. Locomotive operation also made it possible to stop trains at intermediate points. Sandycove was added immediately in 1855 and Glenageary in 1867.

At Barnhill Road The Metals footpath crosses to the east (north) side of the railway cut, and the first short section is a street open to motor traffic called Atmospheric Road. The sign at the corner is the title image for the first page of this series. Atmospheric Road seems to follow the boundary of the terminal property. The footpath follows the pre-1882 alignment and therefore angles away gradually from the railway. Below is a view of the footpath north of Atmospheric Road. The old railway cut is on the left.

North from Barnhill Road

The Metals, north past the end of Atmospheric Road, Thursday, June 21, 2018. © Joseph Brennan.

At Castle Park Road there are separate bridges over the two railway cuts. The older cut has been filled in on the north side of the street so that a house could be built on the property. On the south side, a climb over the wall and through dense overgrowth—which I did not undertake—is rewarded by a view of the top of the stone arch of the bridge. This is the only possible surviving structure of the atmospheric railway, if the conversion to locomotives in 1855 was done only by lowering the floor without replacing the arch. All of the other bridges had to be replaced by 1882 to provide for double track.

Another curiosity at Castle Park Road is a small white house on the south side facing The Metals. Mr Goodbody says the oldest part was probably a house for the crossing guard when the truckway was active. Below is my photograph looking south and showing the small white house, and an image from Google Streetview showing the stone parapet wall above the old bridge.

South from Castle Park Road

The Metals, south at Castle Park Road, Thursday, June 21, 2018. © Joseph Brennan.

South from Castle Park Road

Image capture: July 2018. © Google.

Once The Metals comes back alongside the railway, both run a straight line almost to Adelaide Road. The oldest map in the Goodbody book shows truckway track on both sides of the railway in this area, but the west (south) side was soon replaced by streets called St Catherine's Road and Station Street, the latter referring to the Glenageary station. Below are two views looking north in the straight section. The street crossings are all protected by traffic signals that change promptly after a pedestrian presses the request button.

North from Castle Park Road

The Metals, north at Castle Park Road, Thursday, June 21, 2018. © Joseph Brennan.

North from Albert Road

The Metals, north past Albert Road, Thursday, June 21, 2018. © Joseph Brennan.

By this point the grade of The Metals is nearly imperceptible, and that it was at one time considered the limits of locomotive traction is hard to believe. Bicycle riders may be able to detect it.

I was well worn out from Killiney Hill and two miles of footpath on a warm day, and in need of lunch, so I bailed at Glenageary station to get down to Dún Laoghaire faster by DART train.

North of Glenageary station The Metals crosses over the railway on a wide bridge that allowed the truckway to cross without an excessively sharp turn. As Mr Goodbody remarks, the provision of the wide crossing shows the continued importance of the truckway even in the 1880s, when it was no longer used to carry any quarry stone. From this point The Metals footpath remains on the west side to its end at Dún Laoghaire. At the west end of the bridge a short footpath called the Lord's Walk (it is next to a church property) branches off The Metals.

North of Eden Road The Metals follows the old alignment, and once more a short section of it is open to motor traffic. Under the name of Magenta Place it narrows as it goes until it is once again a footpath. Below is a Google Streetview image looking across Eden Road from Magenta Place to The Metals.

Atmospheric 2

Image capture: August 2014. © Google.

Atmospheric 2

© OpenStreetMap contributors. Annotations © Joseph Brennan.

At Summerhill Road old and new alignments come close together, at Sandycove and Glasthule station. North of this point was a further realignment, and the footpath of The Metals was changed to follow along the west side of the new cut. The old truckway crossed over the old cut to the east side and some of its old path is reached by a dead-end street called Summerhill Parade. Mr Goodbody points out the bridge at the end of Martello Avenue as a curiosity. There was a footbridge over the old cut to The Metals where it once was, but after The Metals was relocated another footbridge was installed anyway that goes only to the dead-end street.

The Metals effectively ends at the People's Park. There is no sign for Na Ráillí at Park Road or at any place further north. From here the path of the atmospheric railway coincides with the modern railway into Dún Laoghaire Mallin station. Some of what was once a cut has been covered over. The old truckway ran along the sea side of the railway and out to the end of both the east and west piers.

While you are in DALKEY...

Another way to do the tour would be to depart The Metals temporarily at Barnhill Road and walk into the center of Dalkey to find lunch and visit the Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre. I wanted to get to the dolmen while I was in Ireland (see the Dún Laoghaire page) so I did not do this.

Yet another way would be to skip the Quarry, since it was not part of the atmospheric railway, and just take the DART train to Dalkey instead of Dún Laoghaire. Walk along Castle Street and Barnhill Road to beginning of the atmospheric, and go down from there along The Metals. But I do recommend taking the bus to Killiney Hill and wandering through the park to the Quarry.

Below is the spectacular view to the south that you will find on the way from the tea rooms to The Obelisk, and a glimpse of The Obelisk itself. I will leave The Pyramid of Dublin to your imagination.

View south from Killiney Hill

View south from Killiney Hill, Thursday, June 21, 2018. © Joseph Brennan.

The Obelisk

The Obelisk, Thursday, June 21, 2018. © Helen Schreiner.

Killiney Hill Park

Killiney Hill Park between Killiney Hill and Dalkey Hill, Thursday, June 21, 2018. © Michael Wares.


Brighton : Wormwood Scrubs

Dún Laoghaire : Dalkey : Dublin

Le Pecq : Saint-Germain-en-Laye : Paris

more to come!