Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Thomas the Tank Engine, Steam Locomotive No 85 Merlin chugged into Kilkenny City on Saturday afternoon to much fanfare.
The ‘Big Blue Engine’ rolled into MacDonagh Railway Station carrying on board the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI) with hundreds of passengers, and the Sir Henry Inglesby’s Fife and Drum Corps from Carrickfergus. Clad in their Napoleonic uniforms, they marched to Kilkenny Castle, thrilling the crowd with a musical performance.
In days gone by, the Big Blue Engine was the express engine between Dublin and Belfast. Its massive engines are fired by coal and steam, and the shrill blasts of its whistle are an exhilerating jolt from a different era.
The RPSI is a cross-border organisation founded in 1964, one of whose aims is to preserve these vintage steam engines, and they run these trips several times a year to different locations around Ireland. Saturday’s event was part of activities organised for Heritage Week in Kilkenny.