Belfast and Northern Counties Railway

click for 3K .jpg image of BNCR coat of arms BNCR coa. Source: © Keldale Fine Art

History: Summary

The Belfast and Ballymena Railway opened on 11/4/1848. A line from Randalstown to Cookstown was opened in 1856. A double line from Belfast to Greencastle was opened in 1862 and extended to Greenisland in 1863. The Ballymena, Ballymoney, Coleraine and Portrush Junction Railway opened a line to Portrush in 1855. At the other end of the system, the Londonderry and Coleraine Railway (incorporated in 1845) opened to Limavady in 1852 and Coleraine in 1853. A bridge over the River Bann at Coleraine was completed in 1860 and permitted a through service between Belfast and Derry.
The Belfast and Ballymena Railway became the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Company in May 1860. It absorbed the BBC&PJR in January 1861 and the L&CR in July 1871. The narrow gauge Ballymena, Cushendall and Red Bay Railway Company was vested in the BNCR in 1884 and it absorbed the Carrickfergus and Larne Railway [1890], the Draperstown Railway [1895] and the Derry Central Railway [1901]. In 1903 track mileage was 335 miles (in 1922 route mileage was 201 miles of standard gauge and 64 of 3ft gauge). The BNCR was purchased by the Midland Railway on 1/7/1903 and its name was changed to "Midland Railway (Northern Counties Committee)". The company acquired a hotel in Portrush (1881) and built one in Belfast in 1898. Refreshment rooms existed at Belfast, Carrickfergus, Ballymena, Whitehead, Larne, Derry, Coleraine, Portrush, Glenariff Glen and Ballymoney.

Rolling stock: When the BBR became the BNCR it had 19 engines (10 built in 1847, 5 by Bury and 5 by Sharp Bros. and 6 2-4-0s and 2 0-6-0s from Sharp Stewart in 1856-7). The BBCRJR added four Sharp 2-2-2s and two Fairbairn 2-2-2WTs. The LCR engines were a miscellaneous bunch including 5 Sharp Stewarts. Additions to stock between 1861 and 1876 were from Beyer Peacock (2 1863, 2 1868), Sharp Stewart (1861, 2 1867, 1870, 1871, 2 1872, 3 1873, 2 1875, 3 1876) or York Rd. (1873). Subsequently locos were from York Rd (1901, 1902, 1903), Beyer Peacock (1878, 3 1880, 4 1883, 4 1890,2 1892, 4 1895, 4 1897, 1898) and Sharp Stewart (1878). There were 214 carriages and 141 other vehicles plus 2358 goods vehicles in 1903.

Works: York Rd. Belfast.

Livery: (1904 Railway Magazine p.282) Loco and tender - Invisible green, locos picked out with yellow, blue and vermillion; passenger coaches - lake. (Arnold) The colour scheme of the earliest engines had been light green, lined in black and white with outside frames in chocolate, but BNCR livery, which was perpetuated right through the Midland period until the LMS was more restrained: dark (invisible) green lined yellow, blue and vermillion. [EFC 1865 Older engines had polished brass domes. Coaches were dark lake lined out with vermillion and gold. 1899 Coaches were dark lake with monogram BNC in script.] [WS: The very earliest photo of BNCR loco is one of a G class No. 40, showing the no; painted on the cab sidesheet and the letters 'BNCR' on the tender, but centered on the rear panel. This probably refects the livery up to the end of the 1870s , in the era when there were no cabs , only weatherboards. This reflects B&BR practice as suggested by drawings. By the early 1880s the engines were painted a very dark green, lined crimson, blue and yellow, with the letters 'BNCR' on the tender well spaced out. The engines now carry numberplates. The only other change in BNCR days was that, from 1897 on passenger engines carried the company crest on the cabside.]

Staff: Locomotive engineers were E.Rowland 1847, A.Yorston 1849, E.Leigh 1868, R.Finlay 1875, Bowman Malcolm 1876-1903 (to 1922 with NCC). Secretaries were J.Wilson 1845, T.Higgin 1851, C.Stewart 1857, W.R.Gill 1887-1903. Managers were T.Higgins 1848, E.J.Cotton 1857 and J.Cowie 1899-1903. For officials of constituents see J.R.Currie, Vol.1, Appendix 2.

Signalling: Initially single line working to fixed timetable. During 1878 the train staff system made universal on single line - previously used only between Carrickfergus Jct. and Carrickfergus, Coleraine and Portrush and Limavady Jct. and Limavady. The double lines had been worked by a time interval system; Tyer's two position block instruments were brought into use between Carrickfergus Jct. and Ballymena in 1878. Ordinary telegraph instruments used for blocking between Belfast and Carrickfergus Jct.(double line) and the Jct. and Carrickfergus (single line), in addition to the staff system. The only other absolute block section at this time was Castlerock-Downhill to protect trains in tunnel. During the 1880s absolute block working was extended to other sections of the line and by end 1891 (the Board of Trade deadline) it was universal throughout the system, the Ballyclare, Draperstown, Dungiven and Derry City branches, the Ballymena and Larne thus worked from the outset and the Cushendall line from the beginning of passsenger working. In November 1889 the tablet system was experimentally fitted on the Carrickfergus Jct.-Carrickfergus section. It was extended during 1890 to the entire Larne line (save Larne-Larne Harbour) and from Ballymena to Killagan. During 1891 the Killagan-Castlerock section was fitted and from Castlerock to Eglinton and Coleraine to Portrush in 1892. The final main line section from Eglinton to Derry followed in 1893. It was not until 1901-2 that the system was applied to the Cookstown line and the Limavady branch and not to the Derry Central until later. In 1899 the Manson tablet snatching system was fitted at main line block posts and also the Larne line and Portrush branch. When the Cookstown line was reequipped with tablet instruments, snatchers were placed there also. (Wise, who joined as civil engineer from the BCDR in 1888, was instrumental in these developments and also gave the company its characteristic somersault signal). In 1901-2 a new block post was opened at Straffordstown, dividing the Randalstown-Toome section.

Further reading: W.P.McCormick Main Line Railways of Northern Ireland, J.R.L.Currie The Northern Counties Railway Vol.1 1845-1903, H.C.Casserly Outline of Irish Railway History, R.M.Arnold Supplement to NCC Saga., W. Scott, Locomotives of the LMSNCC.

newWeb: A picture of a Belfast & Northern Counties Rly somersault signal, which still controls the station & loop that allows trains to cross at Castlerock. With a nice view of signal finial.

Coat of Arms

click for 8K .jpg image of BNCR coat of arms© Keldale Fine Art for orders

Rolling Stock railwayana

Locomotive nameplates:

click for 11.1K .jpg image of nameplate. BNCR 'Queen Alexandra' nameplate. Source: GWRA1109. (full image 25K)

Works & tenderplates:

Carriage plates:
click for 5K .jpg image of carriage spitting plate BNCR carriage plate

Wagon plates:
click for 5K .jpg image of BNCR wagonplate BNCR wagonplate.
click for 6K .jpg image of BNCR wagonplate A second BNCR wagonplate.
click for 6K .jpg image of BNCR wagonplate Another.
click for 3K .jpg image of BNCR wagonplates More wagonplates at UFTM.
click for 3.1K .jpg image of BNCR wagonplate Source: GCR1006.
click for 3K .jpg image of BNCR wagon plate Source: M.A.McMahon (full image 34.5K)
click for 3K .jpg image of BNCR wagon plate Source: RAG7 (full image 11K)
click for 2.5K .jpg image of BNCR wagon plate Bottom right repair. Source: TRA506 (full image 7K)

Lineside and station railwayana


Bridge Restriction:

Bridge Numbers:

click for 1.4K .jpg image of BNCR bridgeplate BNCR bridge no. Source: SRA905 (full image 3K)
click for 11K .jpg image of BNCR bridge no. BNCR bridge number 436. Source: TRA716. (full image 3K)


click for 9K .jpg image of BNCR enamel trespass BNCR enamel trespass (ETBN101). Source: SRA1091
click for 9K .jpg image of BNCR enamel trespass BNCR enamel trespass (ETBN101). Source: RAG55. (full image 65K)
click for 12K .jpg image of BNCR iron trespass BNCR cast iron trespass. Source: © E.N.Calvert-Harrison
click for 13.3K .jpg image of BNCR trespass BNCR trespass. Source: SRA311
click for 3.3K .jpg image of BNCR trespass BNCR trespass. Source: D.Cronin. (full image 14K)


click for 6.8K .jpg image of BNCR notice BNCR Notice. Source: RNT1107. (full image 38K)
click for 13.8K .jpg image of BNCR notice BNCR Notice. Source: SRA311 (telephone auction)
click for 17K .jpg image of BNCR wall notice BNCR enamel walls notice. Source: STA0115 full image 52K.
click for 26K .jpg image of BNCR station BNCR? station. Source: RCJ1000. See GNRI for more.
click for 3.6K .jpg image of Portrush clock Portrush clock. Source: ebay204
click for 3K .jpg image of BNCR branding iron BNCR branding iron. Source: GCR1014 full image 11K.


click for 5K .jpg image of BNCR milepost BNCR milepost. Source: © E.N.Calvert-Harrison

Railchair, etc.:

click for 1K .jpg image of BNCR rail BNCR rail. Source: TRA1003


Cutlery, china, ashtrays etc.:

click for 1.4K .jpg image of BNCR spoon BNCR spoon. (full image 4K) Source: ebay906
click for 7K .jpg image of BNCR silver pot BNCR silver drinking pot. (full image 30K) Source: STA909.

click for 8K .jpg image of BNCR biscuit barrel BNCR biscuit barrel. (full image 20K) Source: GCR710.


click for 8.3K .jpg image of BNCR vesta case BNCR Vesta case. (full image 52K) Source: TRA711.

click for 3K .jpg image of BNCR button BNCR button. (full image 13K) Source: TRA0905

click for 7.7K .jpg image of BNCR money bag BNCR money bag. Source: ebay508.
click for 21K .jpg image of BNCR rulesBNCR 1902 rule book. Source: SRA215. full image 33K.
click for 4K .jpg image of Belfast railway documentsOld Belfast & Ballymena railway documents. Source: SRA215. full image 23K.
click for 14K .jpg image of Londonderry Railway notice Londonderry Railway 1899 notice. Source: SRA915. full image 44K.

blue ball Return to Index page, or go to Northern page 9, Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties. blue ball

red ball Return to auction price data on original pages red ball

red ball For genealogy, go to my Lennan genealogy pages red ball

Page posted 27/7/1997. Revised 29/10/16

This URL: or
Original URL:
Auction prices:, and or now
Genealogy URL:

Valid XHTML 1.0!