There was this, like, totally amazing porty on the Dort


FESTIVALS AND EVENTS:THE ICONIC green trains have been immortalised in the work of Roddy Doyle and have inspired poetry by Séamus Heaney. They have chugged their way through Fair Cityand been used by Dustin the Turkey in his political campaigns. Had he become president, he would almost certainly have linked Dingle with the Dart. Or should that be the “Dort”?, writes ALISON HEALY

These carriages have inspired the infamous “Dort” accent used by affluent teenagers in the posher areas served by the network. It has been said that the rugby-obsessed southsider Ross O’Carroll-Kelly would use no other mode of transport.

The Dart’s quarter-century was celebrated last night when some 240 people gathered at Connolly Station to climb on board the Dart 25 Live concert train. Most of the passengers had won their tickets in a competition organised by radio station 98FM.

“It’s going to be four stages with four acts in four carriages,” explained Iarnród Éireann spokesman Barry Kenny. The three music carriages contained Jerry Fish and the Mudbug Club, David Kitt and The Chapters, who entertained partygoers as the train swept along the bay from Connolly to Howth to Bray and back to Connolly Station.

The option of dancing around handbags and briefcases was limited in the intimate setting, but the partygoers didn’t seem to mind.

Comedian Eric Lalor occupied the fourth carriage, and was filled with a mixture of terror and delight at the prospect. “I don’t know what I’m letting myself in for,” he said before he climbed aboard. “But it looks like it will be a lot of fun.”

Being up close and personal with his audience did not faze Lalor. He was more concerned with the challenge of performing in broad daylight while maintaining balance on a moving object. “I have no Dart jokes,” he said regretfully, “but I expect I will act as an improvised tour guide along the way.”

Patrick Donovan from Stoneybatter was looking forward to the trip. He had brought along a Dart ticket issued on August 21st, 1984. It cost the princely sum of £1.25 for an unlimited day’s travel. “They don’t know that I’ve been using it every day since,” he quipped.

Peter Cooling (76) was reminiscing with his grandson Derry Cooling Nolan (15) about the importance of the Dart for the people of Bray. “It was a huge thing for us. We could leave the cars at home. Driving into Dublin used to be a nightmare,” he said.

And Laura Doyle from Clondalkin had reason to be nostalgic about the Dart. It began to trundle down the tracks the year her eldest son was born. “It was a big thing for the children. We would bring them to the beach in Bray or Killiney for the day,” she recalled. Her daughter Sara-Leah (20) nodded. “I still love going to the beach. I would use the Dart a lot, during the summer especially.”

Last night’s party was one of a series of events planned to mark the service’s 25-year anniversary. A competition has been organised to allow budding poets to see their work featured alongside established poets on the popular Poets Corner display.

And next month the Restaurants Association of Ireland will bring restaurants into Dart stations to allow commuters to sample dishes.

The Dart tootled its way into Irish life 25 years ago yesterday. On its first day, the new-fangled mode of transport generated major excitement. This newspaper reported that many would-be passengers were left stranded on platforms due to major overcrowding by excited travellers on the first day.

The concept of “standing clear” while the doors closed took a while to sink in. People leaned on the doors, preventing them from closing until they were repeatedly ordered to stand clear.

One red-faced man recalled how he put out his hand to wave the Dart down, just as he had always done with buses.

Before the service started, this newspaper marvelled that “travellers will pass through automated ticket barriers at each station and, once aboard, their driver can speak directly to them by means of a public-address system”.

Another railway anniversary

Almost half a billion passenger journeys have been made on the Dart since its first passengers boarded on Monday, July 23rd, 1984. Up to 90,000 journeys are now made daily, compared with just 25,000 when it began.

This is not the only anniversary to be marked on the railways this year. On August 2nd, the Kingstown Special steam train will pull out of Dún Laoghaire station to celebrate 175 years of the first train line in Ireland, the Dublin and Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) Railway. Five steam-train trips will run between Dún Laoghaire, Connolly and Bray on the day.

Tickets will be available from Monday at Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Co Council Cash Office, Marine Road, Dún Laoghaire or from Dalkey Heritage Centre, Dalkey Castle.