Historic Lartigue monorail in Kerry to be restored

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The Lartigue monorail which operated between Listowel and Ballybunion 76 years ago is to be restored in an £800,000 project.

The chairman of the National Millennium Committee, Mr Seamus Brennan, officially inaugurated the project in Listowel, Co Kerry, yesterday, for which a grant of £175,000 was awarded. The remainder of the funding was raised by private and public bodies. In phase one, a 500-metre section of the track will be restored and a replica engine built in Britain to give people a glimpse of how this unique railway operated between 1886 and 1924.

It was the only one of its type in the world, and the steam engine and carriages which ferried people between Listowel and Ballybunion ran along a single track some three feet off the ground. It is hoped that the train and track will be operating before Christmas. In the second phase, a museum and interpretative centre will be erected in Listowel, housing film footage of the original Lartigue railway. The restoration committee said that the completed project could attract up to 12,000 visitors annually to Listowel.

The chairman of the committee, the Fine Gael TD Mr Jimmy Deenihan, said the project was about creating the spirit of the past and giving people a real flavour of how things were.

"The railway has passed into Kerry folklore, but for 76 years it played an important part in the commercial life of north Kerry. Holidaymakers from Dublin would take the Great Southern Railway to Listowel and then use the Lartigue to go to Ballybunion.

"It was used by schoolchildren, it was used to move cattle to the fairs and it was used to transport sand and seaweed. This is a great project and we are delighted that it is finally going to come to fruition," he said.

Mr Brennan later visited the home of Mr Mick Barry, of Ballingowan, Lisselton, a member of the restoration committee, who has reassembled a section of the original railway line.

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