On the sunny summer morning of May 25th 1844, the residents of Clontarf witnessed a previously unseen occurrence when a railway train puffed its way into their local Clontarf Station. This was the Dublin – Drogheda rail service, which later became part of the Great Northern Line. This original station had been constructed about one kilometre north of the current station, Clontarf Road, because of fear of flooding further south along the coastline. As you travelled south along this line from Clontarf, the Railway Company constructed an embankment across the sea and the flood plain.
But over the decades that followed the rail journey from Clontarf to Amiens St. Station (Connolly) was frequently interrupted as the sea and the River Tolka swept away embankments and bridges. On the night of December 8th 1954, the Tolka railway bridge near Fairview was entirely swept away by flooding. The old station at Clontarf closed on September 3rd 1956 and during the 1990s the new Clontarf Road Rail & Dart Station was constructed beside Fairview Park.
Following many months of discussions between Dublin Corporation and the Dublin United Tramways Company, in 1890 the original horse-drawn tram ran from the City Centre to Dollymount, as this was a continuation of the earlier tramway service that ran to Annesley Bridge. At that time Clontarf had a tram shed and stable situated on the site of the present-day Dublin Bus garage.
But in the years immediately post 1890 intense advancement was in progress and new tram tracks were laid in preparation for the electrified tram. On March 19th 1899 the very first electric tramline to the city centre, from any suburb, ran between Clontarf and Nelson’s Pillar.
Clontarf to Howth
Historical photograph of a tram in ClontarfClontarf had always enjoyed an uncommonly rich social history and the tramline was about to add a fresh new chapter. Following many years of thorny negotiations with the Guinness heir, Lord Ardilaun, who then owned St. Anne’s Estate along the coastline, an agreement was eventually agreed to extend this service to the Hill of Howth. But most peculiarly two tramway companies operated the service: the Dublin United Tramways Company and the Clontarf & Hill of Howth Tramway Company.
The Dublin United Tramways Company operated the service from the City Centre to Dollymount Station where their driver and conductor disembarked only to be replaced by a new driver and conductor from the Clontarf & Hill of Howth Tramway Company, who then ran the service to the Hill of Howth and back again to Dollymount.
The Coming of the Bus
For many years trams were the fastest vehicles on the road. But in 1925 Dublin’s first-ever bus route was established between the City Centre and Killester via Clontarf. For close on 20 years, the Clontarf Tram had basked in an aura of public acclaim, romance and beauty but now its days were sadly numbered.
The bus had obvious advantages over the tram in terms of manoeuvrability and speed, in addition to being able to service all the new suburban housing estates. Great competition developed in the following years between the two modes of transport with the buses simply overtaking the trams en route and beating them to the bus stop, from there they took all the available passengers, in the process forcing the trams to run empty.
In March 1941 the last remaining city tram was withdrawn along Clontarf seafront, as a double-decker bus had two years previously replaced the No. 30 from Dollymount Station. And by July 1959 the last bastion of days nostalgic, The Hill of Howth Tram, was replaced by the single-decker No. 88 bus.