£4m Whitehead attraction draws 25,000 visitors

Cllr Robert Logan with Dr Joan Smyth, John McKegney and Siobhan Dillon.
Cllr Robert Logan with Dr Joan Smyth, John McKegney and Siobhan Dillon.

An east Antrim tourism attraction is celebrating a first-class season with an increase in visitor numbers of 50 per cent year on year.

The award-winning Whitehead Railway Museum announced that it welcomed over 15,000 visitors through its doors in 2018 – up 50 per cent on its first year in 2017. This means that in its first two years it has attracted 25,000 visitors.

Robin Morton, Councillor Robert Logan and RPSI volunteer Matthew Wilson with the No.4 locomotive built in 1947.

Robin Morton, Councillor Robert Logan and RPSI volunteer Matthew Wilson with the No.4 locomotive built in 1947.

Operated by the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI), the five-gallery experience weaves through the rich rail history of generations, from seaside trips to tales of smuggling butter across borders.

Visitors can enjoy an array of steam and diesel locomotives plus heritage carriages, see work in progress in the restoration workshops, enjoy afternoon tea in the Edwardian Tea Room, and hear all about the social impact of the railways and Whitehead.

Cllr Robert Logan, who sits on Mid & East Antrim Council’s Economic Growth & Tourism Committee, was recently welcomed to the museum by Dr Joan Smyth, RPSI president; Canon John McKegney, chairman and Siobhan Dillon, acting general manager.

Mr Logan said: “The opening of Whitehead Railway Museum has added significantly to the tourist offering in Whitehead and council is so pleased to see this fantastic increase in business.

“Feedback from visitors to the museum has been overwhelmingly positive, it’s also attracting a high proportion of tourists which is really putting Mid and East Antrim on the map as a must-see destination.”

During his visit to the £4m complex, Mr Logan pulled a signal lever to officially commission a newly installed 100-year-old track signal, which came from Castlerock having been donated to the RPSI last year by Translink NI Railways.

Dr Smyth said: “We are pleased that visitor numbers are on the increase but we know that these figures could not have been achieved without a great deal of hard work by our willing volunteers.

“Our volunteers are the lifeblood of the museum and the society and we are always keen to welcome new recruits to our ranks.”

Whitehead Railway Museum is open 10am to 4pm, Thursday to Saturday.