J3474 : Pre-Laganside view, Belfast

taken 38 years ago, near to Belfast, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland

Pre-Laganside view, Belfast
Pre-Laganside view, Belfast
Taken (on my home from work, at East Bridge Street), as an ordinary railway photograph, without realising that I was recording a large piece of Belfast which was soon to vanish – the “Laganside” project J3374 : "Laganside" bus, Belfast had not even been conceived. Rather than list what’s gone it’s easier to mention what remains – the H&W cranes J3575 : Shipyard cranes, Belfast and the Sirocco chimney J3474 : The Sirocco chimney, Belfast (both top right). To go forward 23 years see J3474 : Post - Laganside view, Belfast.
The Belfast – Bangor railway line

The Belfast & County Down Railway (BCDR) opened its railway line from Belfast (Queen’s Quay) to Holywood on 2 August 1845. This line was extended to the seaside resort of Bangor by the Belfast Holywood & Bangor Railway (BHBR), which opened on 18 May 1865. The BCDR absorbed the BHBR in 1884.

While double-track throughout, the BCDR always regarded its Bangor line as a branch off the main line to Newcastle. However, creation of the nationalised Ulster Transport Authority (UTA) in 1948 changed matters somewhat as only the Belfast – Bangor line survived the mass closures implemented by the UTA in 1950. The old BCDR Bangor line received a further blow in 1965 when it was isolated from the rest of the Irish railway system by closure of the Belfast Central Railway line from Ballymacarrett Junction (east of Queen’s Quay station) to Central Junction, just west of the former GNR(I) Great Victoria Street station (see: LinkExternal link ). However, on a positive note, introduction of UTA built MED railcars gave Belfast – Bangor the distinction of being the first main railway line in the British Isles to be operated solely by diesel traction.

In 1976, the Belfast Central Railway reopened as part of a project to replace both the GNR(I) Great Victoria Street station and the BCDR Queen’s Quay with a “central” station situated in east Belfast. Today (2013), Belfast – Bangor is an important part of the Northern Ireland Railways’ system, with services to Bangor originating from Portadown or the reinstated Great Victoria Street station. While diesel locomotives may occasionally visit with engineer’s trains, all passenger services are in the hands of Spanish built 3000 or 4000 class railcars.

For photographs of the former line to Newcastle, please see: LinkExternal link . For photographs at Queen's Quay station and Central Services Depot, please go to: LinkExternal link

The Belfast Central Railway & The Cross-Harbour Rail Link

Opened in 1875, the Belfast Central Railway (BCR) initially connected Central Junction (at MP 112 on the Great Northern Railway (Ireland) Dublin – Belfast main line, just west of Great Victoria Street station) with Ballymacarrett Junction at MP0.44, outside Queen’s Quay station on the Belfast & County Down Railway. A later extension to the BCR permitted running from East Bridge Junction (near the current site of Belfast Central station) to the Belfast & Northern Counties Railway (BNCR) at York Road. Passenger and freight trains could therefore travel from Dublin to Bangor (although seldom did), but only freight traffic passed through the tunnel under the Queen’s Bridge between East Bridge Junction and the BNCR. While the BCR did initially offer passenger services between Great Victoria Street and Queen’s Quay, these lasted only a short time as reversal was required at both Central Junction and Ballymacarrett Junction. The BCR became part of the GNR(I) empire in 1885.
The BCR system was closed by the Ulster Transport Authority (UTA) in 1965, with the railway bridge over Middlepath Street demolished in 1966. However, the line from Central Junction to Ballymacarret Junction was reopened by Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) in 1976 as part of the Belfast Central project, which involved constructing new stations at Belfast Central (East Bridge Street) and Botanic (Botanic Avenue) and replacement of the “shaky bridge” over the River Lagan.
Plans to bring trains from the former BNCR Larne line into Central station were first mooted in 1977, but rejected – then approved – and finally cancelled following the 1979 UK general election. The proposal was revived again in 1987, but continually postponed by Northern Ireland’s direct rule administration until work finally started in summer 1991. In addition to a rail link from a new Lagan Junction (on the east of the River Lagan) via a bridge over the River Lagan to Yorkgate station and the Larne line, the Sydenham By-Pass (A2 Belfast – Bangor road) was extended to the existing M2 Motorway. The cross-harbour rail link opened on 28 November 1994 with the Lagan rail bridge named “Dargan Bridge” by HM Queen Elizabeth II on 9 March 1995.
Separately to the cross-harbour link, NIR succeeded in returning rail services to Great Victoria Street station on 30 September 1995. In addition to a new station, this project involved new track from Westlink Junction to City Junction which permitted through running from Great Victoria Street to Bangor, Londonderry/Derry and, for the first time, Larne.
For the purpose of this Shared Description, the area covered includes Central Junction/Westlink Junction to Ballymacarrett Junction and Lagan Junction to Yorkgate station. For views from Central Junction to Great Victoria Street station, see: LinkExternal link . For Queen’s Quay to Ballymacarrett Junction, see: LinkExternal link . For York Road/Yorkgate to Larne Harbour, see: LinkExternal link . For photographs of surviving structures on the BCDR line to Newcastle (and branches), see: LinkExternal link and for photographs on the line between Ballymacarrett Junction and Bangor, see: LinkExternal link

Belfast Waterfront (formerly Sirocco Quays) development

Sirocco Quays is a redevelopment of the old Davison’s Sirocco Engineering Works bounded by Short Strand, Bridge End and the Lagan. The site extends to 16 acres and the entire project is expected to take some 10 years to complete. It is intended to include 2,000 apartments, a hotel, supermarket and other shops, offices, leisure facilities, a care home for the elderly, doctor’s surgery and open space.

Note added 28 September 2011. There has not been any progress on the scheme. An administrator was appointed to the development company.

Amendment 27 May 2018. With the site, sold the new owner’s proposals for the future development of the site are starting to emerge. Re-named from Sirocco Quays to “Belfast Waterside”.
The developer’s website comments “Earlier this year, Swinford (Sirocco) Ltd unveiled new plans for the £400 million regeneration of the riverfront site. Following extensive consultation with communities and other city stakeholders, a new masterplan application is being proposed: Emphasising the opportunity of the riverfront with new piers, pontoons and moorings for leisure activities. Introducing new uses for community and cultural space, alongside plans for a hotel, cafes, bars, retail and restaurants. Reducing overall heights across the site, with lower buildings by the riverfront and chimney. Connecting the East Bank into the City Centre Proposals for the 16-acre site will include a landmark pedestrian and cycle footbridge creating a new connection from the city core to the east of the city. The bridge and masterplan will emphasise the re-integration of the East Bank with the rest of the city. In so doing it will help to link the whole East Belfast community with the city centre”.
There is now the following application (16 February 2018) for planning permission “LA04/2018/0448/F Erection of 13 storey Grade A office building with ground floor and mezzanine café/bar/restaurant uses (sui generis), lobby/reception area, basement and deck car parking, servicing (refuse/recycling/cycle storage/changing facilities), landscaping/public realm works, introduction of temporary pedestrian/cycle access to riverfront, associated access arrangements to Short Strand and Bridge End and other associated infrastructural works Lands at former Sirocco Works Short Strand and adjacent to Bridge End and the River Lagan Belfast”.

“14 Aug 2018 Two major new Belfast office developments worth a combined £70 million received the green light from Belfast City Council’s Planning Committee this evening.
Members approved proposals for the £50m first phase of the landmark Belfast Waterside development and the £20m 11-storey Graham House development on Albert Square in the city centre.
 The Belfast Waterside 28,476 sqm Grade A office scheme will bring an initial £50m investment and deliver the first major employment activity at the former Howden Sirocco site in almost 20 years, accommodating up to 2,500 employees.
A 13 storey office accommodation building, including a retail unit on the ground floor alongside café and restaurant units, will be the first step in creating modern workspace for 11.5 per cent of the 46,000 new jobs that Belfast City Council is seeking to create by 2035 as part of the Belfast Agenda. The plan also includes landscaping and public realm works, a pocket park and pedestrian and cycle access” - Belfast City Council statement. This approval does not appear (16 March 2019) on the NI Planning Portal.

My photographs appear as a matter of neutral record only. I have no connection with the site, developer or any group opposed to the development and have no opinion about its future. I cannot enter into correspondence.

Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Albert Bridge and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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J3474, 4351 images   (more nearby search)
Date Taken
Friday, 11 July, 1986   (more nearby)
Tuesday, 21 July, 2009
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Subject Location
Irish: geotagged! J 347 742 [100m precision]
WGS84: 54:35.8898N 5:54.9755W
Camera Location
Irish: geotagged! J 346 739
View Direction
North-northeast (about 22 degrees)
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