lartigue monorail


From the desert to the sandhills of Ballybunion

THE ONLY RAILWAY OF ITS KIND, the Lartigue Monorail held a special place for all acquainted with its brief but enduring story. Long the subject of wonderment for those of an engineering bent, indeed anyone who travelled on it, the Lartigue Monorail ran for just 36 years but in that time garnered such interest and curiosity that today it continues to draw visitors from all parts of the globe.

The train journey of a lifetime…

RAIL ENTHUSIASTS and those taken with the curious, the wonderful, can today experience the train journey of a life time when they visit the Lartigue Monorail and Museum. Here they’ll be able to jump on board a unique and compelling feat of rail engineering, and in so doing experience all the endearing nuances of this once great rail engine.

Today you can ride the Lartigue along a kilometre of monorail track, gain a fascinating insight into the workings of a truly unique piece of rail engineering. You’ll also be able to visit the museum, which houses memorabilia, including photographs, posters, tickets, signs, lamps and newspaper articles featuring the Lartigue Monorail.

Visitors can take a train ride through the ages as you experience the sights and sounds of the old Lartigue at full flow in the audio-visual room, further insight into this fascinating monorail can be seen in the scale models of the original Lartigue train, station and main-line station, including interactive models that illustrate some of the unique features of this intriguing example of rail invention.

The enduring story of the Lartigue Monorail

DURING ITS WORKING LIFE the Lartigue Monorail was used to carry passengers the seven miles from the sand hills of Ballybunion to the market town of Listowel. Being the world’s first commercial monorail to carry passengers, the Lartigue and its creator was held in high regard, deservedly so for the prestige of such an engineering feat. With such pioneering advancement often comes a quirky side, this was especially true in the case of this world’s first.

The story of the Lartigue Monorail began some twelve hundred miles away in an Algerian desert where its creator Charles Lartigue, drew inspiration from the panniers camels used to carry either side of their backs. On this eureka moment the French engineer designed a monorail to travel atop a single rail, mounted on A-shaped trestles, with the wagons and cargo carried – pannier like – either side of the central rail.

With his prototype standing rail system well suited to the shifting sands of the Algerian desert where his monorail was used to transport esparto grass those in Westminister (Ireland was under British rule at the time) that commissioned it to carry passengers between Listowel and Ballybunion must have had their doubts, but, in 1888, despite such fears, the monorail commenced its 36 year service in north Kerry.

The nuances of the old rail engines often lend them an endearing quality but with the Lartigue even the sheer physics behind its operation had a magical human element to it. The anecdotes still endure today of station hands having to counteract the weight of an ample man or woman on one side of the carriage with coal bags on the other. To maintain the balance of the carriages passengers were not allowed move from one side to the other. In its 36 years in service the monorail reputedly never made a profit and in 1924, its line having sustained damage in the Irish civil war, the decision was taken to close the Lartigue Monorail.