The Coal Mine Ice-Cream Train
By Sophia Connellan, 6th Class

As a little girl my nana, Kathleen Eardley and her 3 brothers would wait after school for the Coal Mine Train which came through Castlecomer. Nana said “you would know the training was coming from the trail of grey smoke looking like cotton candy in the air”.

She told me about a house at the bottom of our road where the gatekeeper used to live. The woman who used to live there many years ago before it was done up used to come out and close the gate every time the train was coming to stop the deadly traffic from coming up the road. If you look at this house and location now you can only see the old pole from the gates remaining which you can still see while driving up the road.

My nana used to own a shop in Castlecomer for many years. This shop was in my family for many, many years as my Nana’s aunt and grand aunt used to own it and run it before her. It only closed in 2015 and now where the shop once was is apartments.

Before my Nana was born, her Grand Aunt used to own the shop and the shop was the first shop in Castlecomer to sell ice-cream without electricity. The coal mine train wasn’t just used to transport coal, the train also brought food and other things for the people of Castlecomer.

My Great, Great, Great Grand Aunt who used to own the shop in the 1920’s used to get huge ice blocks which were transported on the Coal Mine Train. The ice blocks were used to keep items fresh in the shop but also to keep the very important ice-cream fresh for about 3 days. The people of Castlecomer were delighted to have ice-cream, it felt like such a treat, my nana said, because they would never have had it before. My nana said that if all the ice-cream wasn’t sold in the shop, a man used to deliver it out the countryside on his bicycle, kind of like the ice-cream vans we have today. He had a bell on his bike to let people know he was coming just like the ice cream vans have music nowadays.

Ice-cream became so popular in Castlecomer during this time especially with kids, they would come in with their half shillings, which was the money of that time, to spend on ice-cream. My Great, Great, Great Grand Aunt not only sold ice-cream on a wafer; she also did ice-cream in a cup, kind of like a float. As this became so popular and more and more people wanted this, a Tea shop was set up in 1930 beside the main shop where people could come in and sit down for the tea, cakes, scones and the most important thing ice cream.

For many years the Coal Mine Train brought ice to Castlecomer making it possible for ice cream to be made and available for people in Castlecomer. The Coal Mine train was so important for Castlecomer not only for the mines but also for the community and business of Castlecomer.

The Coal Mine train ceased operation in 1963 and I am proud to say that my family were involved in bringing ice-cream to Castlecomer for the first time in the 1920’s…..maybe that’s where my love of Ice Cream comes from!

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