Dublin engineer and draughtsman Cyril Fry built a superb collection of more than 300 model trains over a 40 year period from the 1920s. Cyril passed away on 1972 and the collection was subsequently acquired from his widow by Dublin Tourism.
The collection reappeared in 1988 in Malahide Castle. A team lead by retired CIÉ craftsman Thomas (Tom) Tighe had spent 8 years constructing a fabulous O gauge display to complement Cyril Fry’s models which were displayed in static exhibits for their own protection and preservation. The model railway had stations from all over Ireland, including Malahide station. So people (like me) going to see the Fry Model Railway were able to see and admire both of these things in Malahide Castle. The model railway was dismantled in 2010 and put into storage.
I mentioned in a previous blog that I was excited to hear that a local farmer, Micheál Gaffney (sometime referred to as Patrick Michael Gaffney) who passed away in 2012, had left €1.5M in his will to Fingal County Council for the renovation of Casino House provided it was used to house the Fry Model Railway. The House was built around 1750 by the Talbot family. What a fantastic idea that was – to reserve the model railway and the cottage and to keep them available for visitors to Malahide.
So the new exhibition (called the Model Railway Museum) finally opened in January of this year, I did not manage to get in to see if before it was closed for COVID, but I did get in to see it with my whole family last weekend. Here is where the bad news begins.
The lady who welcomed us realised that we had seen the railway in its old location. So she started to set our expectations by saying that:
- Casino did not have enough space to show the old model railway
- The model railway did not cope well with being dismantled and stored
So the bad news is:
- There is nothing left to see of Tom Tighe’s work
- The new working model is very very poor. It uses a very small number of smaller trains (OO gauge) and they have only made models of four different locations. The models themselves are very poor. The model of Malahide is confusing, for example, with parts that look current, parts that look older, and parts that do not represent the actual geography.
- The restoration of Casino is disappointing. While it looks very well from the outside, they have retained no vestiges that might speak to the previous character of the interior. The interior is plain and boring.
I think small kids who like trains would still enjoy the model. But for the rest of us I would have preferred to have parts of Tom Tighe’s model, even if there were no moving trains.
So if you’re thinking of visiting because you have small kids then you may enjoy it. But everyone else can save their money.
Apparently Fingal County Council invested a further €2.8 million into the project on top of Mr Gaffney’s contribution. How badly wasted that money was!
To be honest, I can’t help thinking that Mr Gaffney is rolling over in his grave to see what Fingal did with his money.
If you have an interest in the Fry Model Railway, then I suggest that you should instead watch this segment from RTE’s Late Late show (originally shown on 31 March 1989) where Gay Byrne interviews Tom Tighe and shows some footage of the model railway in Malahide Castle.