Derry City Council unveils plans to sell off the Foyle Valley Railway Museum

Paul Gosling, Issue 104/8, p8, August 2004
The Foyle Valley Railway Museum in Northern Ireland could be sold into commercial ownership in the next few months, according to its owner Derry City Council. The museum has been closed since April 2002 after the city council fell out with the Foyle Valley Railway Society, with which it jointly founded and operated the museum. Since its closure the museum has been subject to repeated attacks by vandals.

Derry City Council has confirmed that it has received expressions of interest for the purchase of the site and surrounding riverside area. The council declined to disclose the details of the proposals. Its preferred option is to reopen the museum under private ownership, with new tourism attractions located alongside.

A spokeswoman for the council said: 'In December 2003 Derry City Council agreed to seek expressions of interest for the development of the Foyle Valley Railway site and it environs. Public advertisements were placed and expressions of interests were received.

A report was subsequently presented to the [council's] Strategic Review Group and to committee. Council then decided to invite those who had submitted expressions of interest to attend a preliminary interview.' The council's spokeswoman added that all council committee papers considering the future of the Foyle Valley Railway were confidential and that there would be a full public consultation before any decisions were taken.

Foyle Valley Railway Museum was initially opened in 1990 on the site of part of the disused Derry to Donegal railway line. It closed as a result of insufficient visitor numbers and difficulties in organising volunteers to run the museum, after the council ended its use of paid staff.

The North West of Ireland Railway Society moved its railcar two years ago to the Fintown narrow gauge railway in County Donegal. The society appears to no longer be functioning.

The closure of Foyle Valley is just one example of inadequate demand afflicting museums and heritage centres in Northern Ireland, with several closed and others attracting fewer visitors than predicted. Omagh's Ulster History Park is also in the process of being sold (see Museums Journal, June 2004, p11) and there are concerns about the viability of others.