County Antrim Roads and Railways

The roads of late years have been gradually improved, the materials existing within the county for making and repairing them being of the best quality. An important and very difficult work, called the Antrim Coast Road, from Larne to Ballycastle, has been lately executed under the immediate control of the Board of Public Works, opening an improved communication with a fine tract of country comprehended between the coast and the range of mountains from Carrickfergus to Ballycastle, and hitherto cut off from any reasonable means of intercourse by the badness of the roads over those mountains, some of which were conducted for miles at slopes varying from one yard in six to one in twelve.

Many projects had been formed, at different times, for an improved line, but were abandoned on account of the great expense involved in the execution of them; but at length a plan with a moderate estimate was sanctioned by the Commissioners, and they and the grand jury granted about £18,000 for carrying it into effect. The new road proceeds from Larne close along the shore to Black Cave, where it winds round the promontory of Ballygalley Head, passing by Glenarm, Cairnlough, Garron Head, and Waterfoot, to Cushendall, where it strikes off inland to its northern terminus at Ballycastle, taking in the few portions of the old line that were available. The greatest difficulties encountered in its formation arose from the necessity of conducting the road, in part of its line, under a considerable extent of rock, some hundreds of feet in height, having its base washed by the open sea; and from its passing along portions of very steep hills of moving clay bank. The former obstacle presented itself at the bold headland of Glenarm deer-park, where about 30,000 cubic yards of rock were, by blasting with great care and judgment, hurled in immense masses down upon the shore; and the road, 21 feet in clear width and 10 feet above the highest tides, has been floored partly on the loose and partly on the solid rock. The latter occurred more particularly at the base of the hill of Cloony, and was by far the more serious obstacle, from the slippery nature of the clay banks and their tendency to move over the road. To counteract this inconvenience the engineer proposed, after having thrown down very large masses of detached rock, which were found strewed over the face of the bank (so as to form a sufficient flooring), to construct a revetment wall, from the summit of which any gradual accumulation of the slippery bank might from time to time be removed.

Very solid piers of heavy rough blocks were deeply bedded into the bank, 30 feet apart, to be connected by substantial walls having a vertical curvilinear batter combined with an arched horizontal curve, to which the piers form the abutments. The entire distance being also concave, affords a powerful combination of resistance against the pressure. The old road passes over the hill at an elevation of nearly 200 feet above the sea, with slopes of one in six and upwards; while the new line along the coast is nearly level. A new line of road has been opened from Belfast to Lisburn; another from Belfast to Antrim, which is to be immediately continued to Ballymoney, Ballymena, and Coleraine; and a third recently from Belfast to Crumlin. A new line has been made from Ballymoney to Dervock, crossing a large and valuable tract of bog; and others are in progress leading respectively from Whitewell-brae to Ballyclare and Ballymena, from Belfast to Carrickfergus and Larne, from Glenavy to Moira, from Doagh to Ballymena, and from Ballymena to Cushendall. But the most important and expensive is the mail coach road from Belfast to Derry, now in progress.

The lines from Belfast to Carrickfergus and Larne, and from Antrim to Coleraine (the latter being the Derry road), have been undertaken with the sanction of the Commissioners of Public Works. A double line of railway is in progress from Belfast to Cave Hill, which was the first undertaken in Ireland, but for want of funds was abandoned for some years; the operations have, however, been resumed. Railways are also contemplated from Belfast to Carrickfergus, from Belfast to Armagh (being the Dublin line), and from Armagh to Portrush; the last will only pass about two miles through this county.

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