Downpatrick town and the surrounding countryside has experienced unprecedented levels of flooding, causing significant damage to rolling stock, track and buildings.
The Railway has around three miles (4.8 km) of track, connecting Downpatrick town with the historical sites of Inch Abbey to the north and King Magnus' Grave to the south. It also has a museum of railway artefacts and rolling stock from both sides of the Irish border, dating from the 1860s to the 1980s.
The floods, which attracted television and online news coverage, have left all DCDR's diesel locomotives and railcars submerged in water for some time. Water may have entered axle boxes, traction motors and other crucial parts of the locomotives.
The Railway expects that it will take several months to restore the locos, and fears that some damage may be beyond repair. It will not be able to assess the full extent of the damage until the floods have completely subsided. It will then carry out full inspections.
Diesel locos 146, G617, A39R, 80 class power car 90, and the Wickham railcar have been in deep water, and the Railway will not be able to restore them before the date of the planned gala.
Power car 69, which is in the workshop undergoing restoration, has also been submerged.
The Railway expects that its steam locomotives, which are also partly submerged, will be more straightforward to recover than the more modern diesel traction.
Fortunately, the water levels did not rise about the axle boxes of 450 class railcar 458 except at the driving trailer cab end. However, DCDR still needs to inspect it and fully dry it out in order to prevent major damage.
As well as the rolling stock, all the track outside the station area is still deeply submerged, so the Railway has not yet been able to inspect it and establish the extent of damage and the repair work required.
The locomotive sheds, workshop and carriage gallery have been under water, 4-5 feet deep at times. Equipment, spare parts and tools have been damaged or destroyed.
The Railway expects that the cost of repairing the damage will reach tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds.
It regrets having to cancel the gala, but believes that it has no choice. It expects that the process of refunding tickets but expects that this will take some time, especially given the clean-up and administration work it is carrying out.
The Railway reports that, “Our volunteers are heartbroken at what can only be described as a disaster for the railway, and while we are determined to build back and open again, we have a massive task ahead of us and need all the support and understanding the wider community can offer.
“We have faced major hurdles before and have overcome these. With the hard work of our volunteers, hopefully we can do the same once again and in due course we will see a return to better times.
“Thank you for your understanding and support at this time.”