|Dates of operation||1 January 1925–31 December 1944|
|Predecessor||Midland Great Western Railway|
Great Southern and Western Railway
Dublin and South Eastern Railway
Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway
|Successor||CIÉ Railways Division (1945-1987)|
Irish Rail (1987-present)
|Track gauge||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)|
3 ft (914 mm)
|Length||854 miles (1,374 km)|
The Great Southern Railways Company (often Great Southern Railways, or GSR) was an Irish company that from 1925 until 1945 owned and operated all railways that lay wholly within the Irish Free State (the present-day Republic of Ireland).
The period was difficult with rising operating costs and static to failing income. The early part of the period was soon after infrastructure losses of the Irish Civil War. The Emergency or Second World War at the end of the period saw shortages of coal and raw materials with increased freight traffic and restricted passenger traffic.
Civil unrest in Ireland had led to the assumption of governmental control of all railways operating in Island of Ireland on 22 December 1916 through the Irish Railways Executive Committee, later succeeded by the Ministry of Transport. Control was returned to the management of the companies on 15 August 1921. The Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921 establishing the Irish Free State and subsequent Irish Civil War all combined to be damaging to the railways of Ireland widespread and extensive damage to infrastructure and rolling stock. Between 1916 and 1921 revenues had doubled while operating costs and wages had quadrupled. When the GS&WR, by far the largest of the companies, announced it would cease operations on 8 January 1923. The Irish Free state had already recognised the importance of the railway system and had set up the Railway Commission to advise on ownership in April 1922. The impending collapse led to the process that was to create the GSR.
Provision for the creation of the company was made by the Railways Act 1924, which mandated the amalgamation (in the case of the four major railway companies) and absorption (of the 22 smaller companies) of all railways wholly within the Irish Free State. Only cross-border railways, most notably the Great Northern Railway (GNR) and the Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway (SL&NCR), remained outside its control.
The Great Southern and Western Railway Company, the Midland Great Western Railway Company of Ireland and the Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway Company agreed to terms for amalgamation, forming the Great Southern Railway Company by way of the Railways (Great Southern) Preliminary Amalgamation Scheme of 12 November 1924 (SI no. 31 of that year).
The Great Southern Railways Company was formed when the fourth major company, the Dublin and South Eastern Railway (DSER), joined these companies under the Great Southern Railways Amalgamation Scheme of 1 January 1925 (SI no. 1 of that year) and the Great Southern Railways Supplemental Amalgamation Scheme, also 1925. The DSER was substantially British owned and had wished to merge with the GNR but was overruled.
|Argina Colliery Extension Railway||CLR||3 ft (914 mm)||4||0|||
|Athy Wolfhill Colliery Railway||GSWR||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||12||0|
|Athenry and Tuam Extension Railway||GSWR||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||17||0|||
|Bantry Extension Railway (CBSCR)||CBSCR||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||11||0||Operated by Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway|
|Ballinrobe and Claremorris Light Railway||MGWR||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||12||0||Nominally 12 miles|
|Baltimore Extension Railway||CBSCR||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||8||0|
|Castlecomer Railway||GSWR||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||12||0||Nominally 12 miles|
|Cavan and Leitrim Railway (CLR)||CLR||3 ft (914 mm)||59||9|
|Clonakilty Extension Railway||CBSCR||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||9||0|
|Cork, Bandon and South Coast Railway (CBSCR)||CBSCR||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||94||20|
|Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway (CPBR)||CBPR||3 ft (914 mm)||16||4|
|Cork and Macroom Direct Railway (CMDR)||CMDR||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||24||5||CMDR tried to avoid joining GSR by physical independence|
|Cork and Muskerry Light Railway (CMLR)||CMLR||3 ft (914 mm)||11||7|
|Cork City Railways||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||1||0||Tramway connecting docks, CBSCR and GSWR, mileage nominal|
|Donoughmore Extension Light Railway||CMLR||3 ft (914 mm)||8||0|
|Dublin and Kingstown Railway||DSER||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||6||0|
|Dublin and South Eastern Railway (DSER)||DSER||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||161||41||Route mileage may include closures and operational track|
|Fishguard & Rosslare Railways & Harbours Company||GSWR||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||104||0||50% joint GSR/Great Western Railway|
|Great Southern and Western Railway (GSWR)||GSWR||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||1100||326||Route mileage may include closures and operational track|
|Loughrea and Attymon Light Railway||MGWR||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||9||0|
|Midland Great Western Railway (MGWR)||MGWR||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||538||139||Route mileage may include closures and operational track|
|South Clare Railway||WCR||3 ft (914 mm)||0|
|Schull and Skibbereen Railway (SSR)||SSR||3 ft (914 mm)||15||4||Company was West Carberry Tramways and Light Railways Co. Ltd.|
|Southern of Ireland Railway||GSWR||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||28||0|||
|Timoleague and Courtmacsherry Light Railway (TCLR)||TCLR||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||9||2|
|Tralee and Dingle Light Railway (TDLR)||TDLR||3 ft (914 mm)||38||8|
|Tralee and Fenit Railway||GSWR||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||7||0||Mileage nominal|
|West Clare Railway (WCR)||WCR||3 ft (914 mm)||27||11|
|Waterford and Tramore Railway (WTR)||WTR||5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm)||7||4|
Omissions and Anomalies
CIÉ previously maintained a full online list of the twenty five companies which constituted the Great Southern Railways in 1925. This is not entirely accurate, as it includes the Fishguard & Rosslare Railways & Harbours Company which still exists today, although GSR took over 50% of its shares upon its creation, the other 50% being held by the UK Great Western Railway. The respective shareholdings in the company, now essentially a shelf company, are held today by Iarnród Éireann and Stena Line.
The GS&WR was the dominant constituent in terms of area, route millage and rolling stock. The GSR's headquarters were established at Kingsbridge and Inchicore becoming the chief engineering works. The former Dublin and South Eastern section in particular had become extremely run down and needed extensive remedial work on its rolling stock with about one third condemned with immediate effect. Revenue for passengers decreased from £1.91m in 1925 to £1.28m by 1931, that for freight decreasing from £2.27m to £2.05m.
Buses and hotels
From 1929, when it acquired a stake in the Irish Omnibus Company, the company also ran bus services. These operations became the responsibility, from 1 January 1934, of the Great Southern Railways Omnibus Department.
The group owned a number of hotels, and in 1990 the hotel group was transferred from Córas Iompair Éireann to Aer Rianta, in the ownership of which it remained until 2006. The hotel group formed by the company, Great Southern Hotels, continued to bear that name until its privatisation in 2006. Only the Sligo hotel continued to use the Great Southern name as of 2016, but in January 2018 The Malton Hotel in Killarney reverted to its original name of the Great Southern.
Worldwide economic conditions continued to be difficult and affected Ireland also, passenger and freight revenue decreased to £1.27m and £2.05m by 1939.
Second World War
Although the Republic of Ireland was a neutral country railway transport was severely disrupted by The Emergency. Lack of high quality coal fuel in Ireland and the need to import from England was severe and desperate alternatives such as turf-burning had only extremely limited success. By 1944 most non-suburban passenger services were restricted to Mondays and Thursdays only with some curtailed altogether. 
Transfer to CIÉ
Over the period of the GSR's existence the total route network was reduced slightly from 2,181 miles (3,510 km) in 1925 to 2,042 miles (3,286 km) at the end in 1944. Among the few lines closed in the intervening years were the former Midland Great Western lines from Galway to Clifden (in 1935) and from Westport to Achill (in 1937).
The stretch of line that was double track was reduced more significantly, from 438 miles (705 km) to 276 miles (444 km) in the same period.
Locomotives and rolling stock
A wide variety of locomotives and rolling stock was inherited from the constituent companies. 1925 records show 526 broad and 41 narrow gauge steam locomotives remaining inherited from the originating companies. Locomotives were renumbered into the GSR class number scheme whereby the lowest numbered engine in the class was used as the class identity. There was a parallel Inchicore scheme that used a letter to indicate the axle layout and a number to designate different groups within the class.
When the GSR passed into CIÉ at the end of 1944 the total number of broad gauge steam locomotives was about 475 of which 58 had been built by GSR. About 28 narrow gauge steam locomotives remained.
The total number of passenger vehicles including post office, parcel, and brakes vans was 1670 in 1925, falling to 1337 by 1944.
The GSR introduced four Sentinel steam railcars in 1928 with the power unit similar to the GSR Class 280, operating range of over 150 miles (240 km) and a passenger capacity for 55. All were withdrawn in the early 1940s. A subsequent order from Claytons in 1928 were less successful and withdrawn in 1932, a model exists in the Fry railway collection. Four Drewry petrol powered railcars of which two were narrow gauge were also introduced around 1927, with all four also being withdrawn by the mid 1940s. The innovative Drumm Battery Train was successfully operated on the Dublin—Bray route from 1932.
- General Manager
- Chief Mechanical Engineer/Locomotive Superintendent
- J. R. Bazin (1925—1929)
- W. H. Morton (1930—1932)
- A. W. Harty (1932—1937)
- Edgar Craven Bredin (1937—1942)
- J. M. Ginnetty (1942—1944)
- C.F. Tindall (1944)
- Westland Row to Amiens St.
- Clements & McMahon (2008), pp. 13–14.
- Clements & McMahon (2008), pp. 11–20.
- Clements & McMahon (2008), pp. 11, 13.
- Clements & McMahon (2008), pp. 13–15.
- "LIST OF RAILWAY COMPANIES WHICH WERE ABSORBED WITH THE GREAT SOUTHERN RAILWAYS IN 1925". Córas Iompair Éireann. Archived from the original on 10 April 2013.
- Clements & McMahon (2008), p. 350.
- "New railway line for Cavan". RTÉ. Archived from the original on 15 April 2018. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
- "Athenry and Tuam Extension to Claremorris Railway". Grace's Guide to British Industrial History. Archived from the original on 15 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
- Clements & McMahon (2008), p. 174.
- Langford, John (June 2008). "CORK CITY RAILWAYS". Irish Railway Record Society (166). Archived from the original on 30 November 2017.
- Casserley (1974), p. 79.
- Casserley (1974), p. 148.
- Clements & McMahon (2008), pp. 17.
- Scales, Joan (13 September 2017). "What's in a name? Great Southern hotel returns to its roots". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 11 November 2020. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
- Clements & McMahon (2008), pp. 16–17.
- Clements & McMahon (2008), pp. 19–20.
- Clements & McMahon (2008), p. 343.
- "History of the Route". The Connemara Greenway. Retrieved 4 February 2022.
- McNally, Frank (21 August 2013). "Great Western Greenway: the long and winding road without a car in sight". The Irish Times. Retrieved 4 February 2022.
- Clements & McMahon (2008), pp. 298–307, 380.
- "Great Southern Railway(s)". Irish Railwayana. Archived from the original on 20 August 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
- Casserley, H. C. (1974). Outline of Irish Railway History. Newton Abbot & North Pomfret: David & Charles. ISBN 0715363778. OCLC 249227042.
- Clements, Jeremy; McMahon, Michael (2008). Locomotives of the GSR. Newtownards: Colourpoint Books. ISBN 9781906578268. OCLC 547074718.