Routes 5, 6, 6A, 7, 7A, 7B, 7D, 7E, 7N, 7X and 8


Donnybrook's Wright Gemini 3 bodied Volvo B5TL, SG116, is seen operating Route 7 on Churchview Road on the 21st October 2016. SG116 was delivered to Donnybrook in August 2015 and is still in operation there today.

This article outlines the history of Routes 5, 6, 6A, 7, 7A, 7B, 7D, 7E, 7N, 7X and 8. These routes skirt the south-east coast of Dublin serving famous Dublin suburbs such as Ballsbridge (named after the bridge over the River Dodder in lands formerly owned by the Balls family), Booterstown (literally named "town of the road", with booter an Anglicisation of bóthar), Blackrock (named after the dark rocks at its coastline, an abbreviation of its former name, Newtown at the Black Rock), Monkstown (named after the Cistercian Abbey built in the 13th Century), Dún Laoghaire (formerly Dunleary, then Kingstown) and Dalkey (named after Dalkey Island just off its shores, Dalkey coming from Deilg (Irish for thorn) and ey (norse for Island)).

Dún Laoghaire needs special mention due its name changes. It is named after a former High King of Ireland, Lóegaire MacNeill, who chose this site as a sea base in the 5th Century. The name became anglicised and the town was known as Dunleary. Shipwrecks were a major issue in Dublin Bay and in the early 19th century, Dunleary was chosen as the sight for a major harbour to be built to protect ships during storms. King George IV visited Dunleary when the harbour was being constructed, and the name Dunleary was dropped in favour of Kingstown in honour of the visit. The town returned to the correct Irish version of its name, Dún Laoghaire, in 1920 just before the formation of the Irish Free State. The reader should be conscious of the varied use of these names through this article.


GAC Citybus, KC87, is seen operating Route 8 on Burgh Quay in August 2000, towards the end of KC operation in Dublin Bus. KC87 was delivered in early 1984 to Donnybrook garage, but was slow to enter service, not entering service till June 1984. It was destined to become a DART feeder bus, but problems with the introduction of these services meant it floated onto other services. KC87 was loaned to Conyngham Road in the summer of 1985 to help with buses off service there for driver safety modifications. During this time, it was also periodically loaned to Broadstone to operate some short distance country routes. By the autumn of 1985, KC87 was back in store at Donnybrook awaiting introduction of the DART Feeder services. It re-entered service in Donnybrook in February 1986 with the introduction of the DART feeder services. It was one of the last KC types in operation in Donnybrook, being withdrawn about a month or two after this photo.

The feature begins with a brief description of early transport along this corridor, both train and omnibus, proceeding to horse-tram operation, into the amalgamation of the tramway companies and electrification, motor-bus competition, the Emergency and end of tramway operation, early bus operation, finishing with the more modern days of bus operation.

Early Transport:

The south Dublin coastal corridor is quite famous in transport terms, being the location of Ireland's first railway, and principally the world's first commuter railway transferring passengers from the suburbs into the city. The Dublin and Kingstown Railway (DKR) was built between Westland Row (now Pearse Station) and Kingstown (West Pier - the current station location completed a few years later). The first train departed on the 17th December 1834, with an intermediate station at Blackrock. By 1835, further stations at Sandymount, Sydney Parade, Merrion, and Booterstown had been added to the line. Further stations were added to the line at Salthill (1837), Seapoint (1862), and Landsdowne Road (1870).


Donnybrook's AX648 is seen on Temple Road operating Route 7 to Cherrywood on the 9th June 2012. AX648 is the very last ALX400 numerically in Dublin Bus's fleet. It was delivered around Christmas 2006 to the Dublin Bus technical department in Broadstone and some testing was performed on it. It finally entered service in Harristown in February 2008 upon the launch of Route 140. It transferred to Donnybrook in August 2008 and has remained in service there ever since.

Railway services were extended from Kingstown (Station) to Dalkey (Atmospheric Road / Barnhill Lawn) in 1844 with the opening of the Dalkey Atmospheric Railway (the first commercial atmospheric railway) on the 29th March 1844, though it had been running experimentally for a number of months. Its first trial run was on the 19th August 1843, though at this point the line had not been completed to Kingstown station, the train starting from Glasthule Bridge. The services ran with more regularity over the months ahead though not to a regular timetable. It should be clear from the name that this was no ordinary railway. Unlike the steam engines that ran between Dublin and Kingstown, the method of propulsion was a vacuum, with a piston attached to the train being sucked up towards Dalkey at speeds of up to 40mph. The vacuum was created with a steam engine at Dalkey, and the atmospheric pressure behind the piston would push the train in the direction of Dalkey. The return journey to Dún Laoghaire relied on gravity and was slower. The atmospheric trains ran until the 12th April 1854, ceasing to allow the conversion of the line to standard gauge track to form part of the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Railway (DWWR) line, with further stations at Sandycove (1855) and Glenageary (1867) being added to the line.

Horse drawn omnibuses were also a feature of 19th century Dublin. When the DKR analysed the business credentials of their line to Kingstown, they noted 70,000 journeys a month were made along the corridor in 1830. Of this, 34% travelled by "public cars". These were principally taxis, more private hire, potentially for a number of patrons, not omnibuses running to a schedule. This was because the jarveys (slang term for a coachman) operating these cars, argued in the courts that omnibuses were illegal according to Dublin's stage carriage laws. This continued until the mid-19th century when omnibuses started taking to the streets.


Former Donnybrook Alexander ALX400 bodied Volvo B7TL, AV397, is seen on O'Connell Bridge operating Route 7A to Mackintosh Park on the 19th May 2011. AV397 entered service in May 2004 at Donnybrook. It was delivered with luggage racks for use on the 746 service from Dún Laoghaire to Dublin Airport. It was strictly allocated to this route until its cancellation in 2010 as part of Network Direct, when AV397 went into the general allocation in Donnybrook. In the summer of 2011 it obtained an overall advertisement for HB, the last bus (as of 2018) to have received a full all over advert. It is seen in this advert above. It moved to Summerhill in November 2012 to work Airport routes 16 and 41 due to its luggage racks. It operated in Summerhill until the 9th February 2018, and is currently in store in Harristown (21st March 2018).

It is impossible to record a complete history of horse-drawn omnibus services at this time, however two operations are important in the context of this district. The first came about in 1854 with the withdrawal of the atmospheric railway. In order to continue the connection between Kingstown and Dalkey, the Dublin and Kingstown railway brought in omnibuses owned by Anthony O'Neill (a coachbuilder of 7 North Strand) and J&J Wilson (68 Upper Sackville Street). The omnibuses began on the 10th May 1854 and ran from Kingstown Station via Sandycove, Glasthule and Bullock to Dalkey. Two omnibuses operated this service, and the service operated till the end of November 1854.

The next service of note is the Kingstown and Dublin Omnibus Company (also known as the Dublin and Kingstown Omnibus Company), which began operation from College Street (No. 3) to Kingstown (49 Upper George's Street - their HQ) on the 2nd September 1861, operating a number of coaches made by Anthony O'Neill in his North Strand Coach Builders. The premise of the operation was that though there was significant competition from the train, passengers were inconvenienced by the walk to the infrequently spaced stations, and hence omnibus operation was more convenient (a fact revisited in this piece). The timetable in 1861 was:

  • From Kingstown: 0815, 0845, 0945, 1045, 1115, 1215, 1315, 1345, 1445, 1545, 1645 and 1745.
  • From College Street: 0930, 1000, 1100, 1200, 1230, 1330, 1430, 1500, 1600, 1700, 1800 and 1900.

  • One notable director of the company was a P.W. Bryan, a local Kingstown merchant, and it was he who set up a service from Kingstown Railway Station to Dalkey (Castle Street) on the 9th October 1862, which supplemented the city service. Buses ran hourly from 8am to 7pm from Kingstown, on the half-hour from Dalkey. It is noted in contemporary accounts that upon the launch of the service, that "two good looking girls... clad as soldiers, their sex not seemingly known to their companions" were part of the inaugural service, completely out of the norm from mid-19th century etiquette.


    Donnybrook's Wright Gemini bodied Volvo B9TL, GT10, operating Route 7D from Dalkey is seen alongside former Conyngham Road AV290, operating Route 79, on Westmoreland Street on the 18th April 2014. GT10 entered service in September 2012 in Donnybrook Garage operating Route 7 primarily, being Donnybrook's first GT route. It is in more of a general allocation in Donnybrook these days (March 2018).

    My Bryan took over the operation of the Kingstown and Dublin Omnibus Company as a leasee on the 1st January 1863, both operations now under the same guise. It is interesting to note that even in these early times, long before magnetic readers or leap cards, that this company offered annual tickets. The cost, £15 from Dalkey to Dublin, £10 8s from Kingstown to Dublin and £7 16s from Blackrock to Dublin. By 1865, the company was issuing 159,000 tickets (single tickets not annual) per year on their operation, showing just how much growth there can be on a well run commuter route, even in competition with a railway.

    Competition on this route across the various forms of transport is a constant throughout this article, between train, tram and bus. Protectionism from the various companies, trying to ensure their profits on the commuter route, form a key part of the story.

    Horse Tram Operation:

    The Dublin Southern District Tramways Company (DSDT) built the first tram lines along this route. Because tramways were a major infrastructural project, built by private companies on public roads, new tramways required an act of parliament (at this time from the House of Commons in London). The Dublin Southern District Tramways Act was awarded in 1878, allowing work to begin on two unconnected tramways. It was the protectionist legal objections by the DWWR that was key in these two lines being incompatible, due to different track gauges.


    Donnybrook's SG22 is seen operating Route 8 on Nassau Street on the 31st August 2015. It entered service in Donnybrook in September 2014.

    The first DSDT line, and thus the first section of what became the Dublin-Dalkey tram line, opened on the 19th March 1879, operating from the bottom of Royal Marine Road in Kingstown (just up from the then station entrance) to Castle Street in Dalkey (terminus at the corner of Castle Street and Convent Road) via George's Street, Summerhill Road and Ulverton Road. Due to the narrowness of Castle Street in Dalkey, but also George’s Street in Dun Laoghaire, and objections from interested parties, this tramway was built to a 4ft gauge, differing from the standard 5ft 3in tramway gauge (or more correctly 5ft 2 3/16 in) employed in Dublin. A depot was built at Castle Street in Dalkey, just prior to the terminus.

    The second DSDT line was built between Blackrock (Main Street in front of the Stone Cross) and Haddington Road (where it joined the Sandymount tramway – see Route 4 article) via Rock Road, Merrion Road and Northumberland Road, opening on the 16th July 1879. The line was built to the standard 5ft 3in gauge. Its depot was at Shelbourne Road. The Dublin Tramways Company who operated the Sandymount line would not allow running rights of DSDT trams on their rails, an agreement eventually being reached where the DSDT trams would be brought into the city by DTC horses, the horses and drivers being swapped at Haddington Road. This section of line was operated by steam engines for a number of months beginning Sunday 7th August 1881. Two stream trams provided a 30min service from Blackrock to Haddington Road. Opposition to these engines was severe, and calls to limit the speed to 4mph was sufficient to kill off the project.


    DF768, a DAF re-engined Van Hool bodied Leyland Atlantean AN68, is seen operating Route 7 on Butt Bridge on the 2nd November 1993. D768 was new to Donnybrook in January 1976. It moved to Ringsend in the autumn on 1987 due to maintenance problems within Ringsend depot, a straight swap for some other Ringsend Atlanteans. It then moved to Phibsborough in the summer of 1991 operating there for just over 2 years. This photo was taken a short time after its transfer back to Donnybrook in the autumn of 1993. It was one of the last few Atlanteans to operate into 1995 in Donnybrook garage, being withdrawn in January of that year exactly 19 years after it had entered service. Notable in this photo is the bar across the upstairs windows. The Van Hools were originally delivered without this feature. However D768 was involved in an accident in 1976. While travelling down the Rock Road the bus had to break suddenly, the consequence of which was that the conductor partially went through the front windows. After this, the bar across the front windows was added to Van Hool Atlanteans.

    The DSDT also obtained permission to build a third line from Pembroke Road (meeting the Blackrock line at Northumberland Road) to Rathmines via the route that eventually became the "cross tram" (Route 18), which was built by the Dublin United Tramways Company (DUTC) following acquisition of the DSDT. A small section of the line along Pembroke Road was built, to the corner of Waterloo Road and Baggot Street, but the DCT refused permission for DSDT trams to travel along their lines, and hence it was never used.

    The final section of line, joining the two sections, was built and operated by a different company, the Blackrock and Kingstown Tramways Company (BKT). This line operated from Blackrock Main Street (where it connected with the DSDT line at "a point 28 years westward of the stone cross in that street") to Marine Road (junction of Crofton Road), Kingstown, via Newtown Avenue, Temple Hill, Monkstown Road, Dunleary Hill and George's Street. Its depot was built on Newtown Avenue. At each end it shared a terminus with one of the DSDT lines, though integrated timetabling was not introduced in order to entice through running of passengers. The different gauges complicated the construction on Marine Road, especially where the lines crossed. The line opened in August 1885, its introduction/construction being severely contested by the DWWR, who saw this as the final chain in a competitive tram service. Initially, they needed not worry. No through running of DSDT vehicles between the city and Kingstown happened over BKT lines. With horse swaps at Haddington Road, tram swaps at Blackrock and Kingstown, the Dalkey bound passenger faced a journey approximately four times longer by tram than train. However that was soon to change.


    Map showing the different sections of the horse tram route from Dublin to Dalkey (click on it for a larger version).

    Bibliography:

    Corcoran, M. Through Streets Broad and Narrow: A History of Dublin Trams. 2000. Ian Allan.
    Flanagan, P.J., Mac an tSaoir, C.B. Dublin's Buses. 1968. Transport Research Associates.
    O'Connor, K. Ironing the Land. 1999. Gill and Macmillan.
    Atmospheric Railway - Complete Success of the Experimental Trip. The Nation, 26th August 1843 (p15).
    Dalkey Omnibuses. The Freeeman's Journal, 5th May 1854 (p1).
    Advertisement for Sale of Goods. The Freeman's Journal, 30th November 1854 (p1).
    The Kingstown and Dublin Omnibus Company (LTD). The Freeman's Journal, 2th July 1861 (p1).
    The Kingstown Omnibuses. The Freeman's Journal, 2nd September 1861 (p2).
    The Kingstown and Dublin Omnibus Company (LTD). The Freeman's Journal, 26th October 1861 (p1).
    Kingstown and Dalkey Omnibuses. The Freeman's Journal, 10th October 1862 (p1+2).
    Omnibuses - Dalkey, Kingstown and Dublin. The Freeman's Journal, 5th January 1863 (p1).
    Kingstown and Dublin Omnibus Company. The Freeman's Journal, 6th February 1863 (p3).
    Dublin South Suburban Railway. The Freeman's Journal, 4th April 1865 (p4).
    In Parliament Session 1877-78. Dublin Southern District Tramways. The Freeman's Journal, 17th November 1877 (p2).
    Steam Locomotion for Tramway Traffic. The Freeman's Journal, 22nd July 1881 (p5).
    The Dublin Southern District Tramways Company - Steam Cars. The Freeman's Journal, 10th October 1881 (p4).
    In Parliament Session 1883, Blackrock and Kingstown Tramways. The Freeman's Journal. 21st November 1882 (p8).
    Dublin Southern Districts Tramways Company. The Freeman's Journal. 9th February 1887 (p8).
    To Dalkey by Tram. The Freeman's Journal. 5th June 1893 (p10).
    Electric Traction in Dublin. The Freeman's Journal. 3rd December 1894 (p4).
    Dublin Southern District Tramways Company. The Evening Herald. 14th August 1895 (p4).
    The Southern Tramways Co. and the Horse Show. The Evening Herald. 23rd August 1895 (p3).
    The Electrical Tramway - The Inauguration. The Irish Independent. 18th May 1896 (p5).

    N.B. This website is not affiliated with Dublin Bus. The information contained herein is intended for enthusiast reference. For all current timetable and route information please refer to the official Dublin Bus Website.