THE last train will leave Great Victoria Street station in Belfast on Friday ahead of the move in the autumn to the new Belfast Grand Central Station.

To mark the end of an era, Translink has planned a day of activities with something for everyone to enjoy starting from 8am on Friday morning.

Throughout the day there will be schools’ workshops for local pupils, musical interludes from the Translink Choir and the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra, a Cool FM Roadshow and presentations showing the history of the station in images.

Great Victoria Street train station today

Great Victoria Street train station today

Great Victoria Street station is closing to make way for the new Belfast Grand Central Station which is set to open this autumn. As the largest integrated transport hub on the island of Ireland, it will significantly increase both rail and bus capacity and services for passengers travelling to destinations across the North and beyond.

The Europa Buscentre, which adjoins the train station, remains open.

Great Victoria Street has been a key rail facility for 185 years since first opening in 1839. It played a significant role in several key moments in history including both World Wars, facilitating ambulance trains in WW1 and American troops in training for D-Day during WW2.

Belfast’s first railway terminus, Glengall Place, opened on August 12, 1839, on the site of a former linen mill. Trains belonging to the Ulster Railway first ran as far as Lisburn, reaching Portadown in 1842 and Armagh in 1848.

A new station building was constructed in 1848 to a design by the Ulster Railway engineer John Godwin. It was renamed Belfast Victoria Street in 1852 and then in 1856 Belfast Great Victoria Street. A through-train to Dublin began in 1853.

During the First World War, Great Victoria Street Station facilitated ambulance trains staffed by the Royal Army Medical Corps. Up to 120 injured servicemen were transported on each of these trains which ran about 30 times between Dublin (North Wall) and Belfast. 

During the Second World War, the station greeted a huge influx of American troops in training for D-Day, bringing with them cigarettes, iced doughnuts, US newspapers and magazines as well as soft drinks, the likes of which had never been seen in Belfast before. Special trains also operated to bring tradesmen and workers to the Belfast shipyards, the aircraft factory and other manufacturing plants in aid of the war effort. Workers’ trains also ran from Great Victoria Street to a huge American aircraft assembly base at Gortnagallon near Crumlin.

Part of the original 1848 Great Victoria Street station façade was demolished in 1968 to make way for the new Europa Hotel, which opened in 1971. The remaining parts of the station were then damaged by two separate bombings in 1972. In April 1976 the station was closed, with all rail services moving to the newly built Belfast Central Station, now Lanyon Place. 

In 1991 came the new Europa Bus Centre and Great Northern Mall shopping area. History was again made with a new Great Victoria Street Station opening on September 30, 1995.

Hilton Parr, Head of Rail Customer Services, Translink, who started at the company the year the current Great Victoria Street Train Station opened in 1995, said: “Since 1995 when it reopened, thousands of passengers have travelled through every day for work, education, leisure, nights out, getting to health appointments and much more.  

"During this special day on Friday, we want to surprise and delight our passengers, recognise our staff, many of whom started their careers at the station, and engage the community, capturing all the nostalgia of the occasion and making this a memorable day for all.”

The last train to leave the station is scheduled to depart at 11.32pm for Bangor on Friday night and is expected to attract a large number of train enthusiasts and history buffs.