The race to cross the Shannon at Athlone was a hotly contested one. The Great Southern & Western Railway had high hopes of being the first company to cross the river but the MGWR emerged victorious.

Deaths during Railroad Construction

Returns for August 1850, show that a total of 1,059 men were engaged in building the railway from Jones' Lake, near Moate to the Batteries in Athlone. The job of the railway navvy was always a dangerous one and the greatest single loss of life during the construction of the railways in Westmeath occurred while excavating for a portion of line near Jones' Lake, Moate. The bank gave way and four men were smothered. On the same day another man was killed by a wagon running over him. An inquest on the death of a navvy killed while excavating near Athlone commented on the long hours worked by navvies and reported that, by November 1850, no fewer than twelve men had died in accidents associated with rail-works in Westmeath.

The Great Southern and Western Railway reached Athlone in 1859 en-route for the West.

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