The Casino Model Railway Museum, Malahide, Co. Dublin. - Open House Dublin 2024
Journal •

The Casino Model Railway Museum, Malahide, Co. Dublin.

The Casino Model Railway Museum is owned by Fingal County Council. A Cottage orné or decorated cottage, dates back to a movement of ‘rustic’ stylised cottages of the late 18th and early 19th century during the Romantic movement, when some sought to discover a more “natural” way of living as opposed to the formality of the preceding neo-classical architectural styles.  English Heritage defines the term as “A rustic building of picturesque design “.

The picturesque was distinguished by the elevation of nature as a subject of scenic and aesthetic interest. To improve a view, one could set a cottage into the landscape allowing it to add interest to a natural scene.  While the Casino at Malahide is such a building with its well-shaped thatched roof, its setting is different given that it is not part of a rural landscape and is in fact very close to the village of Malahide. It also lacks ornate timberwork, fretwork, barge boards, and rough wooden colonnades formed by tree trunks commonly used to achieve picturesque effects.

Casino is the Latin word for little house. The history of the Malahide Casino is somewhat obscure, and we are reliant on cartographic history to allow us to date it. The fabric of the cottage would suggest a later 18th and mid-19th century date. John Taylor’s map of county Dublin 1816 is the first map to show it marked simply as `cottage`.

Side view of a white thatched cottage with timber cladded extension and landscaped drive

The Talbots, owners of the Malahide Castle Estate to which the Casino belonged were present in Malahide from the 12th century. But it wasn’t until the latter half of the 18th century that they developed the lands by laying out Malahide village, establishing a ribbon factory and carrying out improvements to the Castle. We think the cottage was built by Richard Wogan Talbot.

Image of Railway exhibition with a case displaying trains in the centre of the room Side angle of case exhibiting railway train cars Display case of a small model of Dublin city centre

The re-use of the cottage as the Casino Model Railway Museum allows public access to this highly individual building and provides a unique backdrop for the Fry Model Railway Collection. The aim of the project was to adapt and reuse the protected structure for a modern purpose, whilst retaining its essential character.


If one reason why the cottage ornés is less well known and less appreciated than it arguably deserves to be is that it has been written off as aesthetically light weight and a passing piece of architectural fashion, then another must be that it is a vulnerable building type from physical point of view. Though the underlying structure might be of durable masonry, construction of the embellishments that surround it and give it it`s character are made of materials such as thatch and timber that are not long lasting and are susceptible to decay over a relatively short time. Prior to its conservation in 2020 the Casino at Malahide had been vacant since 2004 and its fabric was teetering on the edge of serious and irretrievable loss. It`s recent repair and conservation has ensured its continued existence and survival into the future.

Contributor: Fionnuala May, County Architect, Fingal County Council

Photography Fingal County Council


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