The well known town of Kilkenny was first served by rail when the Great Southern & Western Railway extended their then Waterford line south from Carlow in the early 1850s. The line terminated at Kilkenny, and when it was extended south to Waterford trains had to run around at the station. In 1878 however, a line was built northwards from the Kilkenny terminus to Portlaoise via Abbeyleix which dispensed with the run around of trains, this providing Dublin to Waterford trains an alternative route to that via Carlow. The Portlaoise line however was closed in December 1962, and Kilkenny is once again a partial terminus.

The original station building and train shed at Kilkenny are now redundant, with the main building now utilising the former goods shed and yard. To avoid the run around, a direct curve was built at Lavistown in 1995 to allow frequent Bell Liner freight trains to avoid Kilkenny Station. Today, the direct curve is only used by NFDS container and timber trains.