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Irish Steam Preservation Society

SOS: Secure Our Steam

2020 was an incredibly difficult year for all of us. The Irish Steam Preservation Society opted in March to close the Stradbally Woodland Railway for the year due to Covid-19 and not long after that, was forced to cancel the annual National Steam Rally. 

As a new year begins, we are looking to the future. Our steam loco Róisín has been locked up in her shed all year and we’re counting down the days until she can pull trains for the public again. In a different shed in England, another engine of ours is waiting to come home to Stradbally in steam for the first time in years. The Mann engine is a road-going steam vehicle belonging to the Society and it’s return to steam on home turf is imminent. 

In order to make sure that Róisín can leave her shed and that the Mann engine can come home, we’re appealing to the public for donations to make up for our losses in income during 2020. 

The funds raised will ensure that the Railway can open to the public again (subject to any public health guidelines which may be in place in the future) and to cover the transportation costs of bringing the Mann engine back home again. 

If you’d like to help us reach these goals in 2021 and help keep Irish steam heritage alive in the years to come, please consider donating to our case via our iDonate page linked below. 

The Society has created innumerable happy memories and memorable occasions for untold thousands of people throughout its 55-year history. Please help us make sure we can continue to do this long after Covid-19 is gone and for many years into a much brighter future.

The Irish Steam Preservation Society is a voluntary organisation based in Stradbally, Co Laois whose aim is to preserve and maintain machinery connected to Ireland's industrial and social heritage. 

The Society's SOS: Secure Our Steam appeal aims to cover the transportation costs of bringing our Mann steam traction home from England following its restoration and to cover unavoidable overheard costs associated with running the Stradbally Woodland Railway as well making up for revenue lost as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Society
The Irish Steam Preservation Society (ISPS) was formed by a group of Co Laois-based enthusiasts who set out to preserve a crucial part of Ireland’s national heritage, the steam engine. The first meeting of half a dozen members took place at Harold Condell’s farm in Whitefields, Laois in 1964. They visited the Lowton Park rally in Lancashire, England to see how a rally was run in the summer of 1965. 

In turn, a small gathering of traction engines was held at the market house in Stradbally, Co Laois on St Stephen's Day 1965. This gathering of engines was regarded as a success and it was decided by the newly formed society to hold a larger rally in the grounds of Stradbally hall on the August Bank holiday weekend the following year. What began as a simple arena with engines taking part in various competitions has now grown into the premier steam event in the country. 

The early years of the society were spearheaded by Colonel Charles S Kidd. Other attractions at the rally were soon introduced, notable was the addition of a narrow gauge steam railway in 1967 consisting of a simple track laid out and a locomotive kindly donated by the Guinness Brewery was run with its passenger carriage in tow. This was the genesis of what is now the Stradbally Woodland Railway, the oldest volunteer-run heritage railway on the island of Ireland.

In 1969, the line was relaid to 3ft gauge run the preserved Bórd na Móna locomotive No.2 Róisín, which was named to mark the railway’s 50th anniversary and the engine’s 70tth birthday in 2019. The track was laid by the volunteer members of the ISPS and expanded to form a balloon loop in 1982. The railway is run regularly throughout the year and is an important and valued asset to the ISPS. 

The rally has seen the exhibits grow as cars once parked by the public now appear at the show as exhibits 56 years later whilst the veteran cars still appear alongside as they have done since the start. Vintage tractors are exhibited and fondly talked about by members of the public as they remember the old days. 

The rally celebrated its 50th year in 2014 by gathering the most steam engines ever on the island of Ireland in the one location. With this prominence other heritage groups such as the Celtic Steamers have used the rally as a place to end their ‘road runs’ which they use to raise money for various charities around the country. Steam engine owners travel to the rally from far all over Ireland and visiting engines from England are a regular sight in Stradbally for the rally. 

The rally itself is mentioned among the heritage movement in Ireland with fond memories as it was the first of its kind in the country and thus has the kick starter for all subsequent steam, vintage and heritage shows across the country. The decision was taken to cancel the 2020 National Steam Rally due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Mann engine No 1216 of 1917
Our Mann engine is a steam tractor vehicle that was built in England by the Mann Steam Cart & Wagon Company of Leeds in 1917.

Rescued from a Sawmill by the early steam preservationist Jack Louth in Co. Meath, it was then donated to the Irish Steam Preservation Society and was present for the 1967 National Steam Rally at Stradbally. It was regularly driven by Society member Jack Tynan and latterly his son Tom until its original boiler was deemed unfit for further use in the late 1990’s.

Following a number of years on static display, the engine was sent to England in July 2015 for restoration to working order. This major undertaking is now virtually complete and its return to Stradbally in steam is imminent. Its return has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Andrew Barclay 0-4-0WT steam loco No 2/LM44 Róisín
Completed in 1949 as works No 2264, Róisín was one of three locos of the same design built for Bord na Móna. The company ordered the three steam locos as an experiment to trial alongside their existing fleet of small diesel locos. Each loco was assigned the numbers 1, 2 and 3 alongside their Bord na Móna vehicle numbers of LM43, LM44 and LM 45 respectively.

After just 5 years in service, Róisín and her sisters were withdrawn and were offered by Bord na Móna to preservationists. Colonel Kidd secured LM43 and LM44 for the society and it was subsequently decided that LM43 would be sold to pay for LM44 and the transportation costs. LM43 is now No 7 Tom Rolt on the Talyllyn Railway in Wales. 

Róisín made the railway her home for the next 50 years, first pulling a train on it in 1969. After decades in service at the railway during rally weekends and later bank holiday weekends from the 1980s on, she received a new boiler from Israel Newtons of Bradford in 2009. 

She was named Róisín in 2019 following a vote by railway volunteers in order to mark both the railway’s 50th anniversary and the loco’s 70th birthday. The railway has unfortunately been closed since its last running season ended in October 2019 due to the pandemic. 

Transport costs to bring our Mann engine, No. 1216 of 1917, back from England.

Cover overhead costs associated with carrying out essential maintenance on the Stradbally Woodland Railway to ensure it can operate for the public again when it is safe to do so.

Bridging the gap in revenue that has been lost as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic which forced the cancellation of the 2020 National Steam Railway and has resulted in the Stradbally Woodland Railway being closed to the public since October 2019.

Contact Details

The Green, Stradbally, Laois, IRELAND

Cause Registration

Revenue (Charities Unit) (CHY): 26423