The agricultural steam traction engine became popular in the 1850’s and used primarily for ploughing the land, threshing corn crops and heavy transport. The engines were generally owned, not by individual farmers, but by contractors who traveled from farm to farm, a special occasion of hard work, great socialising, music, storytelling, companionship and lasting friendship. They were also used to provide power at chosen locations driving ancillary equipment such as saw mills for planking timber used in construction, but also to drive factory and manufacturing equipment. The spectacular “Showman” engines provided electric power to deliver music at the country fairs. Then there was road building, drawing heavy loads driving supplementary equipment such as stone crushers, mills, and other plant.
They were a major contribution to the development in Ireland of the infrastructure, agriculture and engineering projects, basically our Industrial Revolution. They worked until around the 1930’s, when they were gradually replaced by the petrol-paraffin tractor which were less costly to run.
This is an important part of our Heritage here in Ireland.
The fate of these engines was clear. No longer of any use or value, many were sent off to the scrap yard to be cut up into small pieces and the metals recycled and used for other endeavors leaving no trace of the original engine behind. Fortunately, a few of the engines were carefully kept for nostalgic reasons, whilst many others were less fortunate and left to rot in the weather wherever they stood, a token of a lifestyle passed.
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