Out of scrap metal and junk, skilled hands take over

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.

The Steam Traction Engine, as well as stationary engines, were recognised by some as important assets of our culture and a new interest developed. Engines, some rotten beyond what would be considered by the ordinary person retrievable, were recovered, some from distant lands, and restored into full working order.

This community of devotees painstakingly carried out this tedious work, inputting immeasurable hours of dedication, exploring to the limit their ingenious skills in engineering, resourcefulness and problem solving, supported unconditionally by each other to face this daunting challenge and give us what we have today; an open museum of immaculately restored machines, restored to the exact specifications that they were initially built to, and providing us all with an inspiring insight into a working lifestyle of a time, a very recent time, in our development as a people here in Ireland.

It is so important to acknowledge the importance of all the individuals in these families in their valuable role in the process of these restorations. Their commitment and support is paramount to the motivation of this steam community and their involving the younger generations so that they can also be as enthused and as determined as their parents in keeping this community alive and functioning. After all, the next generation will be the curators going forward.


So why am I doing this project.

As a Professional Photographer and Published Author, I am documenting this Steam conservation activity as it is today for future generations to have a reference to what their families selflessly did to preserve this part of our Irish heritage and culture.

To highlight the contribution that these working Steam Engines made to the industrial and agricultural development of Ireland.

To give recognition of the skills and determination that the restorers made to recover these machines that will now allow us all a moment to reflect and appreciate this chapter in our past history.

An opportunity to recognise family members and friends and the steam community as a whole who without their support these efforts would be fruitless.

To create a visual and written account of this time that will provide a reference for future generations to be informed in these achievements made by their fore fathers and families. All this to be compiled in a full colour volume.