The ‘Support Our Steam Appeal’ has been launched by one of the country’s oldest voluntary steam preservation societies – which is based in Stradbally.
Like for many voluntary organisations, 2020 has been an incredibly difficult year for all in the Irish Steam Preservation Society.
And now, as the new year begins, they are appealing to the public to ensure the Stradbally Woodland Railway and the National Steam Rally will be here long after Covid-19 has left us by Supporting Our Steam.
Last March, the Society decided to close the railway in Stradbally for the year due to Covid and shortly after, was forced to cancel the annual National Steam Rally.
The steam loco Róisín has been locked up in her shed all year and the group are counting down the days until she can pull trains for the public again.
In a different shed in England, another engine of theirs is waiting to come home to Stradbally in steam for the first time in years.
The Mann engine is a steam tractor 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, the group are 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.
The Society has created innumerable happy memories and special occasions for untold thousands of people throughout its 55-year history, all done through the passion and dedication of a small group of volunteers.
Gordon Condell, Society CEO and Stradbally Woodland Railway General Manager, said: “The Irish Steam Preservation Society is one of Ireland’s oldest voluntary groups dedicated to preserving the steam engine – a huge page of our social and agricultural heritage.
“Due to Covid-19 we’ve been backed into a corner and we’re appealing to the generosity of the general public to help us fight our way out of it.
“The National Steam Rally and Stradbally Woodland Railway have hosted thousands of visitors down the years and we want to guarantee we will be able to continue to do so for many years to come in the future through our online SOS Support Our Steam appeal.”
Nigel Glynn, Steam Rally Committee Chairman, said: “The town of Stradbally has hosted the National Steam Rally for over half a century and is a major heritage event for enthusiasts from across the world and a traditional family-friendly attraction for the general public.
“In the spring of 2020 the rally committee decided to cancel the 2020 event which had been scheduled for it’s traditional time of the August bank holiday weekend.
“With the public’s help, we hope to come back stronger and better than ever as soon as it is safe for us to host another rally.”
Peter O’Dwyer, Irish Steam Preservation Society Public Relations Officer, said: “Like much of the world, the Irish Steam Preservation Society has been left in an uncomfortable limbo since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“With our rally cancelled and the Railway forced to close, we have been left without any form of income for over 12 months.
“The goal of the Support Our Steam appeal is to make sure the Society is in a position to open the railway and organise a new rally as soon as it is safe to, as well as bringing home our flagship Mann steam tractor home from England after restoration.”