‘We’re not just looking to the past’: Whistles ring out in Stradbally for National Steam Rally

Laois town fills with visitors and stream engine fans for 59th annual celebration

The sounds of whistles and amusements returned to Stradbally, Co Laois, over the bank holiday weekend for the 59th National Steam Rally.

The rally, organised by the Irish Steam Preservation Society (ISPS) since its inception, is one of the biggest steam events on the island of Ireland and attracts thousands of visitors from home and abroad.

Nicola Glynn, secretary of the ISPS, described the day as “the perfect family day out with a difference”.

“We’re all immensely proud of our often-overlooked Irish industrial and agricultural heritage here. From traction engines parading through the town to our steam train on the Stradbally Woodland Railway offering rides all day,” she said.


“The rally is an essential means of showcasing the old elements of rural living and how integral steam was to that, especially in the 20th century.

“But we’re not just looking to the past. Together with our partners, Arigna Fuels, we’re helping to develop the next generation of steam fuel. This biocoal is 100 per cent carbon free and is showing very promising results powering the engines at this year’s rally.”

Several thousand people thronged the grounds of Stradbally Hall on Sunday and soaked up the unexpectedly dry and bright day. Crowds took in the sights and sounds of dozens of working steam engines of all shapes and sizes as well as live music, a carnival and a pet farm.