KINSALE and the world of steam preservation has lost a key figure in the death of popular engineer Tim Nagle who was well known nationally and internationally for his dedication to the conservation and preservation of all forms of 19th and 20thcentury technology, in particular those powered by steam.
Most of his life was spent immersed in saving our nation’s steam heritage, including spearheading campaigns to salvage the few remaining steam rail locomotives from the then CIE to agricultural and industrial engines from scrap and breakers’ yards.
This enthusiasm for engineering of yesteryear was born in childhood, inherited from his innovative father who having noticed a six-year-old Tim fear a steam roller, build a working model from wartime scraps to demonstrate to his young son the Victorian technology.
Fear overcome, Tim’s adventures with innovation had begun, including teenage attempts to build a rocket, paring sulphur from matches and warning his Monkstown neighbours of the launch. Sadly, the mission failed but his zeal was not dampened, and similar escapades continued throughout his life always believing everything is possible.
Since the 1960s, he was a frequent visitor to steam events across the UK. Inspired by their methods of demonstrating steam engines in a working environment, Tim encouraged the embryonic steam preservation movement in Ireland to adopt a similar approach.
Steam rallies and fairs across Ireland now feature displays of working engines demonstrating how they contributed to the formation of the economy through threshing, sawing, stone crushing, even coffee grinding and music. Tim was a founder of the country’s largest steam rally held every June in Innishannon, which exhibits an international collection of engines working to their original purpose and has raised over a million euro for the Irish Cancer Society since its inception in 1998.
Until recently, he was an active member of the Halfway Vintage Club in Ballinhassig, enjoying the camaraderie of fellow enthusiasts, while generously and eagerly bequeathing some of his expertise to the next generation.
Tim’s personal collection included simple engines, compound engines, triple-expansion engines and, perhaps the highlights of the rich collection of machines he garnered over six decades were his beloved 1878 McLaren Traction and 1916 Marshall Portable engines.
The sight of the white bearded Tim driving his fine McLaren traction engine was familiar to many readers. The engine was found in a farmer’s yard in Wexford and meticulously restored by Tim and his wife Mary over 25 years. The engine is an important piece of heritage, being the oldest working McLaren engine in the world, as its four-year younger sister resides in London’s Science Museum.
More recently, in 2016, Tim completed his second restoration of his portable engine for her centenary. On a personal level, Tim was quiet and unassuming individual, with wide interests from space exploration to literature and his lifelong ‘friend’ BBC Radio 4. Despite being in his 82nd year, he retained an awe of the world and his firm belief in a spirit of adventure. The word gentleman was much used in the many tributes paid his death; it was most appropriate.
Tim is survived by his wife Mary, children Siobhan and Rory and granddaughter, Amy.