Vancouver Island tourist railroad take a season off for locomotive repairs

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SEATTLE — The Alberni Pacific Railway, the tourism excursion service that gives visitors a taste of industrial railroading in the forests of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, won’t be operating this season because repairs are needed for both the steam and diesel locomotives it has been using.

“The No. 7 Baldwin 2-8-2T steam locomotive is undergoing a boiler rebuild and the Alco RS-3 No. 8427 needs a drive axle replacement,” says Kenneth Rutherford, director of the Western Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society. “With the priority on the steam engine there are no funds for the diesel repairs. We hope to have the full steam tourist package operational for 2020.”

The city of Port Alberni, 90 miles northwest of Victoria, B.C., owns the steam and diesel locomotives, as part of the industrial collection of the Alberni Valley Museum, which it also owns. The railway is operated by the Industrial Heritage Society through a contract with the city, on tracks leased from the Island Corridor Foundation — the route of the former Esquimalt & Nanaimo.

Rutherford said most of the locomotive’s boiler work has been done by certified boiler makers who volunteered their time; that will continue through the installation of new flue sheets and boiler tubes. The society’s own volunteers will handle insulation, cladding and external piping. “We expect the project to be less than $100,000 (Canadian),” he added. “We have raised over half of the funds and will be doing a further fund raising once we have a good handle on the amount required to completion.”

The excursions offered trips, about 35 minutes each way, from a 1912 depot to the McLean Mill National Historic Site, which remains open.

The industrial heritage society, formed in 1983, also looks after the city's collection of vintage trucks in a former ice rink that has been converted to a museum building. The society now has its own collection of vintage trucks, industrial artifacts and railway equipment, including the Canadian Forest Products No. 112, a Baldwin 2-6-2T steam locomotive which is also being rebuilt.

Other repair and restoration projects under way include a 1909 Canadian National caboose and an 1882 parlor car, built by the American firm Jackson & Sharpe and brought to Vancouver Island early in the 20th century to carry first-class passengers. It’s the oldest artifact in the collection.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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