The R3 “Alco” diesel locomotive pulls out of the Alberni Pacific Railway roundhouse in July 2018, preparing to take tourists from the train station in Port Alberni out to McLean Mill National Historic Site. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

City of Port Alberni cancels tourist train operations for 2019

Steam train to McLean Mill is out of commission for repairs; city wants to re-examine rail costs

Port Alberni’s tourist trains will not run in 2019 after city council agreed this week to put a temporary halt to railway operations in the Alberni Valley.

Council voted during a special meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19 to officially separate the McLean Mill National Historic Site and the Alberni Pacific Railway (APR), which have previously been treated as one entity.

READ: Residents, volunteers weigh in on future of McLean Mill National Historic Site

Dr. Jamie Morton, the temporary APR manager, brought forward a list of draft budgets for both McLean Mill and the railway. These draft budgets are available to view on the city’s website. He explained that if the city focuses on minimal APR operations for 2019—60 short runs using the No. 11 diesel locomotive—the cost would be about $127,100 from the city’s operational budget. Meanwhile, 45 runs to McLean Mill using the Alco diesel locomotive—which is currently in need of some repairs—would cost the city around $192,050.

Last year the railway offered 55 runs to McLean Mill, but struggled with filling the seats. According to Morton, occupancy was at an average of about 40 percent capacity in 2018.

Mayor Sharie Minions thanked Morton on Tuesday for his “realistic” breakdown of the costs for running the train.

“Although these numbers are shocking, because they are high, I think that this is the best, realistic projection of what this will cost that we have been given,” she said. “We don’t want to run an operation and not run it well and always be under-funding it so that the organizations are always struggling. We need to have the information in front of us so that we can make the decision.”

Minions then proposed a motion to pause train operations in 2019, until the city can find a more “financially viable” way to run the trains.

“I do not want to be a community that loses the train,” she explained. “I would like us to get to a point where we can run the train again. But I think with the current budget…I think we need to start talking about another way to do this. I don’t think we’re going to get there if we keep running it as we are right now.”

The stoppage would also include short runs such as the Santa Train during the holiday season, unless council can find a way to fund these.

Councillor Helen Poon agreed with this motion, suggesting that the APR should focus on getting the No. 7 “Baldwin” steam locomotive back up and running in 2020. The steam train is currently undergoing a boiler replacement, and will not be running in 2019.

READ: McLean Mill’s steam engine done for the season

“I think we should look towards running the steam train, rather than kind of a ‘halfway there’ diesel,” said Poon.

Councillor Debbie Haggard suggested that fundraising could be an option, as the city regroups and revisits the railway budget.

“I think you have a lot of opportunities to fundraise. The community will support you. And I’ll be the first one there to support you and donate,” she said.

“I don’t think this is the end, by no means. I think it could be a really good new beginning for us.”

Council voted unanimously to halt train operations in 2019. Council also asked staff to provide a report with governance options for McLean Mill. At this point, the national historic site will still be open in 2019, with 13 weddings booked for this season. But city council has not yet determined how much money they will be putting towards the site in this year’s budget.



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Ladybird ends undefeated season with Spring League championship

Port Alberni spring basketball league ended after three weeks of playoffs

Port Alberni riders compete in Pony Club championships in Courtenay

Two riders earn ribbons at regional competition

Port Alberni contractor earns safety award

Mosaic Forest Management honoured 10 Vancouver Island contractors

Courtenay-Alberni Greens name Sean Wood as federal candidate

Nomination meeting took place June 15 at Hupacasath Hall in Port Alberni

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District approves one cannabis store, denies another

Stores would have been located across the street from one another in Cherry Creek

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Four-year-old boy assaulted at B.C. soccer game

It happened at a weekend tournament in Ashcroft

Top B.C. court upholds ruling that struck down indefinite solitary confinement

Feds had appealed ruling in case brought by B.C. Civil Liberties Association, John Howard Society

Two bear cubs saved near Revelstoke after mother hit by car

Conservation officers trapped the cubs and transported them to a wildlife sanctuary

Heroism medal for B.C. woman who tried to save wheelchair-bound man stuck on rail tracks

Julie Callaghan awarded Carnegie Medal from U.S.-based foundation for ‘extraordinary heroism’

Surrey RCMP raises Pride flag amid din of protesters

There were about 30 protesters on either side, and 20 Mounties doing crowd control

B.C. students’ camping trip goes ahead despite tents getting stolen

Nanaimo businesses, school staff and parents ensure trip goes on

Only legal pot shop between Vancouver and Kamloops now open

Private cannabis store on Skwah land in Chilliwack is first B.C. licensee to be Indigenous owned

Victoria woman in L.A. hospital after she was run over twice

Lynn Phillips has suffered from multiple broken bones and internal bleeding

Most Read