Conductor David Taberner, Engineer John Land and the 1954 Alco Diesel electric engine, back-up for the 1929 Baldwin steam locomotive undergoing repairs. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

McLean Mill getting back on track

Visitors will see gradual improvements at historic park

MIKE YOUDS

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

Alberni Pacific Railway was back in business Saturday for a new season.

Pulled by a 1954 Arco diesel electric — a backup for the Baldwin steam engine still undergoing repairs — the train eased into McLean Mill Station about half full, 48 passengers on board, including a group of 30 from Parksville.

Neither steady rain nor the absence of vintage steam seemed to dampen their experience.

“It’s a nice thing for the community to do,” said Sharon Brocklesby, who’s new to the Island. “We’re going to bring our grandchildren back.”

McLean Mill Society, which assumed management two years ago, has been gradually enhancing the national historic site with efforts that include upgrades to the railway.

The Baldwin engine was supposed to start the visitor season over the weekend, but a final inspection revealed a crack in one of the main engine components, said society director Dewayne Parfitt. They plan to have the steam locomotive running for the May long weekend.

“We’ve taken a cautious approach to make sure,” he added. “Safety is the first thing out of our mouths.”

A five-year plan adopted in 2017 is intended “to take the site to a greater, higher level.” The railway is on a 10-year plan of track replacement and trestle redecking.

Visitors will see visible improvements to the sprawling site, including new site signs and a new deck to accommodate Music in the Park, free noon-hour concerts held Sundays through the season. Next Saturday, May 5, the Infamous Oldtime J.J. Logging Show livens up the site, old time being 1953 in a west coast logging camp.

Together with a small group of volunteers — “we always need more volunteers” — Parfitt led groups of passengers on hour-long tours of the mill site. With the 1926 steam-driven sawmill not operational, they were able to go inside for a closer look at the “bones.”

“The inside tour people are just loving,” said Don Jones, a chamber of commerce ambassador.

Rachelle Collette, event co-ordinator at the site, said Saturday was an early but strong start to the season.

“We’re just putting all the little pieces back together,” she said. “This is a good start for us.”

For more information, check out http://mcleanmill.ca.

Just Posted

Martin Mars waterbombers’ firefighting days are past: Coulson

The famed Martin Mars air tankers continue to draw interest from potential… Continue reading

Alberni RCMP officers honoured for taking drunk driver off the streets

Constables Brian Kenny, Rob Jackson named to Alexa’s Team

Port Alberni man dies in single-vehicle collision

Pickup truck with three occupants went off the road on first day of May long weekend

Alberni hosts Island track and field championship

Secondary schools compete at Bob Dailey Stadium

Is Steve Nash Vancouver Island’s best athlete of all-time?

As Captain Canada gets ready to enter basketball’s Hall of Fame it’s time to debate his legacy

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

Olympian sues USA Swimming, saying it failed to protect her

Ariana Kukors Smith alleges her former coach Sean Hutchison began grooming her for sexual abuse at the age of 13

Defence minister thanks troops for B.C. flood relief work

Harjit Sajjan says not only was military response quick, support from locals has been ‘tremendous’

Still no sign of missing father in Cowichan Valley

Search group for Ben Kilmer now stands 40 SAR volunteers and another 100 friends and concerned community members

Couple survives being buried in mudslide on B.C. highway

The couple, from Saskatchewan, were en route to Nelson when a tree fell in their path

‘So grateful:’ Injured Bronco hockey player glad he’s alive, works on recovery

Ryan Straschnitzki was badly hurt in the accident: a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and punctured lung

UPDATE: Woman dies in ocean accident near Tofino hours before daughter’s wedding

“We are so thankful to everyone who helped our mom.”

PHOTOS: Floodwaters rise and fall in Grand Forks

The flood-ravaged Kootenay-Boundary region begins to heal

NHL playoffs weekly roundup

Vegas Golden Knights have done the impossible and have a chance at hoisting the Stanley Cup

Most Read