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

BIZ BEAT: Port Alberni pet stores going to the dogs

Animal Ark and Bosley’s add dog washing stations

Second fatal crash occurs in Alberni Valley

Traffic on Highway 4 is being re-routed as investigators are en route

Sproat Lake first responder ‘was a firefighter right until her passing’

Emergency personnel line Port Alberni street with honour guard for one of their own

Port Alberni RCMP officers bear sprayed by suspect

Officers bear sprayed while responding to scene of traffic accident

UPDATE: One confirmed dead in Port Alberni motor vehicle accident

Burde Street remains closed as RCMP’s collision analysis team investigates

TOTEM 64: Alberni’s basketball tournament celebrates history

Both Alberni District Secondary School teams placed third in Totem tournament

Razor burn: Gillette ad stirs online uproar

A Gillette ad for men invoking the #MeToo movement is sparking intense online backlash

Feds poised to bolster RCMP accountability with external watchdog

Long-anticipated move is the latest attempt at rebuilding the force following years of sagging morale

Canada needs a digital ID system, bankers association says

The Department of Finance last week officially launched its public consultation on the merits of open banking

Indigenous energy summit includes session on pipeline ownership options

Steven Saddleback of the Indian Resource Council says a session will feature presentations on financing models

Japanese grand champion Kisenosato retires from sumo

The 32-year-old Kisenosato was the first Japanese-born wrestler in 19 years to gain promotion to sumo’s highest rank

UPDATE: Accused B.C. high school killer found fit to stand trial

Gabriel Klein is accused in the 2016 stabbing death of Letisha Reimer at Abbotsford Senior Secondary

Right-wing, neo-Nazi, white supremacist groups an increasing concern: Goodale

Ten people died in April 2018 when Alek Minassian allegedly drove a rental van down the busy stretch in Toronto

Canadian stock exchanges to conduct lottery for ‘POT’ ticker amid high demand

The symbol became available after fertilizer Potash Corp. officially merged with Agrium Inc. in early 2018

Most Read