The No. 7 steam train was the star of the show, Wednesday, as 35 rail buffs from Europe, Scandinavia and Australia visited the Alberni Valley for a day long photo opp.
The train was set up as a heritage logging train, complete with six large cedar logs loaned to the Alberni Pacific Railway by the Coulson Group and a newly-painted caboose, also borrowed.
Photographers started at the roundhouse early Wednesday morning, and the volunteer crew took them to a few choice spots along the way to McLean Mill National Historic Site.
Bernd Seiler of FarRail Tours in Germany organized the side trip to the Alberni Valley. The photographers had been to Alaska and the Yukon Territory to ride the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway, and will head to Washington State later this week to ride more rails.
Seiler was looking for something to fill in the gap and a friend in Victoria, historian Robert Turner, suggested Port Alberni.
The volunteers did a great job preparing the train for the photographers, Seiler said. It was a challenging shoot because there is so much vegetation beside the tracks, but there were sufficient places for the photographers to get plenty of video and still shots, he added.
The tour was a coup for Port Alberni, local co-ordinator Ken Rutherford said. “It’s showcasing our railroad and our historic fabric to Europeans, Australians and some people from England,” he said.
While critics of the railroad and mill say “it’s just a steam train,” Seiler said that’s a big draw in Europe. “In Europe there are many people interested in railways and especially heritage railways,” he said.
There are hundreds of small railways across Europe and five major railway magazines with readership of more than 100,000 each, so “it’s quite common to photograph railways,” he said.
He organizes 10 to 12 such photo tours a year all around the world. Seiler said he would return to Port Alberni “as soon as you open the line to Cameron Lake. You have beautiful trestles there.”
The Industrial Heritage Society made several thousand dollars by hosting the tour, and McLean Mill made money too, Rutherford said.