After nearly a year without the familiar throaty toot of the No. 7 Baldwin steam train echoing throughout the Alberni Valley on a regular basis, the train will return in 2018.
Last year the BC Safety Authority would not sign off on running the heavy steam locomotive and full complement of rail cars over the Rogers Creek and Kitsuksis Creek trestles, between the Port Alberni Train Station and McLean Mill National Historic Site. A study had to be completed of the entire rail line (the “Port sub”), and rotting rail ties were discovered on the trestles. A study was also done on the trestles themselves, and they were found to be sound.
The train ran a couple of times between the station and the whistle stop behind the Best Western Barclay Hotel, but that was it.
The McLean Mill Society, operators of the steam train and McLean Mill, have received the go-ahead to run the train over the trestles this year. Rail tie replacement is taking place in March and the train will run in April, according to society executive director Deanna Beaudoin.
The distinctive chuffing of the steam train and its bell will soon be heard reverberating along the rail line again.