LETTER: Why wasn’t Alberni’s steam train running?

Visitor from Vancouver was disappointed to miss train to McLean Mill

LETTER: Why wasn’t Alberni’s steam train running?

To the Editor,

On Friday, June 15 my partner and I came to Vancouver Island in search of a rare opportunity to experience how logging was done in the 1940s and 1950s when trees were giants and steam was the power of the day; a time when ingenuity, skill and hard labour kept men alive on the job.

I had seen reference to Port Alberni’s industrial heritage site with not only an operating steam donkey but also a rigged spar tree that operated to bring the logs from the truck to the McLean Mill. Wow, I doubt there is such a sight anywhere else on the continent, certainly none I’ve been able to find.

We found Port Alberni and the old train station with all the signs about the train and the price of the ride to McLean Mill. Saturday was the day it was to be. We waited and waited and waited for the steam loco to arrive. The artisans in the station building didn’t know why the train didn’t come.

Several of us milled around waiting, others gave up and left. Eventually a kind local man gave us a ride to McLean Mill site to see if anything was happening. There was hardly anyone there. However, we were in time to hear the whistlepunk’s signals and see the experienced loggers working the equipment and bringing the logs in with the spar tree. Wow.

We were lucky, but we wondered how many others came as far as we did and missed this. I cannot understand why a community would put such effort into restoring the equipment and pulling together the knowledgeable loggers to run a historically accurate show of this calibre and just leave us tourists hanging, with no train showing as advertised, no signs that there was a problem or that there would be no train that day.

I am still angry about this. I’m not sure which city councillors are responsible for not only letting Port Alberni’s reputation down, especially considering all the work the volunteers from the community must have put in to create the historic reenactment of the kind of work that sustained Vancouver Island communities for so many years .

Grace Mills-Hodgins,