Future Uncertain for British Columbia 2-6-2

Museum board says it needs to conduct an independent “mechanical assessment” of the locomotive, but staff says it’s unnecessary. Photo by Justin Franz. 

Future Uncertain for British Columbia 2-6-2

By Justin Franz 

A 2-6-2 steam locomotive that has led excursions in southeast British Columbia for more than 30 years could be parked this year after the management of the Fort Steele Heritage Town decided to conduct an “independent” review of the locomotive’s condition and the museum’s rail operations in general. 

But the decision by the museum’s board has frustrated staff who have taken to social media and local media to say there’s no reason to park the locomotive and that doing so could risk its future as an operating exhibit. 

Locomotive 1077 was built by the Montreal Locomotive Works in December 1923 and spent the last century in British Columbia. The locomotive worked on various logging railroads on Vancouver Island from the 1920s until being retired in 1969. The locomotive was then sold to the government of British Columbia and was one of two steam engines used to lead the Provincial Museum Train in the 1970s, along with ex-Canadian Pacific 2-8-0 3716 (the smaller locomotive specifically handled the train on Vancouver Island). In the 1980s, the locomotive made an appearance at SteamExpo 86, a gathering of steam locomotives as part of Vancouver’s World’s Fair. In 1990, it was brought to Fort Steele where it has operated on about 2.5 miles of track ever since. Last year, the museum celebrated the locomotive’s 100th anniversary

On April 13, the museum’s board announced that it would hire a firm to conduct a “full independent review” of the locomotive and the museum’s rail operations. Included in the review would be a mechanical assessment of 1077 and rolling stock; an assessment of all tracks; a review of its operating practices and personnel training; and “recommendations to the Society on requirements to move forward to resume rail operations at Fort Steele Heritage Town, and estimated costs to do so.” It is unclear what spurred the decision to shut down and review the rail operation. 

Please know that we are doing everything we can to operate the train this season, even if it means a late start,” museum officials wrote on Facebook

But in the days since the announcement, employees of the museum have expressed frustration online and in local media about the decision. They also note that the board of the Friends of Fort Steele recently had three of its members resign, cutting the governing body in half. The manager of the rail operation also took issue with the board’s decision to shut down the excursions this year, stating on social media that he established a robust maintenance and training program that is overseen by provincial inspectors. Staff are also worried that if they are unable to do work on the locomotive this year it might be hard to catch up in the years to come, especially if it needs major work. Over the weekend, a petition was launched to put pressure on the museum board to change its mind. 

This article was posted on: April 22, 2024