WOSS—With a gentle push from a more modern diesel counterpart, the historic Alco Steam Locomotive 113 was eased into its new heritage park home last week.
Turns out, it’s in the same spot it used to call home decades ago.
“What’s interesting is, where it’s sitting right now is the old roundhouse, where they serviced it and so forth,” said Dave Rushton, Area D Director for the Regional District of Mount Waddington and longtime executive with the Woss Residents Association. “So it’s back in the good, old Woss roundhouse.”
Dozens of local residents, workers from the nearby Western Forest Products operation and officials from RDMW were on hand to watch and shoot pictures of the 94-year-old locomotive’s move from a siding in WFP’s rail maintenance yard to a newly laid stretch of track just a few hundred metres away.
It is the second major heritage item place by the RDMW under the heritage registry bylaw it established in 2012, following the placement earlier this year of the century-old Hornsby Mammoth Steam Tractor at Coal Harbour’s old community centre.
Like the Hornsby, “Loci 113” was the subject of something of a custody battle before the RDMW secured possession in negotiations with the Alberni Valley Heritage Network.
The society believed it had purchased the locomotive from Western Forest Products in 2010 and had secured funding to move and begin restoring the engine, which had sat idle on the side rail in Woss since running forestry tours from 1988-94.
When Rushton and other regional district officials learned of the agreement, they began trying to prove Loci 113 had already been sold to the residents of Woss by Canadian Forest Products Ltd. (Canfor) before the company was purchased by WFP.
“I took a loonie out of my own pocket and bought it from Canfor when we became a community, in 1999,” said Rushton. “The problem came when Canfor was sold to Western, and (the locomotive) hadn’t been taken off their books.”
Under the agreement with AVHN, Loci 113 was to remain in Woss as long as the community made efforts to restore the engine, while the heritage society retained the right to follow that progress and revisit the possible move of the engine.
But Loci 113’s status as a heritage registry artifact probably nullifies that option, and Rushton and other volunteers said it would remain on static display.
“When it gets a little paint, and a pressure-washing, it’ll look pretty good,” said Larry Knutson, Loci 113’s last conductor when it ran forestry tours in the Nimpkish Valley for schoolchildren and tourists. “I’d love to see it running, but it’s probably too far gone. Still, a lot more people will appreciate it here than where it was.
The heritage park was secured by the RD through a land tenure agreement with WFP. At the moment, Loci 113 sits alone on the partially cleared site, which shows no evidence of the old roundhouse or any other structure or development. But improvements to the park will commence in the coming weeks, RDMW economic development manager Pat English said.
“Starting this fall and into the spring we’ll do landscaping,” he said. “We’ll have interpretive signs, a viewing platform for the loci, and we’ll put in a parking area.
“The Regional District has a number of heritage items in our inventory and we may be looking at this park as a place to display some of them.”
The 113 was built in 1920 by the American Locomotive Company, which originally numbered it the 102, and served duty in Oregon before Alberni Pacific purchased it following a refit in the late 1930s. Alberni Pacific ran the engine as the No. 6 for 14 years, which is part of the basis for the claim by the Alberni Valley Heritage Society and the AVRD. Canfor purchased the locomotive in the 1950s, renumbered it to the current 113 and ran it in its Englewood logging operation until 1976.
Loci 113 was the last steam locomotive in active logging service and, at 135 tons, has the distinction of being the largest logging locomotive on Vancouver Island.