COAL HARBOUR—After a hundred years and thousands of kilometres, the Hornsby has finally found its permanent home in Coal Harbour.
Last week, a pair of forklifts and an excavator eased the multi-ton Mammoth off a trailer and eased it to the ground behind the Coal Harbour Heritage Hall, currently under refurbishment with the aim of creating a community museum around the historic tractor.
“It was a one-of-a-kind machine; it was steam tractor, one of the first tracked vehicles in existence,” explained Regional District Director, Area C, Andrew Hory. Originally exported from England as a prototype in 1910, the Hornsby worked in the Yukon before coming to the North Island.
“It did work in Quatsino Sound for a few years, and ended up being abandoned out by Apple Bay,” said Hory. “It sat there for a lot of years, I think five or six decades. It was originally moved out and ended up at the golf course for 20 years.”
The machine was taken to a steam show in Alberta in 2004 and became the centre of a court case when it failed to return. When it was eventually returned to the North Island, Coal Harbour filed a formal application with the Regional District and the North Island Heritage Society to provide the unique tractor with a permanent home.
As of last week, the tractor may have made its final stop, but much of the work is just beginning for the Coal Harbour Community Club.
“It hopefully will be a catalyst to refurbishing some of this building,” said Hory. “The original proposal we submitted to the heritage society said we’d either renovate the building and get it to a working stage as some sort of community museum, or we take it out. If that doesn’t turn out to be possible it will still get it roofed over with a gazebo-type thing.”
The Heritage Hall is the site of a former Royal Air Force building which had been used up to the 1990s as a community hall. When the school closed and became the new community hall the former RAF site fell into disrepair. “Essentially, it is itself a heritage building, and certainly needs lots of restoration,” said Hory. “But the initial framing and everything is still solid.”
A wall was opened up and a concrete pad poured to support the huge tractor but, without the historical artifact on site, grants were unavailable to refurbish the building.
“Because it’s now on site, we’ll have access to a whole range of possibilities that, as a hypothetical, weren’t available. The regional district will now start the process to get this designated a national heritage site, which I don’t think there’s any question will be achieved.”
Hory said he was excited as the prospects for the new building. “Because we’re looking at major renovation or taking it out, it can be made efficient; there would be insulation, heating, and things put in, where before it was just walls. It can set up as a community museum and meeting hall kind of thing. As a leverage effect, having to house the Hornsby and getting grants available from the ministry, that can be used to help the building. It can be an exciting community asset. You’d have the Hornsby, but it could also house other community heritage artifacts. It’s pretty exciting.”
Hory thanked all those who helped bring the Hornsby to Coal Harbour. “It’s been sitting in the Lemare yard since August, thanks to them for allowing it to take up space in their working yard. Moving it here today, a lot of work had to be done. One of the stipulations by the heritage society when they agreed to allow the Hornsby to come to Coal Harbour, we had to show some seriousness of intent. We had to pour a lot of concrete, had a lot of donations. Quatse Ready Mix essentially donated all the costs of the concrete.”
He also thanked Joey Eilertsen of Coal Harbour Air Cab for his contributions to the project and to North Island Rock Pro and driver Mark Reusch, who donated the delivery of the machine.
“There’s been lots of volunteers. The Coal Harbour Community Club has been the overseeing body that pulled all that together. Also there been support, and the first money, $5,000, came from the Regional District.”