Volunteers in Coal Harbour have been working to convert the 1940s-era former community hall into a heritage hall suitable to house the Hornsby Crawler steam tractor.

RD OK’s Hornsby proposal

Coal Harbour's proposal to house artifact gets positive response from RDMW.

PORT McNEILL—The Hornsby Steam Crawler may soon be making tracks for Coal Harbour after the Regional District of Mount Waddington responded favourably to Coal Harbour Community Club’s proposal to house the historical artifact.

Andrew Hory, RDMW Regional Director for Area C, presented a proposal to the board from the Coal Harbour Community Club outlining its plans to house the artifact before recusing himself from discussions.

“We’re having a bit of a renaissance in Coal Harbour,” said Hory, referencing recent work at the newly-improved Catalina Lookout Point and fire hall, as well as the planned heritage hall, the proposed home for the Hornsby.

The board voted in favour of the proposal, which would see the village’s former RCAF building adjacent to the fire hall converted to a heritage hall with the Hornsby as its star attraction.

Coal Harbour has already laid the necessary groundwork required by the RDMW, joining the district’s heritage registry, and transferring ownership of the property to the regional district to meet the criteria that the artifact be displayed on local public land.

The CHCC proposes renovating the RCAF building in two phases. The first phase would be to fix up the north end of the building and add a concrete pad to provide an immediate display space for the Hornsby. This phase was estimated to take three months at a cost of $20,000, utilizing volunteer labour.

The longer-term vision is to upgrade the southern portion of the building, adding a community space, meeting rooms, and display space for locally significant artifacts.

“There’s a lot of artifacts in personal collections here,” said Hory,” but people need a space to put it. I wouldn’t want to presume people would donate but I’m fairly confident that people have artifacts that they’d like to stay in the community.”

The next step in the process will see the proposal put before the North Island Heritage Society for approval. Should the Heritage Society have significant reservations, its recommendations would return to the RDMW for further discussion.

“I hope it’s just a formality that it goes through the Heritage Society,” said Hory. “Of course, if the Heritage Society has a very different idea it would go back to the RD.”

Patrick Donaghy, NIHS Secretary and RDMW’s Manager of Operations, predicts that Coal Harbour’s bid will meet with the NICS’s approval.

“The NIHS has its AGM on the eleventh (of April),” he explained, “at which point, in all likelihood, (Coal Harbour’s proposal) will get the support of the NIHS.

“The main priority is to find a permanent home for the Hornsby on the North Island. Coal Harbour has put together a thorough, very strong proposal.”

He did suggest that the NIHS may lobby for some amendments to the proposal, namely the inclusion of milestones and proposed dates to set a more formal timeline for the project, but this issue could be dealt with at the AGM to avoid returning the issue to the board of the RDMW.

The fate of the one-of-a-kind chain track engine, shipped from England in 1910, has been in limbo for some time after it was removed from the North Island in 2005.

The crawler had been on display at Seven Hills Golf and Country Club for several years before being taken to Alberta for a historical equipment show. When the tractor failed to return to the North Island, the RDMW began legal proceedings to recoup the historical artifact, regaining possession in the summer of 2012.

Since its return, the machine has been held in storage in Port McNeill as local officials seek a suitable, permanent home for the Hornsby.

“The Hornsby is quite a significant piece of heritage — it’s the genesis of all tracked vehicles,” explained Donaghy. “Anybody would be proud to display it.”

 

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