All steamed up

The steam era of transportation is alive at McLean Mill July 24-26.

Les Stevens, left, and Russ McCoy of the Industrial Heritage Society restored a 1917 Farquhar steam tractor, on display at the mill.

The 2015 edition of the ‘Steam-Up’ and Antique Machinery Show is taking place this Friday, July 24 to Sunday, July 26 at McLean Mill National Historic Site in the Alberni Valley.

The show is being organized by members of the Industrial Heritage Society.

The 1917 ‘Farquhar’ steam traction engine, restored at the local Industrial Heritage Centre in 2013, will be one of the machines featured in the show.

The ‘Farquhar’ was built at what we now know to be at the tail end of the steam era in road transport. The City of New Westminster had bought it to pull road-building machinery like graders and gravel carts but it was soon replaced by trucks.   Powered by internal combustion engines, trucks were lighter, more flexible, cheaper to buy and operate.  Drivers did not need as much training—or pay—as steam engineers, either.

That is why the machine soon ended up in Port Alberni, where the Cowley family used it to power their little sawmill in Cherry Creek. Then, they sold it to the R.B. McLean Lumber Co. Mill, where the engine was used to power the planer.

Neither the Cowleys nor the McLeans used it as a traction engine, as that day was done. The surprise is that the Farquhar even survived to be restored after 96 years.

It is unique in that the engine has two pistons—making it very rare 98 years later. Restoration was possible due to the participation of members of the Boilermakers Union, who donated hundreds of hours of their time to the re-tubing of the boiler.  Without them, and the persistence of Les Stevens, the project would never have been completed.

A 1912 Mann steam truck and a ‘Ruston’ steam roller from the BC Forest Discovery Center in Duncan will be on display for Steam-Up. Along with a ‘Stanley Steamer’, they will be seen periodically chuffing around the site, along with the other vintage vehicles.

A second steam truck will be shown by Roger Blayborne, one of the boilermakers who helped restore the Farquhar and the steam donkey that can be seen in operation at the oldtime logging demonstration.

There will be a display of vintage tractors and other antique machinery on site small motors and bigger ones that made life and work easier in the last century.

For the children of all ages, there will be a miniature steam train, operated by the Vancouver Island Model Engineers of Victoria. We hope to have other rides for children on site.

There will be radio-controlled boats operating on the log pond, too, and Dave Walmsley is bringing his steam launch.

All this is on the site of a steam-powered sawmill, with a steam-logging operation, accessed by a steam train from Port Alberni Train Station.

The site will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the show.

The Steam-up and Antique Machinery Show is sponsored by the Coastal Community Credit Union.

Alberni District Co-op and BC Ferries provided assistance with the transportation of some of the vintage equipment.

Alberni Valley News

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