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Boilermakers create old-fashioned steam in locomotive rebuild

Matt Wallace rolls tubes in the fire box. Photos courtesy of David Hooper, Western Vancouver Island Heritage Society

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VOLUNTEERS FROM LOCAL 359 (Vancouver) are returning to the work of early 20th Century Boilermakers to restore a 1929 Baldwin 2-8-2T steam locomotive for the Western Vancouver Island Heritage Society in Port Alberni. Members heard about the restoration project in 2018 when the heritage society sought the help of Local 359 to order tubes for the nearly 100-year-old engine.

The Baldwin, also called the No. 7, first made its appearance on Vancouver Island after the Campbell River Timber Company ordered the engine from the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Pennsylvania to serve British Columbia’s logging industry. The No. 7, retired in 1972, was the longest operating steam locomotive in the logging industry.

The restoration project required the removal and replacement of all the tubes and tube sheets, removal of the saddle water tank and the opening of all hatches. To inspect the boiler, members stripped it down to the bare shell. To cut the tube sheet to the correct size, workers used a cutting torch and zip cuts, according to L-359’s Barry Dobrensky. And the workers used a high-pressure water jet to form the holes for boiler tubes. There are over 100 boiler tubes with 2-inch OD, and 21 flue tubes that have 5 1/2-inch OD on one end and 4 1/2-inch swag end on the other.        

Once workers grounded and beveled the tube sheets, Brent Graham welded them in place. Workers then stabbed and expanded the tubes.

“The technical safety authority passed our hydrostatic test on the boiler and we are now able to proceed with the rest of the restoration,” said Dobrensky, who is lead on the project along with Mike Roxburgh. “We still have a way to go yet, lining the firebox with new brick, insulating the boiler, reinstalling the super heaters and changing out some of the external piping and valves.”

In addition to Dobrensky, Graham and Roxburgh, other L-359 members working on the project include Brent Pennington, Sarah Smith, Carl Barnes, Barry Payne, Matt Wallace, Tim Murphy and Russ Herding. Also donating their time and knowledge retired bricklayer Dave Delucry and retired insulator Doug Stephenson. In addition, “A” license contractor Roger Blagborne, who is also an antique steam buff, offered his expertise to the team for free.

The heritage society hoped to have the No. 7 in operation by the summer of 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve pushed that to the summer of 2021. The long-term goal is to bring the tourist train back to Alberni Valley for a 35-minute ride along the city’s waterfront to the historic park of Mclean Mill.

This crew of Boilermakers previously worked with the heritage society in 2013 to restore a 1917 “Farquhar” steam tractor and a steam donkey.

For more information about the Western Vancouver Island Heritage Society visit https://alberniheritage.com/alberni-district-historical-society

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Local Lodges
Boilermaker Reporter Issue

Published October 15, 2020

The Boilermaker Reporter

Volume 62, Number 3
Jul 2023 to Sep 2023
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