L-359 members retube tractor, ‘steam donkey’

Barry Dobrensky, left, and Mike Roxburgh stand alongside the 1917 Farquhar tractor they helped restore.

Volunteers donate skills to heritage society

VOLUNTEERS FROM LODGE 359 (Burnaby, British Columbia) have been connecting with history and the work of past generations of boilermakers by restoring steam-powered equipment at the Western Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society at Port Alberni.

In 2013, four members — Bill Rogers, Mike Roxburgh, Brent Pennington and Leon MaCrae — retubed the boiler in a 1917 Farquhar steam tractor, which had been used at a local lumber mill to power a planer. Today the refurbished tractor is used for “steam up” demonstrations during the summer.

When Boilermakers learned that another project needed their expertise, six members volunteered their skills, this time to restore a steam donkey. Basically a tugger, the donkey was once used to lift and move logs at the lumber mill. In addition to their use as a logging engine, donkeys were used in mining and maritime industries, among others, until after World War II.

Rogers and Roxburgh, joined by Barry Pyne, Barry Dobrensky, Jorge Vidal and Matt Wallace, worked on the project, which involved milling, rolling and beading over 200 tubes. “It was pure pleasure to be able to work on such an important part of the industrial history of British Columbia and to connect with the Boilermakers that came before us,” said Vidal.

To see a video of the steam donkey in operation, visit www.alberniheritage.com/steam-donkey.