I had one fantastic railway adventure this weekend. Being involved with all the heritage steam railways in British Columbia, I was asked to help out with the West Coast Railway Association’s (WCRA) first major excursion with the Royal Hudson #2860 steam locomotive. The excursion was part of the city of White Rock’s 50th birthday celebrations. The excursion was also a big deal for fans of #2860 as this was her first major trip since being pulled out of service in 1998 due to boiler problems. The WCRA spent the last two years rebuilding the boiler and had the first public steam-up last September.
Having just finished the last of my courses at college, on Thursday I headed off to Squamish which is the new home of the Royal Hudson after it was handed to the WCRA by the provincial government to look after and operate (the government still owns the locomotive). Thursday afternoon was spent getting acquainted with the locomotive and, most importantly, where all the lube spots are. This being a much larger locomotive than the smaller #1077 I work on as a fireman at Fort Steele Heritage Town, there are many more lube points to be aware of.
#2860 outside of the Motive Power shops in Squamish, next door to the West Coast Railway Heritage Park
The consist also included the WCRA’s restored ex CP F7 #4069. Friday morning was spent filling both locomotives with sand. The Royal Hudson took 25 bags of sand while the F7 took a whole lot more. While I was occupied with this task, the rest of the crew was kept busy with all sorts of other stuff to get the train ready. After filling both engines it was time to start cleaning the outside of #2860.
WCRA’s F7 #4069
#2860 in the shop on Friday
#2860’s manufacturer’s plate
Saturday morning, that’s me on top of #2860’s cab.
Getting close to heading out.
Saturday morning was very busy as the train was going to go to Vancouver that afternoon. Original departure time was in the morning but a number of things still had to be taken care of. Finally in the afternoon, with the Royal Hudson in the lead, followed by the F7 #4069, the generator car which I was riding in with other crew members, and three of the WCRA’s coaches we headed off to North Vancouver. A number of people thought that we would have some problems with Canadian National as their workers were on strike. However, the strike didn’t cause any problems and we didn’t have to pull into any siding tracks to wait for other trains. We did make a quick minor stop near Porteau Cove to do a quick mechanical check. Our next stop was in North Vancouver, not too far from #2860’s old home base at the former BC Rail yards. Then it was time to cross Burrard Inlet and to our overnight stop at the Rocky Mountaineer railway station. Lots and lots of people were out chasing the train and taking photos.
Heading through the yards in Squamish.
Heading out of Squamish, passing the Stawamus Chief, a favourite place for rock climbing.
Some of the many railfans along the Sea-to-Sky highway.
Nearing Porteau cove.
Under the Lion’s Gate bridge in North Vancouver.
Nearing the bridge to cross Burrard Inlet.
Getting into Vancouver at the Rocky Mountaineer station.
Vancouver Fire Department helping us fill the tender.
Time to start cleaning and lubing for the next day’s run.
Night time, time to go to sleep.
Sunday it was time to make the trip to White Rock. We hauled ten passenger coaches all together, three of which were the WCRA’s, and the rest were the Rocky Mountaineer’s. We also hauled the WCRA’s generator car, and a BNSF diesel locomotive. Again there were hundreds of people all along the route to White Rock taking photos and cheering us on. I saw a lot of thumbs up in support of the Royal Hudson’s return to operational status. Thousands of people greeted us on our entry into White Rock. The whole trip was televised by crews from CTV and Global (BCTV). I heard that I was in some shots as well but I haven’t seen the footage yet. Unfortunately, on the way back, F7 #4069 pulled the train with #2860 going backwards. The nearest wye where locomotives could be turned around is in Blaine Washington. We couldn’t cross the border to do this as there are strict regulations on steam locos in place in the US, such as steam locomotives need two water glasses - #2860 has just one water glass and a set of tri-cocks to check the water level in the boiler. At 3:00 in the afternoon it was time to head back to Vancouver with F7 #4069 leading, again there were hundreds of people chasing the train back to Vancouver. It was a great day weather-wise; sunny with a few scattered clouds. Next day wasn’t so great.
Crowds gathering for the run to White Rock
Approaching the bridge to cross the Fraser River.
Trestle approach at the other end of the bridge. Scenes for the Disney movie The Journey of Natty Gann were filmed near this trestle approach.
The gigantic crowd that greeted us upon arrival at White Rock.
At White Rock.
Switching the locomotives at White Rock.
Arriving back in Vancouver.
A photo of myself beside #2860’s massive drivers.
Monday morning was time to take the train back to Squamish. I rode the observation coach the whole way, most of the time being on the open end. I was bundled up as it was the typical lower mainland weather: raining and cold. A few die hard railfans were out chasing in the rain. Then finally we made a triumphant return to Squamish with the whistle blaring and wrapping up a successful run for the Royal Hudson, signifying her return to service. A big thank you to all who made this trip happen.