News & Reviews News Wire British Columbia heritage rail operation sidelined for safety review

British Columbia heritage rail operation sidelined for safety review

By Trains Staff | April 15, 2024

Fort Steele Heritage Town calls for outside review of 1923 2-6-2, other aspects of rail operation

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2-6-2 steam locomotive
Fort Steele Heritage Town’s 1923 MLW 2-6-2 has been sidelined pending a safety review. Fort Steele Heritage Town

FORT STEELE, British Columbia — A steam locomotive that has been a longtime attraction in southwestern British Columbia has been sidelined for a safety review, raising doubts about its future operation.

Concerns over the age and increasing maintenance costs of 2-6-2 No. 1077, built in 1923 by Montreal Locomotive Works for Vancouver Island logging operations, have led Fort Steele Heritage Town, near Cranbrook, B.C., to halt train operations pending an outside review.

“The Society has made a difficult but informed decision to park the train in 2024 while it conducts a full independent review of the locomotive and rail operations,” the Heritage Town said in a statement on its Facebook page. “Repairs will be costly – and we realize that this train has become a cornerstone of Fort Steele Heritage Town.” Along with a review of locomotive and rolling stock, that review will include an assessment of the park’s right-of-way, its operating practices and personnel’s training and fitness, and recommended requirements to resume operation.

The website reports Kevin Weaver, president of the Friends of Fort Steele Society, indicated the review was set in motion when the park’s railway manager voiced concern that “the 1077 was nearing the end of its working life and it will be increasingly difficult and costly to maintain.” Efforts to find a replacement locomotive turned up one candidate elsewhere in British Columbia, but that engine turned out to be too large for the Fort Steele line’s curves and, at about $1 million, was beyond the organization’s budget.

Weaver told the news site the park’s insurance agent pointed out a clause in the facility’s policy “that basically says if there’s a chance of a serious incident occurring and we don’t do everything reasonably possible to address the risk, our policy won’t cover us, and the board members will be personally liable.” That led to the decision to park the train, he said.

The Society’s Facebook message says the organization is “doing everything we can to operate the train this season, even if it means a late start.” But Global News reports local residents have voiced unhappiness about the decision, and a local legislator has also expressed concern.

Tom Shypitka, member of British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly for the area including Fort Steele, has expressed concern about the decision, saying in a Facebook post that the it is an attraction that “goes far beyond the economic driver it provides for our region. It is also a stable of the Kootenay East diet that involves the multi-generational lifestyle and legacy for childen and families everywhere in the Kootenays.” Shypitka, who participated in the locomotive’s 100th birthday celebration in 2023, wrote, “The integrity and full operation needs to be maintained. I will continue discussion with government and stakeholders to ensure we have as little disruption as possible.”

More information about Fort Steele Heritage Town is available at its website.

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