The opening day of the Little Prince at the Fort George Railway has been delayed.
“In fairness 106 years is an awfully long time to be steaming around the tracks,” said John Calogheros, Chief Engineer of the Fort George Railway this week.
When John and his team were finally able to get into the train shed in Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park and do the annual inspections and prep for the 2018 season it became apparent that the brakes on the engine were going to need an overhaul.
“The brake shoes on the engine are cast iron, they don’t have pads on them like you would see on a modern vehicle,” said Calogheros, “they are solid blocks of metal and after all this time they have worn down to the point where they need to be replaced.”
That is where the problem begins. As the museum has encountered in the past, there are no parts on the shelf for this engine because it is a one-of-kind at this point. Allan Harker, Supervisor BC North for CN Rail has stepped up to help sort out the problem and it appears that with a little creative thinking and some retrofitting there may be a solution with contemporary parts. This is still going to take some time as there are difficulties with doing the work in the current shed.
Tracy Calogheros, CEO of The Exploration Place and of The Fort George Railway has highlighted the problems with the existing train work shed in the past, and the City of Prince George is working to tackle this challenge along with the many other tasks facing the city.
“It’s very difficult to work in the shed even in the Fall, and during all other seasons it can be impossible,” Tracy said. “The runoff from melt and rain flood the dirt floor making it both unsafe and unhealthy for staff to crawl around under the Engine and yet there is neither the equipment nor the headroom to put the Engine on a lift.” The other problems are too much heat or too much cold in summer or winter and an overarching problem with lighting. “To do this work John and Allen will need to put parts on and off the engine repeatedly while they test fit and make adjustments. Doing that work in these conditions is not ideal.”
“In a perfect world we would be doing this work months in advance but in the current situation we simply can’t,” added John.
Winter was also difficult on the tracks this year and there are some repairs that are needed there as well. The Fort George Station will be open this weekend selling Frozen Paddle Ice Cream but the Little Prince will not start his run until further notice. The ice cream shop helps to fund the Prince and is fabulous ice cream to boot.
“We are hoping to have the Prince up and running before Canada Day at the latest,” said Tracy Calogheros. “We know how much the community loves the Prince and honestly, so do we. It doesn’t seem like spring until I hear that steam whistle.”
For any museum members who have already purchased a 2018 season pass for the train they can request a full refund on the train pass upgrade from the Museum in person or by calling the front desk 250 562-1612. The train is expected to start up soon and there will be plenty of opportunity to take advantage of this year’s rail passes but the museum understands that some people may not be willing to wait and would prefer to have a refund of their pass.