Railway Preservation Group to start Spirit of Alberta Steam Engine restoration to support Alberta economy

Work will commence on June 22nd in Stettler

By Mark Weber For the Advance

The Rocky Mountain Rail Society (RMRS) has decided to proceed early with plans for the repairs to their 75-year-old steam engine, ex-Canadian National Railway locomotive #6060.

It has hauled steam excursions out of Toronto, travelled to Vancouver to take part in Steam Expo, and delighted passengers across Canada since it rolled off the floor in October of 1944, explained Rich Graydon, RMRS Media and Public Relations.

According to the RMRS web site and as mentioned, the 6060 steam engine was presented to the people of Alberta as a gift in 1980, to commemorate the Province of Alberta’s 75th anniversary.

“It was designed and built in 1944 by the Montreal Locomotive Works for the Canadian National Railway,” he explained, adding that it was also originally structured to serve both as a passenger and a freight locomotive. Typically at the time, trains were primarily one or the other.

“6060, it turned out, was good for both roles – it had enough power to pull a passenger train and it also had enough power to pull a freight train as well so it was used in both ways, which was very unique back then,” he said.

In 1992, #6060 – known as the Spirit of Alberta – was sold to the RMRS for safe keeping by the Province of Alberta.

It is a Provincially Registered Historical Resource.

“It was also on display in Jasper for a period of time – from about 1960 to the early 1970s,” said Graydon. “In 1973, it went back on the line in service and it ran until 1980. In that year, it was turned over to the Province of Alberta for our 75th Anniversary, and at that time it was named the Spirit of Alberta.” It was also take for stint out in Vancouver during Expo ‘86.

“Once back in Alberta, it was stored at the Alberta Railway Museum and then went on in 1988 to operate with Alberta Prairie Steam Tours here in Stettler. Basically it fulfilled that role every summer until 2011, which was its last year of operation,” he said.

The locomotive, which has been out of service since 2012 due to repairs needed to her boiler, is in Stettler.

Over the last eight years, RMRS has spent $132,000 conducting metallurgical tests and developing a repair plan, said Graydon. “We’ve tested the complete boiler and discovered there is very little metal loss after 75 years – it’s in fantastic shape,” he said.

There is a plan to raise the $650,000 for the repair costs but with the current economic situation, it was decided to go ahead with an initial stage of the repair.

It will cost an estimated $50,000 which the Society has raised to date.

The funds are a combination of Alberta Gaming and Liquor Casino funding and private donations.

“The initial repair stage consists of our contractor, df Boiler Tube Industries of Edmonton removing approximately 100 boiler staybolts that require replacement.

“The boiler staybolts provide strength in sections of the boiler while allowing water and steam free flowing room to move,” noted a release.

The RMRS had initially planned to conduct the repairs after raising the entire amount of funds needed but have now decided to move ahead with the initial stage of the repair.

After completing the first stage of the repair plan, they will then work towards funding the second stage which includes replacing the staybolts that have been removed followed by stage three which is the repair of the boiler patches and holes.

“We realize in the current economic situation it will be difficult to complete the project. We hope that our project will provide jobs for Albertans and demonstrate our commitment to doing our part.

“We hope that this small gesture will lead to other non-profit groups to look at their plans and encourage them to continue their missions.”

Work commenced on June 22nd in Stettler.

6060’s loyal following, the members and volunteers of Rocky Mountain Rail Society, have worked tirelessly to preserve and share the history of the steam engine with the community. #6060 is also described as one of the best remaining examples of a modern steam locomotive, and, in addition to being Canada’s largest steamer, is a rare example of a North American Mountain-type engine.

The Rocky Mountain Rail Society (RMRS), a CRA registered non-profit, was created in 1984 as stewards for Canadian National Railway steam locomotive 6060.

The goal of the society is to preserve locomotive 6060 in operating condition for public education and tourism.

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