The Municipality of North Cowichan has provided the B.C. Forest Discovery Centre with a $25,000 grant.
The money, which will come from the municipality’s Forest Legacy Fund, will go towards the centre’s Shay Locomotive Project.
Alf Carter, president of the B.C. Forest Museum Society, told council at Wednesday’s meeting the money will be used to “kick start” the fundraising campaign.
He said the ultimate goal of the campaign is to raise $200,000 to refurbish two steam locomotives at the centre, and repairs to its track system.
Carter said that during its 50-year existence, the main attraction at the centre has been a ride on a vintage steam train, a 2.5 km. trip through a park-like setting surrounded by 100 acres of dense forest land.
This attraction featured two steam locomotives, with both built at the turn of the last century.
But Carter said both locomotives and the track system are in need of significant capital investment.
The current locomotive in use has gone some 17 years without major work while the other unit, a Shay-geared locomotive, has been idle since 1999 requiring boiler work.
“As a result, the board of directors has decided to phase the investment and refurbish the Shay locomotive,” Carter said.
“This decision was greatly aided by a generous offer from Geo Tech of Crofton who will design, construct and manage a new boiler for the Shay. Cost estimates for this phase are expected to reach $125,000.”
Carter said the fundraising campaign is expected to run for the next 18 to 24 months.
Dave Devana, North Cowichan’s CAO, said in a report that a train known as the Samson is currently the only operating steam train at the centre, and it hasn’t had a major retrofit in 17 years.
“In the event this locomotive failed, the [centre] does not have a back-up locomotive,” he said.
“This is a significant risk to the centre, given its focal-point attraction is the operational train ride.”
After a unanimous vote to grant the centre $25,000, Coun. Al Siebring said the money is coming from revenue from the operations on municipal forests and not from taxpayers’ pockets.
“That money is meant for these types of things,” he said.