This year’s Labour Day celebration at the Museum at Campbell River came close to having to be cancelled due to problems with the Steam Donkey that were identified in an inspection earlier this year. This annual event is attended by hundreds of people and is the biggest event happening on Labour Day in Campbell River each year. As soon as the problems were identified, Museum staff and volunteers started to look for solutions, knowing they were on a tight deadline. Thankfully due to efforts on several fronts, the festivities will be able to proceed this year as scheduled.
Norm Fair, a Museum supporter and volunteer who was involved in the initial restoration of the Steam Donkey, became involved as soon as he heard that the machine, originally built in 1916, needed repairs. “For me, it is about the volunteering of the community. People rallied to help out the Museum when they needed it. It shows once again the amazing sense of community spirit in Campbell River.”
Norm Grant, who operates the Steam Donkey for special events put in countless hours working at getting it back into running order. He had previously helped rebuild some valves during the restoration of the Museum’s Steam Donkey, then Norm Fair talked him into volunteering to run it starting in 2006. “He’s a great arm twister” Norm explains. Not only does Norm give up his Labour Day and sometimes Canada Day to run the Steam Donkey, he also meets annually with the inspector from the B.C. Safety Authority to ensure the machine remains safe to operate, and does any work needed to keep it in good running order.
Several local organizations were instrumental in meeting the tight deadlines. CR Metal Fabricators contributed donated time and materials to build a new smoke stack for the Steam Donkey, and the Campbell River Daybreak Rotary Club stepped up with a grant to cover repair costs. Blake Leisch and welder Alfie Boudreau also contributed to the project. The Steam Donkey required a series of non-destructive tests to prove that it was safe, and Kodiak Non-Destructive Testing Services from Nanaimo did the testing and donated their time and expertise to do it.
Overall it has been a community effort, and now the Museum is pleased to invite you for Labour Day, Monday, September 4, from noon to 3pm, to see the Steam Donkey running once again. The popular donkey boiler coffee will be served, and the Glacier Heritage Equipment Club from the Comox Valley will be joining in this year with some of their antique tractors as well as a pole lathe demonstration. Artist Pavel Barta will be there with a newly designed paper model of the Steam Donkey, and the Museum Lego collection will be out for free Lego play.
For more information go to www.crmuseum.ca or call 250-287-3103. The Museum at Campbell River is located at 470 Island Highway.