By Vivian Moreau
A debut run for the retrofitted vintage steam locomotive Royal Hudson will go ahead this weekend as planned, in spite of a rotating strike called this week by Canadian National Railway workers.
CN management will man the Royal Hudson’s journey along CN track from Squamish to Vancouver if picketing workers are still in place in the Lower Mainland, according to a spokesman for the West Coast Railway Association, the group that refurbished the 67-year-old steam locomotive.
Since completing a $600,000-plus boiler upgrade the Royal Hudson is scheduled to make a return run on Sunday from Vancouver to White Rock to as part of White Rock’s 50 th anniversary. Over 1,000 tickets have been sold for the return run and more than 400 people remain on a waitlist for a seat on the train that will run over Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) track from Vancouver to White Rock. But the Saturday morning delivery trip over CN track from Squamish to Vancouver that will not carry passengers will be operated by CN management and is not a point of contention for striking workers.
“Operating officers and management of CN will go on and make it happen,” said Singh Biln, the project manager who has overseen the Royal Hudson’s refurbishment for the West Coast Railway Association.
A second BNSF crew will take over in Vancouver and take the locomotive and 500-plus railway buffs from Rocky Mountaineer’s Cottrell Street terminal to White Rock. The train will consist of not only the Royal Hudson but a diesel locomotive, generator car, observation car and eight coaches.
The Royal Hudson’s trip will likely not be a target of railway picketers, a union representative confirmed.
“We haven’t addressed that specifically with CN management,” David Moorehouse said, adding that the union is more interested in getting CN management back to the bargaining table than disrupting passenger rail traffic.
“We’re picketing in a limited and strategic manner to not affect or minimize the effect on the general public,” said Moorehouse, secretary-treasurer for the United Transportation Union’s B.C. division that represents CN railway workers.
UTU workers in B.C., Ontario and Nova Scotia began rotating strikes late Tuesday after talks broke down when 80 per cent of members rejected a tentative deal struck in February that had ended a 15-day walkout. Workers turned thumbs down to a one-year retroactive deal that recommended a three per cent wage hike and a $1,000 signing bonus.
That the Royal Hudson will travel unperturbed is a relief for the trip’s organizer, Rene Duson. Contracted by the city of White Rock to organize the event Duson said in an age of cell phones, e-mails, and text messaging the Royal Hudson is a sign of nostalgia for something more enduring.
“People are very tired of that — they just want to go back in time,” Duson said, adding that 10,000 tickets could easily have been sold for the trip.
Built in Montreal in 1940, the Royal Hudson 2860 was a sister locomotive to the 2850 that carried King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth on their 1939 cross-Canada tour. The locomotive worked for 16 years on the Vancouver to Revelstoke run, with a top speed of 193 kilometres per hour, before a first retirement in 1956. Refitted and put back into service by the Royal Hudson Steam Society in 1974, the locomotive travelled from Vancouver to Squamish as a tourist train for 25 years. Facing a $2.5 million boiler replacement in 1999 she was again retired. An effort that included restoring the boiler and passing provincial steam certification, over $627,000 has been spent restoring the Royal Hudson.