By Vivian Moreau
Don McAllister told people that he just wanted to live long
enough to see the Royal Hudson steam up again. The retired electrician had been
volunteering for the past several years on the Royal Hudson renovation at the
West Coast Railway Association’s yards in Squamish and was on hand two weeks
ago for the vintage locomotive’s steam up.
But McAllister died suddenly Wednesday, Oct. 11, while
undergoing emergency heart surgery in Vancouver. He was 85.
McAllister came in several days a week to work on keeping the
locomotive’s many steel rods shiny and clean.
“Very rarely was there a week when we didn’t see him,” said the
Royal Hudson’s project manager Singh Biln.
McAllister had lived in Squamish for 44 years and spoke to
Pique Newsmagazine the day after the Royal Hudson’s steam up.
“I’m a steam nut and grew up in the steam era,” he said. “The
only thing that interested me was to see that old Hudson going again. Reminds
me of when I was a kid. Reminds me of the days when life wasn’t as complicated
as it is now.”
Biln said McAllister kept a log from the day he started working
on the Royal Hudson five years ago, chronicling the work he had done.
“He wanted to make sure that the side running gear, rods,
wheels, belt gear, all of the moving mechanism looked the way it should,” Biln
said. “He wanted to make sure it was on record.”
Biln noted that last year McAllister embarked on a solo
six-week driving trip to eastern Canada to indulge his interest in Maritime
“He put on 17,000 kilometres and had a great time all by
himself,” Biln said. “For somebody that’s 84 to go all across the nation for
something he wanted to do was quite remarkable.”
Don McAllister is survived by his wife, Shirley, two children, Patricia and Rob, and two grandchildren, Michael and Colin. A celebration of his life will be held at Brackendale Art Gallery Saturday, Oct. 21, from 2 to 5 p.m.