It’s a local punch-line that was getting a little tired - ‘things are moving as slowly as Prince Albert’s locomotive 5080!.’
Mind you, the old steam engine that stands neglected on the Prince Albert Exhibition grounds is probably looking beyond tired.
But the hunk or steel from a bygone era finally looks set to chug over the sunset to a much brighter future. After a year of backward and forward legal wrangling it appears the decade-long saga of getting the city’s famous old steam train mobile again is about to reach its conclusion.
Prince Albert city council has signed off on an ownership transfer agreement that will see the 1914-built steam engine removed from its current and sad-looking location and put in the hands of an Alberta train theme park.
“Locomotive 5080 is going to be transported to Aspen Crossing Railway Corporation …where it will be resurrected within two years and get her back on track,” Arne Lindberg with the local restoration committee told paNOW after the council decision Monday night. The company will spend a million dollars on the restoration and pay the cost of getting it to Alberta, he said.
Lindberg had tried to get several efforts off the ground to refurbish the 104 year old engine in Prince Albert, including the initial idea back in 2008 of a retrofit and having it fully enclosed. But things never gathered the necessary steam to get going, while the classic piece of early 20th Century mechanics kept deteriorating.
Now, thanks to the city’s agreement with Aspen Crossing, the locomotive should be loaded up for transport to Alberta within the next two weeks.
In return for essentially gifting the relic to the theme park the city of P.A. will be permanently acknowledged by the new owners.
“It’ll be called Spirit of Prince Albert and there’ll be a plaque on the side commemorating where it came from and the names of the councillors from the city,” Lindberg said. “There will also be a lot of tourist information from the city of Prince Albert on the locomotive at all times.”
From neglect to stardom
The transfer agreement between the city and the new owners makes it clear the locomotive is going to a much better home than it has had in recent years.
“The City recognizes that the locomotive is in disrepair due to weather, vandalism and unintended neglect …in its current condition, it deters from the high standard of quality that the Prince Albert Exhibition portrays to the public,” it reads.
The document also notes that “no other bona fide persons or entities have come forward to purchase the locomotive for the purpose of returning it to operating service.”
Lindberg said once restored in Alberta the engine would pull a train of up to ten cars including a fully restored period dining car and the locomotive could also be exposed to a global film audience.
“Aspen Crossing has the rights with Disney for train stock for films and IMAX wants to do a feature on the restoration and remanufacture of 5080,” Lindberg said.
While he once hoped to lead a local team who would restore the engine in Prince Albert, Lindberg acknowledged the best future for the once-majestic machine lies elsewhere. He was in a somewhat celebratory mood when city council confirmed their decision Monday, blowing on a wooden train whistle, much to the amusement of council and the audience.
“It’s been a labour of love,” he said, and added one of the train restoration experts in Alberta had been hoping for years that this day would come. “He’s been in constant contact with me, at least once a week since 2012. He’s passionate about it and wants to see 5080 make a comeback.”
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