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Royal Hudson passes steam test

Sixty-six-year-old locomotive one puff closer to return to service

The Royal Hudson is one step closer to steaming back on to the rails.

The 66-year-old steam locomotive passed a provincial hydrostatic test Aug. 10, giving it certification to once again travel between Squamish and North Vancouver. The vintage locomotive has been undergoing a year-long $400,000 boiler refit and will need another six weeks of work before heading on a trial run.

Singh Biln, of Squamish’s West Coast Railway Association, says the locomotive still needs to have 200 superheaters (pipe that heats steam) installed and the firebox lined with bricks before a test fire up.

"That will be an exciting day and we expect that will happen in the first week of September," Biln said.

Built in Montreal in 1940, the Royal Hudson 2860 was a sister locomotive to the 2850 that carried their royal highnesses, 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 before a first retirement in 1956. She was refitted and put back into service by the Royal Hudson Steam Society in 1974, and traveled from Vancouver to Squamish as a tourist train for 25 years. Facing a $2.5 million boiler replacement in 1999 she was again retired.

But with provincial and federal grants and numerous private donations, the 14-wheel locomotive has undergone a boiler upgrade, extending her life a further 10-15 years.

Volunteers and paid contractors have worked for the past 14 months on the 650,000 lb. Royal Hudson.

Biln said three vintage coach cars that ran previously with the locomotive have been repainted and refurbished in anticipation of a potential Thanksgiving trip.

"We’d like to do at least one trip this year between Squamish and North Vancouver, because that’s what she did for 25 years," Biln said.

A fourth car, a luxury business car, is also being rebuilt in order to travel with the entourage.

Work begins Aug. 21 on digging a three-metre deep foundation for a 30-metre roundhouse, a shelter for the Royal Hudson.