IN a commemorative weekend event, one of Canada’s scarce operational steam locomotives marks its 100th anniversary. Fort Steele Heritage Town, nestled in B.C.’s southeast and approximately 143 kilometers west of the Alberta border, proudly hosts the iconic 1077 locomotive, captivating thousands of passengers worldwide each summer.
A Journey Through Time
Originally a wood-fired logging train on Vancouver Island, the 1077 locomotive’s history is as rich as the landscapes it traverses. Conductor Shannon Panko shares, “Donated to the province, it served as a static display before the remarkable Herb Hawkins revived it from retirement, bringing it back to life for us at Fort Steele.”
Hollywood Stardom and Storied Legacy
Beyond its utilitarian origins, the 1077 locomotive gained fame on the silver screen, featuring in blockbuster films like “Shanghai Noon” alongside Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. Its gauges tell tales of cinematic adventures, forever etched in the heritage of Fort Steele.
Built in 1923, the locomotive served as a logging hauler until 1969, earning its place as one of Canada’s longest-serving steam locomotives. Transferred to the Heritage Town in 1990, it stands as a living testament to the past, delighting visitors with its historical charm.
Fueling the Past with Sustainable Energy
Originally wood-fired, the locomotive underwent a transformation in its first year of operation, shifting to oil due to the sparks emitted. Today, it still runs on recycled crankcase oil, a sustainable nod to its bygone era.
Maintaining History’s Whistle
Despite its age, the 1077 locomotive remains in exceptional condition, a testament to the dedication of Gene Roshau, the department manager, and locomotive engineer. Roshau emphasizes the need for meticulous maintenance, often crafting parts from scratch to ensure seamless operations.
Journeying Through Scenic Landscapes
Operating five days a week, weather permitting, the 1077 offers a scenic 30-minute ride along a 2.5-mile track, reaching speeds of eight to 10 miles per hour. Passengers can disembark halfway for breathtaking views of the St. Mary and Kootenay Rivers, encountering wildlife along the way.
Celebrating a Relic
As Fort Steele Heritage Town continues its summer operations, the 1077 locomotive takes center stage. With ticket prices ranging from $15 to $20, visitors can immerse themselves in the historical allure of this living relic. Thomas Savrnoch, after his inaugural ride, describes it as “loud and magnificent,” capturing the essence of a journey aboard the timeless 1077 steam locomotive.