Clarenville train enthusiasts building pump car to promote province's railway history

·3 min read
Jamie Fitzpatrick/CBC
Jamie Fitzpatrick/CBC

A group of railway enthusiasts in Clarenville are doing things the old-fashioned way for their latest project, creating a vintage style pump car that will be able to ride the tracks in the area.

Clarenville Historical Society president Stephen Bonnell said the group has had plans to build a pump car for several years, and saw the added free time that came with the year's challenges as a good chance to get started on the project.

"About seven or eight years ago, I think it was on the railway group forums, there was a guy from Ohio that was selling railcar or pump car plans on CD-ROM for $25," Bonnell told CBC Radio's Weekend AM Saturday.

"So we said let's go ahead and buy it anyway. You never know, someday we might end up doing something with it if we get all the parts for it."

Bonnell's building partner, Mike Korpel, said the project started to come together after he found a matching set of wheels and axles that fit the gear ratio matching the design plans.

"The plans were designed for a full-gauge track, so basically we had to take it and reduce it for to fit the narrow gauge." Korpel said. "I took the plans and I did a template with just regular spruce … and made a mockup of what the frame would be to fit the narrow gauge."

Jamie Fitzpatrick/CBC
Jamie Fitzpatrick/CBC

The pump car, measuring about 3½ feet wide by six feet long, includes parts sourced locally and internationally. The wood frame was created using white oak wood, while the gear to make the car function was found in Texas.

"I would say it's about 80 per cent [finished,]" Korpel said. "Once the wood frame was done, the axles were attached and we got the gear … we got to get a crank made for it. The main gear had to be attached to a crank."

"Hopefully now in the next week or so that will be finished so we can attach it then to the pump car," he added. "I guess we're hoping to get it on the track before the snow comes."

Once the pump car is complete, Bonnell said it will be able to ride the tracks remaining in the community from decades past.

Keili Bartlett/CBC
Keili Bartlett/CBC

"We've been at it about the last five or six years, adding a bit on every spring or fall of the year," he said. "Some of the sections, it's in the old CN rail yard in Clarenville, right across from the railway station... there was always an old scrap line or an old spur line that was left there by CN when the CN pulled out probably in 1990."

"The original track was there, and we scrounged up from different sections that were left behind," Korpel added. "We laid probably just as much as what was left behind, we've added to it about the equal amount. So right now, we have about a quarter mile track that we can run the pump car on."

The duo hopes to use the pump car for public rides in the community and use it as a tool to promote the history of the railway in the province.

"We'll hope to do some rides and get the kids on it, see what it's all about," Korpel said. "What it was like 100 years ago riding these machines."

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