On July 17 and 18, Alberta Railway Excursions from Stettler, Alberta, and Pioneer Acres of Alberta Museum, Irricana, Alberta, put on a very unique event in the village of Big Valley. The townspeople awoke to the thunderous roar of whistles, the chuffing of exhaust and the aroma of burning coal mixed with hot cylinder oil, for the 1999 version of the Live Steam and Working Model Show.
A group of us got together to put on a demonstration of model steam power for two days, with Case, Sawyer-Massey, Advance Rumely and others in operation in front of the train station. What made this event so unique was that over half the visitors made the journey to Big Valley on Alberta Prairie's 'Old 41', a Baldwin Consolidation 2-8-0 locomotive, built in 1920. Using the locomotive and its 13 completely restored passenger cars as a backdrop allowed the crowd to reminisce and mingle among the engineers to capture the feeling of the power of steam up close. The six hour round trip included not only the show, but a home-cooked roast beef dinner, as well as demonstrations of steam power on sawmills, Baker fan, hay presses and separators. Although the weather was damp on Sunday, visitors were kept dry by a tent set up over an old CNR baggage car, now a railway museum.
This was an excellent show with good crowds both days, and I know we are looking forward to a repeat performance next year on July 15 and 16.
Included in steam line up were Henry Ichorn with his 1/2 scale 80 HP Case, water wagon and sawmill, as well as Fred Borzel with his 1/3 scale Case 65 and hay press that came all the way from Swift Current, Saskatchewan, to attend the show. Hein's Plehnert from Coronation brought his 1/4 scale Case 65 and demonstrated it on his matching steel bodied Case separator. Dave Fitchie from Cam rose had his 1/4 scale 65 Case fired up for the crowd, and John Kvill from New Norway finished off the Case lineup. Larry Potter from Erskine had his 1/8 scale Case 65 up to pressure and running a scaled Baker fan. Brian Manning of Calgary was teaching his 10-year-old son Alex how to properly fire and operate a 25 HP Advance-Rumely. Finishing off the traction engines was Ernie Birtschi of Cam rose and his 1/4 scale 76 HP Sawyer-Massey belted up and demonstrating its power on his matching sawmill. There were also tables set up to display stationary and mill engines from Tony Leschinski and Pioneer Acres Museum. This event proved to be quite popular as the train was sold out both days and crowds remained even after the locomotive left to begin its return journey back to Settler.