The steam locomotives at Heritage Park pull two green passenger cars that are filled with visitors everyday the park is open to the public. It's a popular attraction and now those cars are in the repair shop getting a much needed overhaul.

Mike Willie is the carpentry manager heading a team that is repairing the wheel assembly the cars sit on.

"A bogie is the wheels and the springs and the pivot points that allow the car to move down the track," said Willie. "So everything that is touching the track or that has to steer or move the car side to side is on the bogies and then the cars actually rest on two bogies."

The challenge the team faces is that there are no manuals or parts departments to call for help or replacement pieces. So there is a lot of investigation that takes place to see how they were built.

"Then systematic disassembly, documenting the old pieces that we've found," said Willie. "Then counting the bolts, counting the nuts, counting the washers, measuring everything before we take it apart and then going from the old pieces, rebuilding everything from scratch back into new."

In addition to heavy iron, Willie says there's a surprising amount of white oak on each bogie that's bolted into the steel pieces.

"The level of very technical woodworking that's in these was surprising when we popped them open, we didn't anticipate nearly as much as we found," he said. "Everything is jointed together with traditional joints, it's not just bolted together with hope, it's all very much high end, high technicality carpentry."

The team has to make its own replacement pieces out of white oak and fabricate new steel pieces that show wear or have cracked sometime in the last 140 years. Each bogie also has more than 500 bolts to be replaced.

"Unless it's better than 90 per cent, it's better to replace it," Willie said. "But because these are actually going to be moving rolling stock we've kind of gone a little more heavy handed with replacement than we would for, say, our colonist car restoration where it was keep as much of the original fabric as possible."


Heritage Park took possession of the Morrissey Fernie and Michel rail cars in 1964, numbered 62 and 63. Dominic Terry, the park's strategic communications manager, says they were built in the United States around 1885.

"They would have moved around a bit," he said. "We know from 1964, that these cars have never been taken apart, other than some minor restoration that would have went on in the 70s and 80s."

Terry says there's no documentation showing the bogies were ever off the cars for repair work and believes there's a strong possibility they've never been worked on. He says the team repairing the bogies have become experts in their field.

"We do $6 million a year in lifecycle maintenance here at the park so it's a serious thing that we do and a lot of our skills and trades people here at the park are the only ones who know how to do it," he said. "So it's not like you can just bring in anybody and do this, these guys become experts."

Kesia Kvill is the chief curator and says the museum and historical institution is responsible for preserving history, that's its job. She says it's exciting to watch the bogies being opened up at the park for the first time.

"That's 140 years old, you can see the points in it where there's wear and tear," she said. "You can see why it needs to be redone so that's kind of cool to pull it out and go well, look what we learned about this, how long does it take old growth timber to wear down? Well, it's still okay after 140 years! Tthat's amazing."

Kvill is impressed at how engineers and workers in the late 1800s were able to build something that is still in service today.

"The craftsmanship that people had in the past without the modern technology, they built those before we had the modern tools before we had hydraulic lifts like that is amazing," she said. "That tells you so much about the creativity and ingenuity of people in the past and the skill and just how smart people were."

Willie says the two passenger rail cars were never intended to last as long has they have and the team is extending that live for future generations to enjoy.

"I'm very proud of what the guys have managed to achieve and the quality that they've done is just right on," he said. "Exactly what we were hoping for so I hope they're proud of what they've done because they absolutely deserve to be it's just a spectacular job they've been doing."

There are four bogies in total. Two are restored and the third is nearing completion. The job has to be finished by mid-April so they can be reinstalled under the rail cars in time for the park's opening in May.