Dave Newman from Gorosh Cranes — at right — assists Ladysmith Parks staffers Greg Smith and Neil Bouma as they position a 2

Sprucing up Ladysmith’s history

Ladysmith's steam donkey exhibit on Transfer Beach Boulevard is getting a major facelift this summer.

A monument to Ladysmith’s longstanding relationship with logging and forestry is in the process of receiving a major facelift this summer.

Finishing touches will be put on the Town’s refurbished steam donkey exhibit — located on Transfer Beach Boulevard — later this week, said Ladysmith Parks supervisor Glen Britton.

The 61,000-pound steam engine, once used to lift and load logs onto trucks, and its 4,500-pound water tank were disassembled earlier this month, Britton said.

The rotten hemlock logs on which it sat were then carted off by Aljaq Contracting Ltd., Britton said, and replaced with new Douglas fir logs sold to the Town at cost by Larry Spencer and Probyn Log Ltd.

The steam engine, its water tank and a 2,000-pound pulley were hoisted back into place Thursday, July 11, as a small crowd of onlookers watched.

Britton said the steam donkey will now be pressure washed before “Harry Blackstaff and friends” repaint it Wednesday, July 17. New bark mulch donated by Paul Can will then be spread around the exhibit to cap off the renovations, Britton added.

The work has been a collaborative effort, Britton said, adding that “everybody’s giving a little bit of something — they’re not giving lots, but they’re helping.”

Britton thanked Walker’s Saw Shop in Nanaimo for donating the use of a chainsaw for two weeks, and he credited both Jack James and the Port Alberni Industrial Heritage Society (PAIHS) for helping guide them through the process.

“We used the PAIHS as a consultant, but we used mainly Jack [James],” Britton said. “Jack came down three times to oversee things and to point his finger at us and tell us everything we were doing right or wrong.”

Completing the lion’s share of the labour were Greg Smith and Neil Bouma, two Town of Ladysmith employees.

“They took a real, personal interest in it and did a great job,” Britton said.

Regarding the mammoth machine’s origins, Britton said it was manufactured by the Tyee Company in Vancouver, but its date of origin remains a mystery.

“I’m assuming it was [made] in the 20s,” Britton added, “but even the PAIHS couldn’t tell me.”

Britton credited those responsible for the original installation of the exhibit for having “done a great job,” adding that it was unfortunate they couldn’t be located to assist with the renoavations.

Ladysmith’s steam donkey exhibit is located at the intersection of Transfer Beach Boulevard and Oyster Bay Drive.