Historic harbour diorama unveiled

The Ladysmith Maritime Society’s ship came in, but just in time for the unveiling of the Long Wharf diorama project this weekend.

The Ladysmith Maritime Society’s ship came in, but just in time for the unveiling of the Long Wharf diorama project this weekend.

Seven years in the making, the diorama unveiling was the centerpiece of the Maritime Festival, which ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. last weekend at the Ladysmith Community Marina. It depicts in minute detail the Long Wharf, where coal from Ladysmith’s Extension Mine was loaded onto ships for export.

The long awaited unveiling was tinged with sadness as LMS members remembered model maker Guy Brooke, who researched, designed and started the work on the project in 2009 before he succumbed to illness in 2010. He would have been proud of the finished work.

In 2013, with the project stalled, Maritime Heritage Centre curator Shirley Blackstaff approached a group of Duncan model railroaders, headed up by Dave Ames, and asked if they would complete the diorama.

They contributed hundreds of hours, sculpting the landscape, then replicating: buildings, the wharf, railway cars and engines, and hundreds of other details to accurately portray an operation integral to Ladysmith’s history, and to the harbour especially.

Volunteers include: Harry Southern, Ken Black, Bob Hartl, Victor Gerwin, Jim Irvine, Vies Salanski and Bill Hook. Southern documented the process and produced a video that’s on display at the centre and posted on YouTube.

With the railroaders on board everything was coming together on schedule, except for one key element they did not feel up to recreating: a coal ship to tie up to the wharf.

Professional model shipbuilder Colin MacLock was asked to build a model coal barque (a barque is a four-masted sailing vessel), as described in Brooke’s original plans. MacLock didn’t want to guess how many hours he put into the project, but it was ‘lots.’

“I wanted to do a good job because this diorama has been so long in the making, and these guys have just done such a fabulous job,” he said.

He, Ames and Southern were installing the finished vessel and touching up details Thursday, just in time for everything to be shipshape for the big day May 30.