Nestled in the Heritage Acres site along the Pat Bay Highway is the roundhouse for Vancouver Island Model Engineers (VIME).
It’s a society with around 80 members, all who share an interest in trains.
President of VIME John Yardley showed the PNR various engine models built by the members, many of which were used in England.
“They’re much more keen on their heritage (in England) I think than we are here,” he said.
The hobby, he said, really started in England in the late 1800s, with people making models of trains, agricultural equipment and that sort of thing.
VIME, which formed officially in 1972, existed many years before that as a loose fraternity of people with similar interests, with meetings sometimes held in people’s backyards.
Since 1977, VIME have been based at Heritage Acres and for Yardley, who joined the club in 1993, it came second nature to him to be a member as he worked in the diesel shop at the Esquimalt dockyard.
“I had trains as a young boy. Every Christmas, every boy in my generation, you wanted an electric train set,” he said, adding that he had HO model trains and built a little layout with the help of his father.
He then got into slot car racing, a big rage in the ‘60s.
“But trains were always sort of at the back of my mind.”
After meeting a few men who worked on the naval base who were members of VIME, he decided to give it a go and has been puttering around ever since.
“It sounds kind of corny but it’s the smiles of the kids, that’s what really instills the joy for me…”
Yardley showed off three model trains at the roundhouse.
One was the model of a General Electric locomotive which was built for BC Rail to operate at Tumbler Ridge.
“It operated with overhead wire and these would work on a containery system, to pick up the power from the overhead wire so they were a very powerful locomotive,” he said, adding he believes they have all since been dismantled.
“So we got all the drawings from the B.C. Rail and this model was built by the members of the model engineers …” he said, adding different members contributed a different part.
The model, he said, has been on the grounds since the late 1970s, and is one they use most of the time for public events or birthday parties.
“Being electric, I mean you can plug it in overnight and for literally a few pennies it’s back at full power again,” he said.
Building these models is a long process, and it’s not unheard of to hear of people spending up to 10,000 hours to build a locomotive. Another model on site is an engine from the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway, which at one time was the original rail line on the Peninsula.
The individual who built it modelled it on a particular locomotive — a gas car that would go along collecting cans of milk at different farms and passengers or people from Sidney that wanted to go into Victoria for shopping.
“It ran around (the time of) the First World War and up until I think the early ‘20s,” said Yardley.
The one-eighth scale model was built by Art Gardiner, who is one of the early pioneers of the area and one of the instigators for the Saanich Historical Artifacts Society.
Yardley showed a scale model engine from Pennsylvania Railroad. The locomotive itself was completed in 1984. A steam engine that burns diesel fuel, it operates with a power of 125 pounds per square inch. This is the train Yardley used himself for pulling ride-along passenger cars on public run days.
He has rebuilt a lot of that engine and in the process has built little appliances, along with a steam driven air compressor. He had it completely apart and said it’s now ready for paint.
Yardley said it’s a good running engine and 425 were built for the Pennsylvania Railway. He said the prototype was a very successful locomotive.
For more information on the only model engineering club on the island, people can visit vime.ca.