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Iconic brass bell stolen from heritage Two Spot locomotive in Port Alberni

Two Spot was the first steam locomotive to work in the forests of the Alberni Valley
An Industrial Heritage Society volunteer spotted an unwelcome surprise when he went to check out the roundhouse on Wednesday, March 15, 2023: the brass bell for the Two Spot locomotive had been cut off its bracket and stolen. (DAVID HOOPER PHOTO)

The iconic bell that once rang proudly from the 1912 Shay “Two Spot” locomotive on Port Alberni’s waterfront has been silenced.

A volunteer noticed last Wednesday (March 15) that the brass bell had been cut off the locomotive, which is one of several locomotives and rail cars stored in a closed compound in south Port Alberni.

The Two Spot or Shay steam locomotive was the first steam locomotive to work in the forests of the Alberni Valley, according to the Western Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society. When its working life concluded the locie was put on display in different locations in the Alberni Valley, from Third Avenue and Redford Street to 10th Avenue to the city’s public works yard, where it was restored, and most recently to the Port Alberni Train Station near the waterfront when the trains were still running, in 2018.

“It worked its entire life in the Alberni Valley,” IHS spokesperson Richard Spencer said. “That’s why the bell being stolen hits everyone in the community. The Two Spot is such an iconic piece from the community’s history.”

The brass bell was the original bell built for the 1912 Shay at Lima Locomotive Works Inc. in Lima, Ohio. The locomotive was purchased by Weists Logging contractors, and according to one historical website the first load of logs the Two Spot pulled in the Alberni Valley was Aug. 7, 1912.

The locomotive was stored in an open area in the roundhouse compound. When the volunteer noticed the bell was gone he sounded the alarm with other volunteers, who showed up to search the area. “We looked in all the bushes around (the compound),” Spencer said. “We noticed there was a hole cut in the fence.”

Spencer said the bell seems to be the only thing stolen from the roundhouse.

“I was pretty heartbroken,” said Rod Gledhill, one of the volunteers who restored the bell in 2015 and put it back on the Two Spot. “It’s the original bell from when it came from Lima Locomotive Works and was in the museum up until I restored it in 2015,” he said.

“The bell was just the crown jewel.”

When the Two Spot was restored cosmetically in 2015, volunteers were concerned that the bell might be stolen so it was welded into place so it could not be unbolted, Spencer said. Whoever took the bell cut through the welded brace and made off with the bell, which volunteers estimate weighed between 30–40 kilograms (60-90 pounds).

The Industrial Heritage Society called the RCMP and there is a file number for the theft. Pawn shops and the local foundry have also been notified, Spencer said, the hole in the fence has been repaired and security stepped up at the roundhouse.

The bell is one of two important items that are unique identifiers for locomotives: the other is a set of builders’ plates. These were already removed from the Two Spot long ago and have been safely stored away, Spencer added.

“They tell the history.”

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In 2015, young volunteers Casey Greggain, left, and Rod Gledhill attach the refurbished bell onto its place of pride on the Two Spot locomotive. (DAVID HOOPER PHOTO)

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