Full Steam Ahead: Fanshawe Pioneer Village’s Steam Engine Restored

Feb. 20, 2019

In 1912, a steam engine rolled out of the George White and Sons Company factory in London. Painted bright green and red, the machine would go on to plough fields, run threshing machines and drive small saw mills. Years later, it would roll into a scrapyard, pitted and rusted with a balding paintjob, fading from machine to memory.

Originally rescued from a scrap yard by Mr. Walter Hull, it was purchased in 1993 by Fanshawe Pioneer Village with generous donations from the Hull Family and the Springdale Foundation.  With a restoration project stretching between 1995 and 1996, the old engine was furiously scrubbed and painted three times over to fill in the craggy metal. Rubber treads were also added to the flat steel wheels and a canopy was attached to the frame.

This preliminary restoration would stand on its own for over 20 years, but the elements took their toll over time. To prevent the engine from gradually deteriorating back to its 1993 state, Bryan McDonald, Maintenance Coordinator at Fanshawe Pioneer Village, and his team decided a second restoration was in order.

“Each year the crew picks a large restoration project and they decided it was time to give the George White a good face lift,” says Bryan. “They polished all the brass, cleaned up the surface rust, and gave the engine a new paint job. We don’t want it to become as rusty as when it arrived here originally.”

Over the course of about three months at the start of 2018, a team of volunteers continued the work started two decades earlier, once again with funding from the Springdale Foundation.

“Springdale has been generously supporting maintenance work in the Village for years,” says Bryan. “Thanks to them and our hardworking volunteers, the engine is back on display out near the Jury Barn looking almost brand new.”

The Springdale Foundation weren’t the only familiar faces returning to help refurbish the old engine.

“Doug Kennedy and Stan Elliott were part of the original restoration,” says Bryan. “Doug taught Fred Sleight how to do all the pin striping and lettering and even donated all the tools needed for future pin striping around the village.”

The preservation of heritage items like the old George White engine allows us to remember, reflect, and learn in ways that history books don’t allow for. Thanks to living history museums like Fanshawe Pioneer Village, people like Bryan and Doug, and our very own Springdale Foundation, the artifacts and knowledge from our past are preserved, shared with our community in the present, and allowed to inspire the future. 

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