A Trip Back in Time at the McLean Mill National Historic Site, Port Alberni, BC.
A 2 1/2 hour drive will take you to one of Vancouver Island most interesting historical sites, the McLean Mill. What makes the McLean Mill such a unique heritage treasure is that much of the original machinery and buildings have survived making it a rare example of a sawmill complex from the early days of mechanized logging on the west coast. Even more remarkable is that the sawmill has been restored to full working condition, the millpond and dam have been reconstructed and the companies original steam donkey is also operating along with a fully rigged ‘spar tree’ for pulling in cut logs and loading onto trucks. You can see how an early 2oth century logging and milling operation actually worked!
The R.B. McLean Lumber Company was a family owned business that operated from 1926 to1965 and the site of the mill is located on 12.8 hectares (31.6 acres) on the outskirts of Port Alberni. It has 35 buildings and structures forming the self-contained community of offices, service buildings and residences centered around the sawmill.
The focal point of the site is the steam driven sawmill powered by a Wheland Machine Works steam engine built in 1890. Logs are hauled from the millpond, sawn into timbers, planed and trimmed, all largely driven by this steam engine. The finished timber was sorted, and dried in the teacherage yard, the lumber dipped in a chemical bath to prevent mold, and was shipped from the mill by truck or by rail.
In fact, the old railway lines to the mill are still in place and you can take a ride on a train pulled by a completely restored 1929 Baldwin ex-logging steam locomotive which leaves from the 1912 CPR Train Station in downtown Port Alberni. See our post Alberni Pacific Steam Train. The 35 minute ride to the McLean Mill National Historic Site winds through the City of Port Alberni and the surrounding forests. For more information on schedules and ticket purchase, click this link: Train Schedule & Tickets.
2019 Update: Sadly, the train will not be running during the 2019 season
2021: Still not running!
For more information on the McLean Mill National Historic Site click this link: The McLean Mill