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Fire in 'irreplaceable' Whitehorse train car considered suspicious

·2 min read
The distinctive rail car sits outside the roundhouse building at Front and Wood Streets. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC - image credit)
The distinctive rail car sits outside the roundhouse building at Front and Wood Streets. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC - image credit)

Investigators say a fire that engulfed an old diesel engine on Whitehorse's waterfront this week is considered suspicious.

The distinctive rail car sits outside the roundhouse building at Front and Wood Streets. The roundhouse is also home to the city's retired waterfront trolley, which sits inside.

Whitehorse fire chief Jason Everitt said the fire started early Tuesday morning. He said fire crews were able to quickly get it under control and keep it from spreading to the roundhouse.

"That hasn't been touched or harmed," Everitt said. "So that's obviously a good thing."

Still, Angela Drainville, former executive director of Miles Canyon Historic Railway Society, says the burnt engine is a big loss.

"I have a pretty strong attachment to those engines. And to hear that one of them has been lost to fire is really, really sad and devastating to me," she said.

Drainville says the engine isn't that old — though it was designed to look like a historic engine.

She says it was built in the 1990s for the White Pass and Yukon Route railway to transport hikers to or from the Chilkoot Pass. Later, it was transferred to the Yukon government and parked at the waterfront.

Wayne Vallevand/CBC
Wayne Vallevand/CBC

Drainville says even though it was a replica, it still had "interpretive value" and was one of just a few in existence.

"So I think that it's irreplaceable in that sense."

She's disappointed that the fire appears to have been deliberately set. Whitehorse has many heritage buildings and artifacts along the waterfront, she says.

"To see this level of vandalism sort of focused on something of that nature — it makes it really, really concerning," Drainville said.

"It's almost a violation of trust between the community and those who are trying to maintain pieces of heritage for others to enjoy."

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