Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Beaufort Gang

This is the Beaufort Gang, a band of train robbers who routinely accost the passenger train that runs between downtown Port Alberni and McLeans Mill. My sister Lori is one of the mounted masked robbers in the middle of the above poster. McLeans Mill is a turn-of-the-century family-run steam-powered sawmill, still with its original small buildings and hand-run mill, that the McLean family began back in 1925 and operated until 1965. [I plan to do a photo shoot and tell its story soon.]

The city of Port Alberni has gone to considerable expense to restore the mill to working order and every summer tourists and locals alike board the train down near the Quay and ride through the forest to visit the mill, where one can watch old fashioned milling methods, from the point where a raw log enters the building, till it comes out planks on the other side. There also is a stage show at the mill all through the summer, with local actors pulling out all the stops to put on a good show.

The local theatre troupe gets in on the train robbing act as well, and on every long weekend, actors board the train in old-fashioned garb, and other volunteers, my sister among them, stage a mock robbery of the train, pulling off the conductor, stealing "loot", then making their noisy escape.

Usually, there are several horses, but today being the last long weekend of summer, my sister had to carry most of the horse action, on her faithful and highly intelligent steed, Beau, at 26 still in fine fettle.

I happened to be passing, with my camera, just before the robbery was to occur, so I caught some of the action to share with you. Sadly, my eyesight is such that when I point my camera, if the light isnt just right, I am flying blind. It is hard to see what is in the frame. But I caught enough to give you some idea of the fun.

Here, the train is idling at the Mill station. I slowed to ask if the robbery had occured yet, and friendly folk pointed me down the road a ways, back in the trees. I just made it.

Here is my sister Lori, riding up and down to give the illusion that many masked riders were about:) Beau takes it all in stride. She has been in parades, robberies, cattle sorting events. Lori just has to point her and off she goes. A highly intelligent horse!

The "robbery" is in progress now. The conductor is being pulled off the train and his bag of loot examined.

A couple of small horses zip by, led by part of the gang.

Ooooh, things are heating up now. Screams and yells of protest can be heard from the train.

The robbers examine the loot. I hope there is enough there that they'll be satisfied!

Whew! It must be a good haul. They are leaving with their bag of loot.

They came so close, I wondered if they'd ask for my valuables. But since I was dressed in my usual Sally Ann attire, I guess they figured I wouldnt have a Rolex or anything of value:)

Off they go, into the woods.

Oh, wait! The robbers are being called back.......... take a bow!

My sister, afterwards, in the woods, unsaddling Beau. I forgot to press the Zoom button. Darn! Would have been the BEST shot!

Here is a closer shot of her without her mask - at a recent cattle sorting event in Courtenay. Pretty gal!

So then I was in the mood to drive to the end of Beaver Creek (I live just off Beaver Creek Road, in a rural setting) to try to get some shots of the Beaufort Range, the foothills the Beaufort Gang is named after. There is some pretty ranch country at the foot of these hills. Prime land.

The only green areas you'll see around here after such a hot summer are agriculturally zoned areas like this. I have about forgotten what green grass is like!

I remembered the zoom button on this shot - I wanted a closer look at the farther mountain.
Pretty country! Soon I will go inside McLeans Mill and show you what a sawmill looked like in 1925. Loggers today would scoff at spending a night in the tiny bunkhouses, or work as hard as they did back then for a tiny wage. When I walk around the mill, I am transported back in time to a simpler day, when things were done by hand, sustainably, there was work for everyone, and something was left alive on the land for tomorrow.

I feel lucky I happened along at just the right moment. I hadnt planned it. But this is likely the last train robbery till next spring. Happy I caught it:)


  1. what vivid capture of the event,

    u have done excellent job...

  2. Thanks, Poorni.......a fun afternoon:)

  3. hay there nayyyyber, sorry just hoofing around,
    great pictures
    k x

  4. Oh, that's great, Sherry! Such a fun event..we would definitely ride the train for the sake of a robbery! Lori and Beau look like they're having a wonderful time.

    I also love your scenic mountain shots..we really have to get over and visit!!


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