Not only did The Locomotives of Bienfait documentary celebrate its premiere on Nov. 19 and 20 at the Orpheum Theatre, but its debut marked the start of a campaign to help one of the steam engines profiled in the film.
Hundreds of people filled the Orpheum each day to watch the show, much to the delight of William Fraser, who directed the project, and his wife, Heather MacKenzie, who served as co-producer for the film, through their studio, Navion Co. Productions.
Fraser was impressed with how the film looked on the big screen.
“I’ve looked at it on the computer screen for so long, and so you always wonder how it’s going to translate,” said Fraser. “I was pleased with the sound as well. It’s hard to duplicate that sound on headphones, and I was really happy with the way it sounded and looked.”
The Locomotives of Bienfait looks at the history of three steam locomotives that used to be based in Bienfait, and played an important role in transporting coal. One of them, Locomotive No. 3522, is still in Bienfait, and sits on the edge of the town’s Main Street as a historical display.
The others are No. 2166, which is now on display at the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon, and No. 6947, which has moved around Western Canada, but now resides in the ghost town of Sandon, B.C.
The documentary also looks at coal mining in the Estevan area during the early 20th century, and has profiles on mining settlements that used to exist in the southeast. It also recaps the Black Tuesday Riot in Estevan in September 1931.
Several people who were interviewed for the project, including Ken Hesketh, Louis Belanger and John Yakamovich, were at the Orpheum for the premiere.
Once the show concluded on Nov. 19, MacKenzie announced a plan to refurbish Locomotive No. 3522. Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1907, it remained in service until 1965.
It has been on display for 48 years, and weather conditions have taken their toll. The engine needs repairs and fresh paint for preservation.
“One of the parts of the film is the future of each locomotive, and we asked the owners of each locomotive ‘How do you see the future?’” said Fraser. “So I asked (the Town of) Bienfait that, and they said ‘We’d really like to paint it, sandblast it and fix it up, and if we had enough money, put a roof over it, to protect it from the snow and sun.’”
But it’s an expensive project, and the town can’t afford it at this time.
Fraser and MacKenzie have started a Go Fund Me page to support the restoration. As of noon on Nov. 21, it had raised $400 of its $10,000 goal.
More information on the fundraiser can be found on the Locomotives of Bienfait website.
Fraser hopes to put the documentary online for a couple weeks, so that people who couldn’t attend the premiere can watch the documentary. He also hopes to release the film on DVD at a later date.