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Steam Donkey to fire up at Museum at Campbell River this Labour Day

Museum hosting family-friendly event
Paul Suurhoff operates the Steam Donkey at the Museum at Campbell River earlier this year. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror

The Museum at Campbell River plans to fire up the old Steam Donkey on Labour Day this year, as part of their festivities.

On Sept. 5, people are invited to come gather around the restored 1916 Empire Steam Donkey once again. Labour Day was originally marked as a day for workers to campaign for better working conditions or pay. These demonstrations may have taken the form of parades and picnics organized by the trade unions. For most Canadians, the day has become a day of holidaying and family time. For many years the Museum has taken the opportunity to honour some of our labour history in a fun and family-friendly way.

A highlight of this event in recent years has been coffee brewed right in the steam engine’s boiler. Donkey boiler coffee was the highlight of many a logger’s day. In an interview shortly before his death Arthur “Bill” Mayse said he recalled fondly waiting for the engineer to blow his whistle at eleven thirty signalling lunch break.

“Woooo woo – one long and one short – and that meant lunch time. So everyone would drop their gloves and head for the donkey engine,” Mayse said.

According to Mayse, there was no better coffee to be had.

“It was good coffee. A man with big feet could walk on it. It was the best coffee I ever tasted in my life, even if you did have to fish bits of burnt twig and charcoal out of it every now and then. But it had a taste, I think maybe from the quick, really savage boil in the white hot steam that no other coffee anywhere else ever got, so we loved it.”

Pie will be served and some fun family activities are planned. The public is encouraged to bring their lunch and enjoy a picnic on the Museum grounds. Signaling demonstrations with the donkey operators will show visitors the language of the early logging crews.

All of the Labour Day activities on Monday, Sept. 5 are free of charge. For more information call the Museum at Campbell River at 250-287-3103 or go to

RELATED: Campbell River Museum’s ‘steam donkey’ draws crowd

Museum to fire up historic steam donkey

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