The Little Prince Steam Engine


    The Fort George Railway is not only Canada’s shortest passenger railway at 2.2 kilometres, but the steam engine on those tracks is an entirely unique and important Canadian artifact. This 24” gauge steam engine was built in 1912 and was present at the last spike in the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway at Fort Fraser.

    This engine and four others were initially built by the Davenport (Iowa) Locomotive Works to operate on coal for moving crews and materials to the railheads of various construction projects around North America. The five that were sent to Northern BC in 1912 on the back of a sternwheeler were modified to operate on wood, as that was the fuel source available in the region. The five engines were built to deliver supplies during the construction of the Grand Trunk and, after they were no longer needed, were abandoned to a scrap heap on Island Cache. Pieces were salvaged years later, fully restored, and rebuilt into The Little Prince, making it the only engine of its kind left in operation in North America. The engine sat in front of the Via Rail building as part of a garden display for 35 years.

    The Little Prince finally returned to the rails on Canada Day in 1978. Owned by the City of Prince George, it was run by the Prince George Railway Society. College of New Caledonia professor Bob Martin worked with his students to design the engine’s coaches. The train ran nearly every summer until it came off the rails due to an undiagnosed gasket leak in 2007. Eventually, the City went to The Exploration Place and asked them to take over its operation. Since 2011, it has been managed, maintained, and operated by the Museum and a team of volunteers.

    In addition to its four-year hiatus from 2007 to 2011, the train did not run during most of 2017 due to wildfires in the area and took a break in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19. The little steam engine’s whistle is synonymous with the beginning of summer here in the North. A well-known tourist attraction,  The Little Prince brings upwards of 30,000 riders of all ages to Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park each year. It is truly the last of its kind, a rolling memory of the days when Canada completed its first transcontinental railway.