Monday, August 15, 2016

10 Questions for Trevor Mills

This series is modeled after the "Interesting Railfan" series in Railroad magazine from years ago. I'm asking each railfan 10 questions, some standard and some customized for the particular person. I hope you enjoy it. (See all in the series)

Trevor Mills at "work"
I put 10 questions to Trevor Mills, who is heavily involved with the West Coast Railway Association in Squamish, BC and recently purchased Great Northern lounge observation car #1090 to restore it.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Squamish, British Columbia Canada. My father was an engineer on the Pacific Great Eastern Railway and mom stayed at home and looked after me.

I tried to hire on as a conductor hoping to work my way up to be an engineer but the 20/20 vision rule with no corrective devices was still in place so that was out.

I tried applied to be an apprentice machinist just as BC Rail was getting rid of their apprenticeship programs. I have had many jobs around including truck driving and long shoring.

I have worked various jobs at the museum over the years including archivist, guest services and on restoration projects. I am currently master mechanic looking after 4 operating heritage locomotives and the operating coaches we use to carry people for events.

2. Why do you like trains?

I think the main reason I like trains is they have been part of my life for as far back as I can remember. Many of dad and mom's friends in part had something to do with trains ranging from fellow employees on the full size railways to friends with model railways.

Our place was a weekend hangout for people that came from afar to see the British Columbia Railway. Dave Wilkie and Pat Hind would venture over from Victoria, park their camper in our driveway and we would all go off and spend a weekend photographing whatever was running.

Mom was part of the team and would usually have a wonderful dinner ready when we got home. Evenings were usually spent around the slide projector catching up on each other's adventures since the last time we were together.

3. Are you a railway modeller?

Yes! I have built or assisted with many models in various scales from N scale to live steam. I prefer the larger sizes because it is easier to get better detail. I guess my favourite size would be gauge 1. It is a larger size and there are not many models out there which leaves lots of opportunity for scratch building.

4. What is your favourite railway to see/photograph?

The Royal Hudson #2860
I love railways that run steam. The Royal Hudson came to town every summer while I was growing up and it had a great influence on my photography.

I am also a scenic photographer and love rail lines that go through the mountains and valleys. The only time I take roster shots is if there is something I want to model.

I have an overflowing box of photos of stuff I want to make  models of in the future. This will be a great retirement project if I ever get to old to work on the full size stuff.

5. How did you get involved with the West Coast Railway Heritage Park?

I was invited by one of dad's friends to a meeting of the WCRA in Vancouver. It was in 1988. The slide presentation that night was on the current progress of the restoration of the colonist car 2514. I was amazed by the wood framing in the car and wanted to learn more about it.

There was also talk of building a museum and one location was Squamish. I do not think I missed a meeting after that for the next 2 years hoping to hear more. When the decision was made in 1989 I was at the table when we signed the lease for the land where the Heritage Park is now and have been a part of its growth ever since.

6. What are some of the challenges in restoring railway cars?

One of the biggest challenges is getting everyone to agree on what a piece should be restored to. It is unbelievable how much time is wasted arguing how it should be done. After that the metal work, wood work and painting are easy.

7. Which restoration are you most proud of?

I have worked on or assisted with over 25 and I think my favourites are PGE 561, CPR 4069 and of course the Royal Hudson.

8. How did you end up owning a railcar?

The WCRA has cleaned out their collection several times over the past 20 years and several great cars have gone to the scrapper. When this round of thinning came along I just could let a car from my childhood get cut up.

The car I acquired is the Great Northern lounge observation 1090. When I was young dad had a model of the GN Oriental Limited on his railway pulled by a P-2 and the observation car was a car just like the 1090.

Trevor's car, GN #1090
I jumped on the opportunity to save a classic both from my own life and the history of travel in western North America. I have a plan for the restoration based on experience gained from my past work at the Heritage Park. Oh, and there will be no argument on the colour I will be painting it. The car has given me a beautiful sample of the Pullman Green.

9. Who would you say is your inspiration?

First would be my dad for his encouragement. Next I would say all his friends from his coworkers to his fellow modellers who never said no and were always there if I had a question. There are way too many to list here.

10. How can people help preserve Canada's railway history?

One of the biggest ways is to write down family stories. Dad died when I was 9 and I never got to ask him many questions about his railway life.

This is another reason why I like trains - to find out more about my father who left us way too soon. These stories tell of a way of life that contributed to the development of the great country we live in.

Another way is to come out and help by sharing a talent like wood work, metalwork and record keeping in the archives to work toward upkeep of a collection near you.

These few pieces that are left help us remember how we have progressed to where we are today. If you would like to help me with my project please see my website for more info.

To learn more about Trevor's project, visit You can see the West Coast Railway Association's site at

See all other 10 Questions posts

No comments: