A trencher used to build the Alaska Highway in 1942 was hauled from Fort St. John to a farm in Rolla Thursday morning as local artists get ready to turn the machine into a work of art in time for the highway’s 75th anniversary in 2017.
A crew from Trans Carrier Ltd. loaded the trencher onto a truck at a Fort St. John property, and took it to the Sweetwater 905 site in Rolla, where it will stay for the next year as artists transform it into a work of art.
TCL General Manager Tyler Kosick estimated the trencher weighed between 8,000 and 10,000 pounds. He and his team used one of the company’s articulating boom cranes to get the job done.
“It’s kind of one of those ‘feel good’ projects in the community. It’s good to work with the Arts Council and the different events that are going on,” he said.
“It’s just part of our social licence as a local business to try to help out where we can.”
It took roughly an hour to get the trencher hooked up to the crane and lifted onto the truck bed, but Kosick said there was “nothing too out of the norm” in moving the old machine, aside from the fact that most equipment they move is operational and can be driven onto and off of the truck.
The rusted machine, owned by Roger Gregoire, had been discarded in the bush for 75 years. He donated it to the Peace Liard Regional Arts Council, which plans to make a unique sculpture with the help of local artists.
The design and concept for the piece has not yet been decided, but the Arts Council is “hugely excited about it,” said Rolla artist Donna Kane, who serves as the council’s executive director. “It’s just such a unique, innovative project,” she said.
The sculpture will be a collaborative project that reflects the perspectives of the people who built the highway, pioneers and Indigenous people in the region, according to the Arts Council.
Emilie Mattson and Karl Mattson of Rolla and Adrienne Greyeyes of Fort St. John will create and carry out the design of the project. Internationally-renowned artist Brian Jungen will provide overall advice and direction on the sculpture’s development. Jungen is originally from Montney, and regularly returns home for artistic inspiration.
Other local artists will have a chance to get involved as well.
“Once we’ve got the concept, then we’ll be doing a call to local artists who can contribute ideas toward the design that’s going into the trencher,” Kane said.
“We’re hoping that we include all interested artists in one way or another.”
The completed project will have a permanent home at the Northern Alberta Railway Park at Mile 0 in Dawson Creek.