New short doc revisits aging McBarge, the floating McDonald's of Expo 86

Short film details McBarge

The future of one of the stranger relics of Expo 86 is still unknown, but a recent short documentary explores the slowly decaying floating former restaurant.

The doc, produced by Bright Sun Films (which specializes in abandoned or forgotten things), explores the McBarge where it sits today, on the Fraser River in Maple Ridge. Back 35 years ago it was one of the many highlights at Expo 86, docked on False Creek.

The filmmakers get an inside tour of the large, floating structure, exploring what used to be the kitchen and dining areas inside (though much of it has been removed).

Not only do they get to board Friendship 500 (the actual name for the McBarge), but they interview the current owner of the big floating metal structure.

In the video, McBarge owner Howard Meakin notes he never expected it to take 30 years to get it going again. Over the years there have been some ideas, like a museum about the ocean (which he discusses in the doc), but nothing has panned out.

He and business colleague Larry McGuiness discuss the structure, which they note was over-engineered for what was needed at the time (it was purpose-built as a McDonald's restaurant for Expo 86) and note while some parts have decayed the superstructure is still in good shape. As they explore the McBarge, the filmmakers also note that while some pieces are in bad shape, the more essential pieces seem solid.

While they can't divulge the current plan due to unfinished business dealings, Meakin notes there are new plans for the McBarge as part of something bigger. Also, it may include artifacts from Expo 86 on a refurbished top deck.

"I would say within two years we hope the barge will be moved and it will be redeveloped," Meakin says in the documentary.

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