Vintage trains continue to chug along the tracks in Squamish, with the help of many volunteers and a financial boost from the federal government.
As the West Coast Railway Heritage Park gets ready to celebrate its 25th anniversary, it also announced its expansion.
On March 28, Pam Goldsmith-Jones, the Member of Parliament for West Vancouver-Sea to Sky-Sunshine Coast, announced $985,000 from the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund will go to the West Coast Railway Association. The association will use the funds as well as private donations to purchase the Squamish Railway Shop — which was up for sale by BC Rail — and its assets officially on March 29. An additional $1 million will upgrade the facility for year-round restoration abilities.
“Securing the maintenance building for its purpose-built use is so important because we know if it were repurposed, it would never be replaced. There are only a few buildings like this within thousands of kilometres of this site. The opportunity for this building to be maintained especially for its original use and to have it focused on preserving our rail heritage is remarkable,” MLA Jordan Sturdy wrote in a letter read at the announcement.
The WCRA has been leasing the Squamish Railway Shop since 2006 to restore their vintage locomotives. Not only does it contain equipment such as a crane that can lift trains for undercarriage and wheel maintenance, the workshop is connected to the heritage park by rail. Currently, an electric train built in 1912 is nearly complete in the shop. Another, built in 1924, is one of the only three sleeping cars Pacific Great Eastern ever owned. It previously spent 30 years on a farm in Washington state.
“This building is gold to us,” Don Evans, the chair of the WCRA board, said during a tour of the facility. “When we get passenger cars, often they’re gutted inside. This car amazingly has all its original material. We will be able to restore it as opposed to recreate it.”
“So much of our modern history, even the fact that we have a country such as this, has been influenced, formed and forged by the locomotives serviced in this area,” Sturdy’s letter said.
This summer, visitors to the park will be able to tour the railway shop. First, they’ll hop aboard one of the vintage trains. Once transported to their destination, all will disembark to see the locomotives under restoration. In another room, visitors can see above and below the train carriages, for an up-close perspective of the giant machines.
“Our ultimate vision,” Evans said, “is that this will become a new museum of railroad technology and interpret a working shop. You’ll be able to see the work being done.”