The Kimberley Underground Mining Railway (KUMR) will be featured as a recipient in the 2019 BC Heritage Awards this May, accepting the award for Distinguished Service in Outstanding Volunteerism.
This comes as a part of a restoration project that KUMR is currently planning. They have applied for grant funding through the Columbia Basin Trust to restore and upgrade the exterior of the powerhouse.
President of KUMR Mick Henningson says the building is 125 feet long with a tremendous amount of windows and a lot of brick work, which means it’s a big undertaking in terms of the restoration process.
Public Relations Manager at KUMR, Sharon Henry adds that Henningson will be travelling to Nanaimo in May to receive the award.
“This started out as a proposed upgrade to the powerhouse. We are working with a Heritage Architect, Elana [Zysblat], who actually nominated us,” said Henry. “It’s so very exciting.”
Henningson says that what sets KUMR apart from other heritage and historical sites is the fact that 10,000 people visit every year and take part in the interactive learning.
“There are a lot of heritage buildings that get restored, but hardly anyone goes through them,” he said. “I think with us, we make history fun. Getting there on a train, we make history come to life. We have real miners using mining equipment underground and when we fire up the 125 year old compressor in the powerhouse it’s pretty special. You know, we don’t use any TV sets.”
Henningson also said that the KUMR is quite a big operation to be run without any full time staff, and that’s all due to the great volunteers who give their time.
Councillor Darryl Oakley, who is the Council representative on KUMR’s Board of Directors says this is a huge achievement for KUMR.
“That powerhouse is a significant landmark in Kimberley, in BC, and it’s not in your face. It’s sort-of tucked away, you have to take the train to get there,” explained Oakley. “The entire society at KUMR is working very hard to prepare for this restoration and it’s all volunteer work.”
He adds that the process is quite laborious and interesting, considering that if the grant funds come through, everything will be taken back to its original state from 100 years ago.
“The fact that KUMR gets to go after funding for this project is incredible,” said Oakley. “I’m so happy for those guys, the entire society. There’s nothing quite like this in BC, especially from a volunteer perspective, and they’ve really put in an unbelievable amount of work.”