Riding the rails to a good year

Sullivan Mine and Railway holds its own in tough economy

The Sullivan Mine and Railway Historical Society, which operates the Sullivan Mining Railway attraction, held its annual general meeting on Tuesday evening with Society President Mick Henningson reporting on 2012 activities.

Looking ahead to 2013, Henningson said that there was no doubt the Mining Railway would miss KIOTAC.

“A lot of people who attended KIOTAC took a train ride,” he said.

He said that 2012 was a good year with ridership holding steady and showing a one per cent increase. However, revenue was down two percent, perhaps due to the offering of a cheaper 10 a.m. “Train Ride Only” option. Still, a decent year, and a break even in terms of day to day operations.

“I was happy to see a slight increase in visitors to our Interpretive Centre features despite the slower economy and the decline in American visitors,” Henningson said. “Certainly the Conference Centre events, particularly in the fall, which included an Interpretive Centre Tour, were well received. People also enjoyed the proximity of the Resort Station to the Conference Centre.”

Another highlight for Henningson was seeing the 120 year old Rand compressor in the powerhouse back in working order. Henningson says it’s a thrill to see something so old working so smoothly and he credits the Society’s volunteers who researched the best way to get the 60 foot long compressor assembly, with its 1200 feet of hemp rope, working again.

In total the Society looks after the station area, seven kilometres of track, the powerhouse, the maintenance shop, the underground attraction, four locomotives and two passenger coach sets. All of this is carefully watched by the BC Safety Authority and Teck Resources for any safety infractions.

“We  are pleased with our safety performance in 2012 as we operated all year without any reportable safety issues,” Henningson said.

Although 2012 was a break even in terms of operational spending, some reserve funds did have to be spent on a couple of major maintenance projects.

These projects were replacing the shake roof on the School House at the downtown station and replacing ties and upgrading the Sever Bridge over Mark Creek.

“Another major project, funding primarily from a Columbia Basin Trust Community Initiatives grant was the removal of all of our redundant track in the pavement near the Conference Centre,” Henningson said. “This area and another 100 feet of the RCR parking lot, were subsequently paved. Funding for this came from a Tourism grant, and allowed our new Resort loop track to be encased in asphalt where it crosses the Resort parking lot.”

Once again in 2012, the railway was plagued with lost days due to landslides, though nothing as major as the slide up the Mark Creek Valley in 2011. Both culverts where the track bed crosses Powder Mag Creek plugged during spring runoff resulting in water flowing over the track. The mudslide near the downtown station buried the tracks. Fortunately only a few weekend operating days were lost due to these incidents.

All in all, Henningson says, a pretty good year, and he stressed throughout his remarks that it couldn’t be done without the dedicated group of volunteers and staff. The Society’s board will remain unchanged in the new year, with the exception of the retirement of Lorne Boates, who gave 20 years service as treasurer.

“I could not count all the tasks Lorne has done for the Society; an important one being the research and writing of requests for funding,” Henningson said. He also acknowledged the work of Vice President Dan Jarrett, Secretary Esther Jacobson, PR Director Sharon Henry, Station Manager Desiree McKay, Safety Supervisor Tom Martin, and Shop Foreman Sever Rondestvedt and his crew.

“Special thanks also to the City of Kimberley, Teck Resources, Kimberley Alpine Resort, Columbia Basin Trust and the Kimberley Daily Bulletin for helping us to make our unique Kimberley attraction such a success.”