The Sullivan Mine and Railway Historical Society held their annual general meeting late in November, having had to defer it first from spring 2021, then to the fall, due to COVID.
The meeting covered all of the society’s operating and most of their maintenance activity for the 2021 season. Looking back at early 2020, the onset of the COVID pandemic and its myriad restrictions had a “disastrous impact” on train ridership and therefore revenue, according to president Mick Henningson.
Their season didn’t start until July 1 and they were at that time only able to offer just the train rides to Kimberley Alpine Resort and back, and only utilizing a limited number of the trains’ seating capacity, which resulted in decreased revenue.
Fortunately, there was no short supply of customers on their non-stop one hour tours. Train revenue from those 4700 customers only amounted to $52,000, however, and the society was supplemented a further $41,000 by the Federal Wage Subsidy Program.
That total amount was still very shy of their average year’s revenue of about $170,000. The society applied for survival funding to Teck Resources and to the City of Kimberley in autumn, 2020, resulting in an additional $42,000 in funding. This helped them cover winter and preseason expenses.
In 2020, highlights for the society included the completion of the Sullivan Mine Powerhouse Restoration Project and the Rand Compressor drive rope replacement.
Henningson said that they were fortunate in 2021 that a majority of the population had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and they started weekend operations on June 12, which included underground and powerhouse tours.
They again started the season only utilizing rows one, three and five of each train coach and divided mask-wearing visitors into two groups of up to 25 people, utilizing two miners.
Outdoor restrictions eased by mid season and they were able to once again use all 20 rows of seats for their Scenic 10 a.m. train rides, and these were generally sold out.
Ridership increased from 4700 in 2020 to 6300 in 2021, and tourist revenue increased to $145,000, which was enhanced by $23,000 from the Federal Wage Subsidy. This will put the society in decent shape moving into 2022.
“The wage subsidy was a big help as additional staff were required for train sanitizing and mining shows to meet COVID protocols,” Henningson said.
In 2021, thanks to a grant from Heritage BC on behalf of Columbia Basin Trust, they were able to restore the 1922 Canadian Pacific Caboose.
A RDEK administered CBT Community Initiatives Program Grant and some society funding also allows for the paving of the road in front of the Station and Caboose.
Then at the end of October they held a scaled-down reception to recognize all those responsible for the Powerhouse Restoration and all other projects completed over the last two years.
$390,000 of the funding for the Powerhouse project came primarily from Heritage BC on behalf of CBT, which was supplemented by funding from Teck and the City of Kimberley.
The primary consultants and contractors were - Elana Zysblat (Heritage Consultant), Jennifer Dunkerson (Heritage BC Planner), Kim Wasylowich (Reimann Painting), Barry Bates (Bates, Brick, Block & Stone), Curtis McLaren (Kimberley Electric), and Tom Roberts (Carpentry).
“And finally, our own staff and volunteers had a major role in the Powerhouse and Rope Change projects along with several others,” Henningson said.
“One of these was the complete restoration of a Sullivan Mine Man Car. Besides all the work done on projects, our staff and volunteers did an excellent job in keeping our operations running from track and rolling stock maintenance to station operations and administration.”
Looking ahead, the society expects a much more normal year in 2022. They intend to actively pursue funding to restore the historic Sullivan Mine Carpenter Shop, which is the same age as the Powerhouse and is currently being used as their Maintenance Shop. It is the only other building from the 1920s that remains.
Once again, thanks to all our volunteers, staff, contractors, consultants and financial benefactors that improved our facilities and brought us through the last two years in a pandemic.