The Sullivan Mine and Railway Historical Society held its annual general meeting last night at the downtown station and President Mick Henningson was able to report another good year.
Ridership in 2015 was running ahead of the previous year in August. Henningson explained that while there was fear the economic downtown turn in Alberta would mean less tourists, those numbers were more than made up for with American visitors, especially those from Washington state, as the low Canadian dollar made B.C. a very attractive option.
However there were a few bumps in the road in August that slowed momentum a bit.
“We had a very minor very low speed derailment of one axle of the last train coach going through the spring loaded switch of our turnaround loop,” Henningson said. “This accident caused no injuries but resulted in a thorough review of our operating and maintenance procedures with the B.C. Safety Authority. It was determined that although we do regular and thorough inspections of all track and the four locomotives, we needed to be doing more thorough inspections of our eight passenger coaches. This accident was the result of a thinner than normal wheel flange on a coach in our secondary train set that was unfortunately missed. The Society immediately took the coach in question out of service and hired a full time heavy duty mechanic to supplement our many maintenance volunteers.
“I should also note that an inspector from the B.C. Safety Authority had done a complete check in July of all our operating and maintenance records and found we were in complete compliance. All our engineers and conductor/commentators take preseason proficiency exams and their operating performance is checked throughout the season. It should also be noted that the two independent locomotive and coach braking systems are checked at the start of every day and are spring loaded, the same as a semi-trailer. The air doesn’t put the brakes on, the air releases them, a very safe system.
“The review of this accident resulted in four lost revenue days during peak tourist season, and this coupled with smoke from forest fires near the end of our operating season, resulted in a two per cent drop in our ridership from 2014. 9,650 people rode the train compared to 9,860 in 2014.”
Behind the scenes, Society volunteers were also busy on a number of projects.
The Sullivan Mine and Railway Society is now collaborating with Fort Steele Heritage Town and the Cranbrook History Centre (formerly the Museum of Rail Travel) to promote heritage tourism. The Heritage Tourism Group, as they are known, received funding from both the Central East Kootenay Community Directed Funds Committee and Kootenay Rockies Tourism to promote jointly our three attractions and the region over a period of three years.
The Society also made improvements to parking at the downtown station, Henningson reported.
“Our submission to create additional parking in the Station area including designated parking for RV’s and Buses was accepted by the City. This funding was provided from a Resort Municipality Initiative. The project was basically completed before the Victoria Day weekend and was well used over the Summer Tourist Season. The additional parking areas included widening the service road beside Mark Creek with a large turnaround loop for RV’s and Buses at the end.
“A second project we were almost able to complete was the upgrading of the last 130 meter section of marginal 65 pound rail with 85 pound rail. This was made possible by $9,000 of CBT Community Directed Funds recommended by the City of Kimberley. We were unable to complete the switch replacement portion of this project, namely, to replace the adjacent existing 65 pound siding switch with an 85 pound switch. We did not receive the funding requested from Area E and did not feel we had enough post season cash on hand to replace this switch.”
The Society has also been gifted with an extensive collection of Sullivan Mine core samples. The samples have been collected over the years by long time Sullivan geologist Paul Ransom, and Henningson says the collection will be a great asset to the Society and is already attracting interest from universities who would like to bring students to study it.
So all in all, 2015 goes down as a very good year.
“In conclusion, I thank all our volunteers for another successful year,” Henningson said. “It is only because there are a lot of you that we are able to provide a “world class” experience at far less cost than many of our out of town visitors expect to pay and (also remain) affordable to a larger section of the general population. I also thank the City of Kimberley and the many suppliers of goods and services for their continued support.”