The Kimberley Underground Mining Railway had what Society President Mick Henningson called a banner year in 2104. Henningson was reporting at the Annual General Meeting of the Society, held last week.
“During the 2014 season starting in May and ending in September a record 9,880 people and 75 dogs rode on Society’s Trains to one or more of three destinations along the 7.5 km of track. I mention the 75 dogs, as this was the determining factor for some people to visit our train accessible attractions. This was a 9 per cent increase from ridership in 2013. Our increase in ridership was partially due to generally excellent weather throughout most of the operating season. Also, special events like the combined train/chairlift ride and “Opera Underground” increased our numbers.
“The Society received many excellent comments verbally, in our guest book, and on mediums like “Trip Advisor” about the value and quality of our unique experience highlighting the history of the Sullivan Mine. We also received Tourism Excellence Recognition from the Trip Advisor organization.
“Furthermore, Kimberley’s Underground Mining Railway won the 2014 Tourism Excellence Award sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Kimberley. Our operation comes under the watchful eye of both Teck Resources and in particular, The B.C. Safety Authority. This year, we had no reportable incidents thanks to the diligence of our many shop volunteers maintaining our rolling stock; our detailed track inspections, maintenance standards and continuing track upgrades. The final factor in our Safety Record was the training and attentiveness of our engineers and conductor/commentators.
“Besides the Underground Interpretive Centre and Powerhouse Attractions accessed by Train, at least another 500 people took in the free attractions located in the Downtown Station Area, bringing our total visitor number to over 10,000 people. These attractions include the 1922 C.P. Caboose, the 1902 School House and the Orpheum Theatre.
“This year we also opened the Miners Cabin for display, thanks to the hard work of some of the executive.
To make the 1902 Schoolhouse and Orpheum Theatre more wheelchair accessible, we were able to have a paved path constructed from the Station, across our track to the Schoolhouse and Theatre. This was possible thanks to donations from the RCR Summit Fund, Power Paving and a private contributor.
Our other major infrastructure upgrade in 2014 was replacing 200 meters of track with “wavy” 65lb. rail (from the mine) with heavier 85lb. rail in good condition. The curves on this section of track were lengthened and the grade made more consistent. The hard costs of this project were partially funded with a grant from the CBT Community Initiatives Fund recommended by the City of Kimberley and Area “E” of the Regional District of East Kootenay. Thanks to all of the above. Financially, the Society finished the year slightly in the black with enough cash on hand to cover expenses till the next operating season starting in May, 2015. Special thanks to Sharon Henry for adding a bookkeeping role to her volunteer work with the Society.
The Society is very pleased to be able to offer this major heritage tourist attraction to Kimberley and Area. This is only made possible thanks to our strong volunteer base in including other members of the executive; V.P. Daniel Jarrett, Secretary Esther Jacobson, Station Manager Desiree McKay, Public Relations Director Sharon Henry and Safety Director Tom Martin. Volunteer Sever Rondesvedt, leads our 10 excellent shop volunteers who utilize their wide range of technical abilities throughout the calendar year.
The Society also has 5 certified volunteer engineers with a 6th partway through training. Volunteer Station Manager Desiree McKay also had eight volunteers who look after three of our four free attractions; the 1902 Schoolhouse, the Orpheum Theatre, and the Miner’s Cabin. Last year, these volunteers looked after 4,349 visitors to the above buildings that depict Kimberley’s History.
Paid Seasonal Staff included two track maintenance personnel, one also a certified engineer. The station employed two part-time people and five high school students were employed as conductor/commentators. Two retired miners were employed for the Underground Mining Shows. Special thanks to volunteer Greg McCormick for doing our staff payroll.
In conclusion, I thank all of our volunteers and staff for their part in making Kimberley’s Underground Mining Railroad such a success in 2014. I also thank all other tourism related businesses who supported us in 2014. We look forward again in 2015 for your support and, where appropriate, referring visitors to you.
Also, I thank our many suppliers, the Daily Bulletin, the City of Kimberley, Area E of the Regional District and Columbia Basin Trust for their continued support of our major Heritage Tourism Attraction.