A hundred years in the making, the Kettle Valley Steam Railway’s centennial celebration Sunday didn’t disappoint.
In fact, those who rode the coaches and open air cars being pulled by the majestic 103-year-old steam locomotive, the 3716 Spirit of Summerland, were likely just as excited as the first passengers who boarded the train on that Monday in 1915.
“What an incredible experience, the sound of the whistle, the cars rocking back and forth on the tracks I can really imagine what it must have been like a long time ago,” said Adelaide Schoeffler who was visiting from Germany with family members and decided to take the 90-minute ride.
“The views and the scenery were just so beautiful this is definitely something I won’t forget.”
Those words are like familiar music to the ears of KVR general manager Ken Orford, who previously worked on the railroad for 41 years in Ontario.
“It is still a great thing to ride a train, people from all generations love to ride a train, there is a spirit and a romance about it,” said Orford.
“Our history is who we are. Our history is what develops attitude, character, our fabric as Canadians. It’s all of these bits and pieces put together collectively as the mosaic we call life.”
He added in the early days it not only brought people to British Columbia but helped Canadians exercise their sovereignty over the border.
The KVR also to a large part opened up the doors of the region to the rest of the world.
“These trains took our men and women off to war, and they brought the wounded home,” said the general manager.
“They also brought the fashions of the world. When the train pulled into Penticton people would come down to the station and see what wonders were about to come off the train from as far away as Paris and London.
“The railway was an intricate, intimate part of the fabric of the Okanagan. It all started with somebody’s vision to build it.”
Ron Belisle, who is most recognizable to regular KVR visitors as the train’s conductor, has volunteered his time doing what he loves there for two decades.
He began working in the coaches and replacing railway ties before advancing to his current position.
“I love the railroad, the history and the nostalgia and it’s what brought people across the mountains to live here,” said Belisle, who then returned to his duties, shouting out those familiar words that are a historic as the railway itself.