Plan to cover rare train cars approved

Cranbrook History Centre to build timber-frame structure to cover rare train cars.

The train cars at the Cranbrook History Centre will be getting some protection from the elements with large, covered, timber frame structures that are projected to be the biggest in Western Canada.

Cranbrook city council recently approved a development permit for the plan, which — at current full buildout — would see a combined 183 metres of timber-framed covered track to shield the trains from inclement weather and wind damage.

Tammy Morgan, the executive director of the Cranbrook History Centre, says she is thrilled that the cars, and the significant historical value they hold, will have a roof over their heads.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” Morgan said. “Myself and the board and the staff are so glad it’s come through. This allows us to move into the next stages to continue with the planning to preserve the trains and get a roof over them.

“It was a much needed step to continue to develop and grow.”

The collection includes 28 restored cars that date back to the 1870s with a value between $6-$8 million, according to Tom Kirk, the chair of the board for the Cranbrook History Centre. Kirk, who authored a letter to the city on behalf of the board, also noted that it costs between $25,000 – $40,000 annually for train car roof repairs.

While there has been talk of needing to cover the trains for years, the specific plan approved by council was first presented in September.

After the heavy snowfall from last winter, Morgan says it was important to get the process rolling to find a way to cover the train cars.

“Right now it’s just about getting a roof over the trains to preserve them, especially after last winter with all that snow,” Morgan said. “It became apparent that it was very much needed now. To lose any of the train cars would be a hit to the community because we do bring in people internationally who come just to stay here and tour the trains and the museum itself.”

Morgan is hoping to break ground in the spring around April or May for the first phase of the project, which will see a 77-metre structure, followed by a second phase that will see a 107-metre long structure.

The History Centre has provided some of their own funding, while also securing financial support from the Columbia Basin Trust for the project. Morgan says there are also plans in the works to kick off a fundraising campaign to push for individual or corporate donations to help cover the cost of the project.

“We are definitely hoping that we can get corporate and personal sponsorships from a variety of different places and agencies who believe in the project and believe in the museum as well, so we’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to build up the image of the museum and become a lot more community-orientated.”

The History Centre will be hosting a gala supper on March 10 with a culinary menu themed for the era around 1867 to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary. The night will also feature period actors in character, along with entertainment including a pianist.

Tickets for the event will be on sale very soon, Morgan said.

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