The Cranbrook History Centre, home of the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel / Trains Deluxe, recently announced that they are releasing nine cars from their collection of passenger rail cars.
It might be a bit shocking but these things happen. Organizations have limits on funds and volunteer time… especially time. Restoring and preserving century-old railway cars takes a lot of time and effort, and museums are stretched pretty thin. 2020 isn’t helping with COVID-19 keeping people away.
The nine cars are listed in their announcement, and include the 4 car Chinook set (featured on the right of the header photo of this post), a baggage car, two sleepers, a diner and a steam engine tender. I think the baggage car is in the photo above this paragraph.
The newest car was built in 1940 and the oldest was built in 1921. Their condition ranges from “fair” to “poor” so a lot of work would be required. I can’t imagine any of them would be able to move on their own wheels without a lot of work.
Hopefully another Canadian museum is interested in a few of these. I’d rather they stayed in Canada, but I’d rather they be purchased by an American organization than be scrapped. Preservation, like life in general, is often about compromise and choosing the least bad option.
My Hillsborough Experience
Many years ago, I volunteered at the New Brunswick Railway Museum. I think it was from 2000 to 2007 or so. During the latter part of that time period, I was the treasurer and therefore sat on the museum’s board.
By this time, we weren’t running trains any more – the last was in 2004 – and the right-of-way (ROW) was getting overgrown. Most of the ROW was owned by the province and leased to the railway. The province was getting pressure from the ATV association to use the idle land as a path for their machines.
The board met to discuss what to do. There were two significant bridges on the line – the Weldon Creek steel bridge and the Hiram Creek curved wooden trestle – and both needed a lot of work before trains could run over them again.
Unfortunately, we didn’t see any scenario in which trains would ever run again. The cost to fix the line was certainly in the high six figures and probably well over a million dollars, with no real revenue and very few volunteers remaining. We decided not to renew the lease.
The Hiram Creek trestle was dismantled in 2012. David Othen produced a great video remembering the bridge. The rails from Weldon Creek and beyond were removed by a salvage company and sold, with the profits going to the museum.
I still think that was the right decision.
Many museums in Canada are struggling to survive with limited funds, limited volunteer time, and too much to do.
Couple that with aging volunteers and you can see that some museums are heading toward a point where they may not be able to stay open.
What You Can Do
What can you do to help?
Well, you can volunteer. Or you can donate money. Or you can at least become a member.
I have a page of Canadian railway museums and tourist railways that you can browse to find a museum or railway near you to support.
Here are a few that I support with my time and/or money: