RAILWAY HERITAGE Summerland’s Kettle Valley Steam Railway has been operating since 1995. This year, the steam train will hold special events to mark its 25th anniversary. (Summerland Review file photo)

Summerland steam railway to mark 25th anniversary

Kettle Valley Steam Railway has received support from community

The Kettle Valley Steam Railway, is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2020, with special events planned for throughout the season and an updated logo to mark the year.

“This is very exciting to the staff and volunteers of our heritage attraction and we encourage the residents of Summerland and surrounding areas to join us in a number of celebrations planned throughout the year,” said Sharon Unrau, president of the steam railway.

“We want to acknowledge the early founders of the society, those that did the heavy lifting, actually laying down the track for the sidings, and the hundreds of volunteers and thousands of hours of volunteer time to get us where we are today.”

She added her gratitude for residents of Summerland and the area for their support of the railway over the years.

Brad Coates, an early employee of the railway and now an engineer and operations manager, remembers the early days of the tourist train.

READ ALSO: Kettle Valley Brakemen featured in Penticton: A Short History

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“The train wasn’t doing very well in those days,” he said. “Management was going to pay us off and then shut down the operation. So rather than shut down and lay us off, we decided to give it one more try. We postponed our pay in order to buy some more diesel for the Shay and to keep it running. Management worked hard and things improved after that.”

Today the railway is doing well and hosts around 30,000 guests a year.

Although machines were used for parts of the line, Coates said some areas still had to be done by hand.

“The early days of the KVR restoration project were tough ones in that there always seemed to be a challenge at every step,” he said. “Some of the larger challenges were land and equipment acquisition, including coaches and a steam locomotive. Nobody had any railway experience, so it was like the blind leading the blind.”

Ron Belisle, an early volunteer and now senior conductor, remembers an unwelcome visitor to the line.

“Back in late 1995 Josef Lee Stoltz and I were on a speeder and we had a contractor pile a load of sand on the track west of the Five Street Bridge,” he said. “We headed out to the pile of sand and laid drainage pipes in the south ditch. Suddenly a black bear started approaching from the west. We had nowhere to go. Luckily he headed up the side of Conkle Mountain.” he said.

The railway plans to have special occasion trains, guest speakers, tours, and live music.

The Nooners at the Station will feature bands with a variety of styles, ranging from bluegrass to rhythm and blues to jazz.

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RAILWAY HERITAGE Summerland’s Kettle Valley Steam Railway has been operating since 1995. This year, the steam train will hold special events to mark its 25th anniversary. (Summerland Review file photo)

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