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West Coast Railway Museum, Squamish, British Columbia ~ September 4th, 2010

by Elizabeth Guenzler

The West Coast Railway Association in Squamish had long been a museum that I wanted to visit, especially as I had participated in a couple of train trips through their West Coast Rail Tours arm. In addition, the model railway show held each March at the Cameron Recreation Centre in Burnaby, was a WCRA event.

The opportunity came in late summer 2010. The late Don Evans, Curator Emeritus, had been a guest on an episode of "Let's Talk Trains", the Internet radio show that Bob and I hosted for a few years. He had extended us an invitation to visit and give us a guided tour. We took Labour Day weekend 2010 to visit Squamish, which is one-and-a-half hours north of Vancouver.

West Coast Railway Association History

Founded in 1961, the WCRA is a non-profit society dedicated to preserving British Columbia's railway heritage, presenting the story of how the railways were a catalyst in the creation of Western Canadian communities and their economies. The society operates the West Coast Railway Heritage Park and the CN Roundhouse & Conference Centre. The park is home to ninety-five pieces of vintage railway equipment and is the second largest railway museum in Canada. Volunteers from the WCRA also operate the Engine 374 Pavilion in Vancouver, housing Canadian Pacific 4-4-0 374, the steam engine that pulled the first transcontinental passenger train into Vancouver on May 23rd, 1887.

Don met us and we first visited the new CN roundhouse and conference centre which opened on June 30th, 2010, just over two months before this visit.

Side and front view.

Looking down at some of the stalls from the second floor.

The Squamish mountains make for an impressive backdrop to the WCRA museum.

Contributors to the CN Roundhouse and Conference Centre.

The original brass bell from Canadian National 2-8-2 3449.

The plaque for the bell.

A 1937 Ford rail inspection car on display inside the roundhouse.

A Max Jacquiard painting of Canadian National 6060.

Canadian Pacific 4-6-4 2860 on display. It was not possible to get a full-length picture of the Royal Hudson.

The cab and tender.

View inside the cab.

Looking down and along from the second floor of the roundhouse.

Canadian Pacific business car "British Columbia" (ex. CP official 16 1963, exx. CP official "British Columbia" 1928, exxx. CP official "Selkirk" 1925, exxxx. CP official "Laurentian" 1923, exxxxx. CP official "Ontario" 1918, exxxxxx. CP official "New Brunswick" 1916, nee CP sleeper "Sherbrooke" 1910). It was built in 1890.

The ceiling of CP business car "British Columbia".

The hallway of this meticulously-restored car.

Pacific Great Eastern troop sleeper/baggage express 722 (ex. British Columbia Railway 990231 1989, exx. Pacific Great Eastern 990231, exxx. PGE X231 1972, exxxx. PGE 722 1962, nee US Army troop sleeper 7223 1949).

Pacific Great Eastern RDC3 BC-33 (ex. British Columbia Railway BC-33 2004, nee PGE BC-33 1972).

View of some of the passenger cars as seen from the second floor of the roundhouse.

Two of the RDC cars with the Mac Norris station behind.

British Columbia Railway caboose 1859 (ex. BCOL 1859, exx. BCOL 993212, exxx. BCOL 1859, nee PGE 1859.

Canadian Pacific FP7 4069 (ex. VIA 6509 1996, exx. VIA 1425 1980, exxx. VIA 4069 1979, exxxx. CP 4069 1978, exxxxx. CP 1425 1965, nee CP 4069 1954) on the turntable.

British Columbia Railway RDC1 BC-21 (ex. BCOL BC-21 2004, exx. SEPTA 9156 1983, nee Reading 9156).

Algoma Central FP7 1704 (ex. AC 1756 2002, exx. VIA 6553 1995, exxx. VIA 1404 1980, exxx. CP 1404 1978, nee CP 4103 1954). It was then time for a ride on the two-mile "Mini Rail".

The late Don Evans running the Mini Rail and passing another train on the siding.

One of the other Mini-Rail trains out on the line.

View along the route.

The end of the Mini-Rail line and the museum's connection to Canadian National/BC Rail.

Two of the Mini-Rail trains - Southern Railway 124 and Canadian Pacific 4601.

Don Evans at the controls of Southern Railway 124.

The Mini-Rail car barn.

Former Royal Hudson cars on display.

Canadian Pacific DRS4-4-1000 8000, which had been stored at CP's Alyth Yard in Calgary for years. It used to operate on Vancouver Island.

Part of a future exhibit near Mason Station.

A wooden train at Howard Lyttle Park at the museum.

There is also a garden railway here.

Mac Norris Station sign on the ticket office and gift shop.

Max Jacquiard paintings inside one of the display cars.

Mail bags in the RPO car.

Historical photographs as we continued our tour.

Switch controls.

British Columbia Railway coach "Capilano" (ex. BCOL 156520 "Capilano" 20002, exx. VIA 5652 1994, nee Canadian National 5652 1978). Built 1954. This later became "Paul D. Roy" to honour a long-time volunteer.

WCXX baggage car 9622 "McDonald Creek" (ex. private owner 69432 2003, exx. CN work car 69432, exxx. VIA 9622 1983, exxxx. CN 9622 1978, nee CN baggage-messener car 9240 1974).

Historical Canadian Pacific advertisements.

A Canadian Northern Railway advertisement. Next on the tour was the former BC Rail shops.

The wooden truss ceiling of the shop, which was where the Royal Hudson was stored when not in use.

Canadian Pacific business car 8 (ex. Gastown Express 2002, exx. Chew Chew Club, exxx. Le Railcar Restaurant, exxxx. Canadian Pacific "O'Brien" 1971, exxxxx. CP 82 1970, nee CP "Alberta" 1962"). Built 1929 and undergoing restoration.

Pacific Great Eastern interurban/sleeper "Clinton" (ex. Puget Sound Railway Historical Association display 1994, exx. PGE "Clinton" 1965, nee Public Service Company of Indiana "Scottsburg" 1937). Built 1924.

A former Greyhound Scenicruiser bus undergoing restoration.

British Columbia Railway RSC-3 561 (ex. BCOL 561 1986, nee PGE 561 1972).

Outside the shops was CN SD40-2 5242 and 5250.

Rocky Mountaineer locomotives were also on site.

Rocky Mountaineer coaches. With that, the tour was over. We thanked Don for taking the time to show us around, then went for lunch. On the way back to Vancouver, we stopped at Brunswick.

Whistler Mountaineer GP40-2 8019 leads the southbound train.

The southbound Whistler Mountaineer at Brunswick.

The rear of the train bound for North Vancouver. We returned to Vancouver and spent the rest of the weekend in the area.

It had been a very satisfying and fun visit to the West Coast Railway Museum. When I heard about Don Evans' passing, I felt very sad but also honoured to have been able to have him as a guest on "Let's Talk Trains" and this private tour. At the time of writing this travelogue, over ten years later, I am sure some things will have changed at the museum and I look forward to visiting them again when possible.