Barreling down the track: it’s Railway Days!

The Railway Days Festival is barreling down the track, scheduled to arrive for a six-day layover starting Aug. 12 with new and remarkable events in store for residents and visitors. One will be the arrival of the Empress. No. 2816 will be rolling into Revelstoke pulling some very special cargo — historical displays that include the original Last Spike. George Hopkins photo

By David F. Rooney

The Railway Days Festival is barreling down the track, scheduled to arrive for a six-day layover starting Aug. 12 with new and remarkable events in store for residents and visitors.

“As you know there is an important anniversary this year — the 125th anniversary of the Last Spike,” says Jennifer Dunkerson, executive director of the Revelstoke Railway Museum. “To mark that, CP is bringing the Empress here with a special museum car. Among the exhibits will be the Last Spike itself.”

The Empress and its historical cargo is slated to arrive at the CP Rail Yard on Friday, Aug. 13, at 4:30 pm. Its exhibition will be open to the public from 5 until 7 pm.

But that won’t mark the official kickoff for Railways Railway Days 2010. That will occur on Thursday, Aug. 12, which is also CP Employee Day at the Railway Museum. CPR employees and their families will receive free admission to the museum, which is lining up some special activities and a food sampling presented by Crescendo. If you haven’t tried eating foods prepared with their imported specialty oils and vinegars you’re in for a real treat.

The official inauguration for the festival will occur during a ceremony at 6:15 pm at Grizzly Plaza. Although this year’s festival is only six days long, Dunkerson said the Revelstoke Heritage Railway Society thought a shorter time frame that nonetheless offers much the same number and variety of activities and special events would be more attractive than the 10-day festivals of the past.

And there are a lot of things to see and do during this year’s Railway Days. You can find the full schedule (please bear in mind that it is subject to change) here and a description of some of the other highlights below.

The Last Spike Fundraising Banquet and Silent Auction

While “Railway Days itself is not profit-oriented” the museum does hope to raise badly needed funds through a Last Spike Fundraising Banquet and Silent Auction on August 13. The museum, like many cultural institutions, was caught unprepared when the BC Liberals slashed arts and cultures grants to the bone. The last year has been financially painful and while it has applied for new grant money there is no guarantee that it will be successful, hence the Silent Auction and Dinner at 6 pm. Tickets are $25 per person available at the museum. You can bid on something interesting and appreciate the humour of the CPR’s Tom Price as he explores 128 Years of Mayhem while supporting one of Revelstoke’s best cultural institutions.

The Arrow Lakes Lumber Company Logging Railway Trestle Tour

One of this year’s most novel events twill be an opportunity on Aug. 14 and 15 to explore a 104-year-old railway trestle bridge that was discovered in a forest near Trout Lake. The Arrow Lakes Lumber Company Logging Railway Trestle Tour lasts from 9 am until 3 pm and includes a box lunch and transportation by bus. Wear hiking boots, as there is a short hike through old-growth forest to the location of the trestle bridge, which Dunkerson said is partially supported by hemlocks that have grown through its all-wood span.

Re-discovered in 2002 by Bill Laux and Bruce Rohn, this 1906 railway trestle bridge is well worth the trip. Photo courtesy of the Revelstoke Railway Museum

Timber Day

August 14 will also mark the Timber Day event. This home-spun salute to logging sports, food and culture has fallen upon hard times and has declined to just one afternoon. There will be a Loggers’ Breakfast and a logging sports demonstration downtown in the morning and Dunkerson said the CPR has agreed to close its museum car exhibition in the afternoon rather than draw spectators away from the Timber Day events at Centennial Park between 12 and 5 pm. That’s a very nice gesture that Dunkerson sais she hopes will help the Forest Workers’ Society event.

1910 Avalanche Commemoration, Memory Garden Unveiling and more: in Rogers Pass

The storm that created the conditions for the killer avalanche of March 4, 1910, was a monster but it wasn't that unusual, says John Woods, author of Snow War — An illustrated history of Rogers Pass, Glacier National Park, BC. That's hindsight at work, of course. At the time it was a huge and horrifying blow to Revelstoke, the CPR and the province. Here a rotary snow plow cuts a path through part of the slide. Photo courtesy of the Revelstoke Museum & Archives

As just about everyone local knows, this is the centennial of the 1910 avalanche that killed 58 workers in Rogers Pass. A very touching ceremony was held on the actual anniversary, March 4. Now, there is another official marking of the anniversary with the opening of Memory Garden (you can read a story and see photos of it here and here) involving Parks Canada and officials from the Canadian and Japanese governments, as well as more descendants of the Japanese workers who died.

All Revelstokians are encouraged to attend the official ceremony, which will begin at 2 pm on Sunday, August 15, at the Rogers Pass National Historic Site.

Photography Contest

Local photographers can register on August 13 between 10 am and 4 pm at the Railway Museum for this event. There are five categories: Black & White Scenic Photos, Colour Scenic Photos, Black & White Rolling Stock, Colour Rolling Stock and a special category for Youths aged 10-17. The winners of this contest will be decided by public votes and will be announced at the Trackside Picnic on Sunday, August 15, at the Railway Museum’s Rotary park. For more details please click here:  Photography Contest.

Coffee in the Business Car

If you are visiting the Railway Museum between 10 and 11 am August 13-17 you won’t want to pass on the opportunity enjoy Coffee in the Business Car. A mere $5, after museum admission, gets you coffee and goodies from four of the city’s finest cafes — Main Street, the Chalet, Conversations and the Modern.

Book Launch: The Boy in the Picture

Who was that boy in the picture? Author Ray Argyle knows and has told his story in his new book, The Boy in the Picture, which is being launched at the Revelstoke Railway Museum during Railway Days. Photo courtesy of the Revelstoke Museum & Archives

If you are a history buff, you will definitely not want to miss the Sunday, August 15, launch of the book, The Boy in the Picture.

Author Ray Argyle. will be discussing his book and its tale of the life Edward Mallandaine.

Book Signing: Ballast Scorchers on the High Iron

Local author Jim Gullickson will be holding a book talk and a book signing for his recent book, Ballast Scorchers on the High Iron, at the Railway Museum on Friday, August 13, at 2 pm.

Beer & Wings, Wild Card Spike Driving, Celebrating the Summit and more… there’s much, much more

The events noted above are by no means the only ones in store for fans of Railway Days. You can find the full schedule by clicking here, but there are a number of events worth mentioning.

There is music every night in Grizzly Plaza starting at 6:30 pm, the Kootenay Boundary Regional Art Exhibition at the Visual Arts Centre every day, A Night With the Stars on Mount Revelstoke at 10 pm on Friday, August 13, the Celebrate the Summit events at Mount Revelstoke National Park (click here to see the full details), a Wild Card Spike Driving Competition at the rail yard on Saturday, August 14, from 9 am until 11 am, Beer & Wings (featuring Ronnie Kwong’s famous wings!) at the Revelstoke Museum & Archives on Saturday, August 14, from 5 until 8 pm, a Vintage Car Show from noon until 3:30 on Sunday, August 15, at the Railway Museum, Magic Lantern Shows at the Nickelodeon Museum on August 12 and August 14 at 7:30 pm, Bus tours to the Last Spike site at Craigellachie on Monday, August 16 from 9 am until 3 pm and a special Vintage Film Night at the Nickelodeon on Tuesday, August 17, at 7:30. And, of course, there’s more — much, much more.   You can find the full schedule by clicking here.