More than 400 people rode the “Electric Express” at Cloverdale Station Dec. 10 and 11.
The Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society (FVHRS) hosted its annual Christmas train event and it was a great success, says Allen Aubert.
Sold out weeks in advance, Aubert said the annual holiday train always takes the theme of Christmas in Cloverdale as it was 100 years ago.
“The Electric Express Christmas train event … went as we had carefully planned,” said Aubert, secretary for the FVHRS. “The Electric Express has become a community ‘must attend’ heritage railway event.”
Unlike the regular summer trains, the Christmas train does not run to Sullivan Station, it travels entirely on the Cloverdale spur rail line.
Aubert said FVHRS arranged for three local choirs, one singer, and one instrumentalist to entertain visitors at the station over the weekend as four Electric Express trains ran both days.
“The Christmas decorations in the Cloverdale station, in the train, and especially in Father Christmas’s workshop—that had been carefully installed by our volunteers—were a huge ‘wow moment’,” explained Aubert. “When visitors arrived at the workshop, the area was quite dark as Father Christmas and the elves were asleep following days of toy making.”
Aubert said when the lights were eventually turned up to illuminate the Christmas scene, visitors gave an audible “gasp of surprise and delight.”
Kids were also able to visit Santa in the workshop and tell him what they wanted for Christmas. The workshop was located at the end of the spur, away from Cloverdale Station.
FVHRS also built a miniature Christmas village and model railway for visitors to inspect. Aubert said the village was very popular with guests.
After visitors toured Santa’s workshop, they jumped back on the Electric Express for a short trip back to Cloverdale Station.
“While journeying on the Electric Express, there was Christmas music and performances by actors such as Ebenezer Scrooge and others portraying Charles Dickens characters from a Christmas Carol.”
Aubert said each experience lasted about an hour and everyone who rode the rails “departed with a big smile.”
“We have received many very favourable comments from visitors,” noted Aubert. “(The) young and the young at heart came out to celebrate Christmas in Cloverdale 100 years ago and ride the Electric Express.”
Aubert said after a short Christmas break, volunteers will put their shoulders to the wheel Jan. 2 when they’ll begin restoration and maintenance work in the carbarn to prep for opening day, 2023.
“We commence the 2023 public season on May 6,” added Aubert. “We are, in addition to our restoration activities, fabricating a new larger speeder carriage.
The larger car will help accommodate visitors with disabilities and help accommodate larger groups that want to ride the old B.C. Electrics.
Aubert said there are plans to add in a new ramp at Cloverdale Station connecting the west side of the station platform with the Discovery Centre.
“Our plan is to have improved guest experience accessibility features wherever possible.”