William Herbert Jarvis Baker, known as Billy to many friends at the Kettle Valley Steam Railway, died peacefully on Oct. 23, two days after his 86th birthday, at St. Mary’s Hospital in Sechelt, B.C.
Born Oct. 23, 1925 in Red Deer, Alberta, Baker grew up in North Vancouver.
His passion was collecting — toys, music boxes, trains and books.
As the first director of the North Vancouver Museum and Archives, he amassed thousands of artifacts, photographs and materials to populate the collections of the museum and the archives.
In 1986, he helped acquire and restore the last remaining car from North Vancouver’s street railway system.
After retiring, Baker moved to Summerland around 1990 and immediately became involved with the Kettle Valley Steam Railway.
He loved the railway and his passion for heritage, collecting and experience as a museum founder and archivist was a perfect fit for the then fledgling KVSR Society.
He wore many hats, loving his conductor’s hat best. Baker served as an advocate for the society and a director on the KVSR Society’s Board.
He delivered the railway’s brochures to tourism outlets, rode the KVSR float in parades, and volunteered as a host trainman.
He never wanted to miss a train run, especially a train robbery and barbecue event.
With his grizzled gray whiskers, and gruff voice, barking out orders to keep the little ones safe, Baker looked like he had been there forever.
He took pride in his steady hands and old conductor’s uniform.
One of the Kettle Valley Steam Railway’s most photographed characters, he is surely part of photo albums all over the world.
His long-time friends at the railway remember him as a character who loved life, a good laugh, and being in the thick of the action.
Baker was an extraordinary man whose commitment, alongside others, helped to create and preserve the Kettle Valley Steam Railway.