After eight years as general manager at the Kettle Valley Steam Railway, Ron Restrick has announced his retirement.
Although his last day was officially Oct. 15, he has agreed to stay on for an additional 90 days as a consultant to the individual who will be replacing him.
Restrick came to the KVSR with a B.C. Rail background and with tourism management training.
“I felt excited about the things that could be changed to make things safer and more appealing,” he said.
One of his goals was to facilitate more riders, which in turn would result in more money being spent in Summerland.
During his tenure at the railway, several changes were made. One of the first things to be done was to have new washrooms built. Other improvements included a concrete base being poured under the picnic area and having a portion of the parking lot paved, making it easier for people with physical disabilities to get to the station.
“We finally got Shop 3 in, which in my opinion was the best thing we ever did,” said Restrick. “After what happened in Lac-Megantic, I was always concerned that something would happen as far as the railcars, here. We use to park them all on the main line and it is all on a grade. Now we’ve alleviated that concern.”
He explained that the railcars are now parked in Shop 3, which is in essence a bowl, so they cannot roll either way.
Repairs have also been done along the actual rail line. More than 3,000 railway ties have been purchased and replaced over the years.
Restrick said that being a general manager is a very diverse position to have, especially for a non-profit society.
“We have a very small staff and everyone kicks in and does what they can and I did that too.”
He explained that his was not a glamorous position and that it was not beneath him to clean the washrooms if that was what needed doing. His management style was one of leading by example.
The challenges he faced on a day to day basis revolved around keeping up with the continuous changes to regulations. He spoke of government red tape in regards to lands and forest use, safety and to grant applications.
“We operate for three months of the year but the nine months is when the work takes place to make that three months happen,” he said.
Restrick has enjoyed his time at the KVSR. The rewards for him have been the people and the feedback he received from them.
“People are pleased with what this operation is,” he said. “Our volunteers, our staff, our board of directors have made it what it is today.”
The volunteers were often the people that kept Restrick going and he said he was often envious of them because they were doing something “altruistic” and “doing out of the goodness of their hearts. “He feels it is now time for him to do the same. He is looking forward to having the freedom to do some world travelling but also to give back to the community.
“I can’t see myself sitting in a coffee shop talking about the old days,” he said.
Restrick plans on remaining in Summerland and “using it as a staging platform” for himself.