Submitted photo                                The Kettle Valley Steam Railway opened for the 2018 season earlier this month, with hundreds of passengers taking a ride on the opening weekend.

Submitted photo The Kettle Valley Steam Railway opened for the 2018 season earlier this month, with hundreds of passengers taking a ride on the opening weekend.

Kettle Valley Steam railway kicks off spring season

Steam railway remains popular for tourists and locals alike

High water in the Okanagan Lake isn’t likely to affect the fortunes of the Kettle Valley Steam Railway, which opened May 19 for its 2018 season.

Hot dogs, chips, coffee and treats for lunch, courtesy of Tim Hortons and IGA, all donations received passed on to local charities. Submitted photo

Gerry Conrad, one of the directors of the railway society — along with being a conductor and brakeman — said several hundred people enjoyed the train on the opening weekend, which also featured morning treats and lunchtime hot dogs courtesy of Summerland Tim Hortons and IGA, with proceeds going to local charities.

Part of his role as a conductor, Conrad said, is to welcome and chat with all the riders. It’s a combination of things, he explained, that both keeps people coming back to ride the train again and attracts new riders.

“It is a terrific family outing. For a fair number of our people, there is a chance for fathers and mothers and, increasingly now, grandfathers and grandmothers, to share with children or grandchildren: ‘This is what a steam railway was, this is what it was like back in the day,’” said Conrad. “I’ve talked to so many people and their eyes will sort of drift off as they recall the memories of their own train rides.”

That nostalgia reaches out to both hardcore railway buffs, he said, and those who never rode a steam train, but want to experience the grand times of the steam engine.

Related: Smuin speaks on railway bridge history

Then there is just the sheer beauty of the ride. Conrad said they probably couldn’t have made a better choice than the 15 kilometres of track they were able to preserve, from the start of the ride, looking over the orchards of Prairie Valley to the dramatic view of Okanagan Lake and Trout Creek, 247 feet below, as the train pulls stops on the trestle bridge over the canyon.

“There is always the occasional gasp and ooh and aww and ‘You can open your eyes now, we’re off the bridge,’” said Conrad. “The ride itself is a very nice experience and when you add a bunch of volunteers and paid staff who all love what we do and we love showing off our railway like a mum with a brand new baby, there is a real joy of sharing.

The KVSR is open Saturday, Sunday and Monday, with two trains a day in the spring season.

Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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