All Aboard the ICE CREAM TRAIN

Pipestone Flyer

Carter Clark sits in the locomotive engineers seat. 

There is nothing much more nostalgic than to take a train ride winding through fields of barley and canola and ending the trip with a ‘free’ homemade ice cream cone. Yet that is what kids of all ages experienced at the Alberta Central Railway Museum in a lovely country setting south-east of Wetaskiwin on August 4th, 2013. Many of the elderly were reminiscing about their train trips of ‘years ago’ while youngsters were experiencing their very first train ride.

    On arrival at the Museum, the 1959 RS23 locomotive ex-CP 8015 could be heard idling while sending out a light haze of blue smoke around the Museum’s train station. Guests entered a scaled down version of the 1907 Wetaskiwin C.P.R. depot to purchased tickets for the train ride.   At 1:30 p.m. they eagerly waited on the station platform with tickets in hand until Bill Wilson, founder of the Alberta Central Railway Museum, announced the train was ready for boarding. Young, old and families entered  the restored 1926 first-class observation-buffet sleeper Mount Avalanche ready for the adventure. Once everyone was seated and the tickets were punched, the train began the journey around the one mile loop of track and in the event the passengers missed some of the peaceful county scenery the first trip, the train went around the loop a second time. The smell of the diesel, the clacking of the wheels on the steel tracks, the tooting of the whistle and the ringing of the signal bells all added to an experience that was equally enjoyed, but viewed differently by the ‘children’ of all ages.

    At the end of the trip, guests walked through some of the rail yard and exhibits to the Maintenance of Way Building where much to their delight, they were treated to a free homemade ice cream cone. Inside the building and throughout the site are displays and artifacts that tell the story of the work of railroaders, the story of train travel in Canada, the impact of Canadian Pacific Railway on settlement, and the importance of railway to Western Canada into the age when steam was retired.

     “Alberta Central Railway Museum is a public museum dedicated to preserving, conserving and interpreting Canadian Pacific Railway artifacts and history prior to 1965. The Alberta Central Railway Museum station was built on site to be a museum and is a scaled-down version of the 1907 Wetaskiwin CPR depot. Here you can wait for the train in a typical country station with waiting room, baggage room and telegraph office. You can hear the operating telegraph and try it for yourself. You will see how the station semaphore was used to control train movements. Along with many items which show how stations served passengers and business customers.

    Alberta Central Railway Museum has a collection of Canadian Pacific rolling stock and maintenance of way tools and track motor cars. Included in the collection are early heavy weight cars from the passenger era, as well as freight equipment, cabooses, freight cars and a snowplow. In 2002, ACRM added the second oldest standing grain elevator in Alberta to the collection. This elevator, built by Alberta Grain Company in 1906, will show our visitors how railways and elevators worked together to serve agriculture in Western Canada. Our exhibit car houses more of the railway story. Here you can view artifacts that tell about railway work and workers. An HO-scale layout of the 1930s Wetaskiwin railway yard shows you how railway was central to our prairie towns.”

    Alberta Central Railway Museum is open Wednesdays to Sundays and also holiday Mondays from the May long weekend until Labor Day in September. The Museum is easy to find. Start at 40th Avenue and 47th Street (Co-op Country Junction) in Wetaskiwin and follow the paved Secondary Road 613 east (four miles) to paved Secondary Road 822. Drive for 6 miles, turn west onto the side road west for one mile, and right (north) for half a mile. When you see the grain elevator, you will be there. 

    The next special event at the Alberta Central Railway Day will be on August 18th.  For an all-inclusive fare of $8 per person aged 2 and older, guests will be treated to a pancake breakfast served from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and Beaver Tails served from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. They will also be able to enjoy: Model Train Exhibits and Collectors Show, Exhibits and Telegraph Service Demonstrations, Train Rides, Speeder Rides, Wagon Rides, and Spike Pounding Demonstrations.