Alberta Railway Museum chugging along for more than 50 years
'What we’re all about here is preserving a bit of Canada’s history related to the railways’
Hans Huizinga tips his conductors hat forward politely as he helps school children up the stairs of a 106-year-old steam locomotive.
"It brings Thomas the Tank Engine to life for them in an Alberta setting," says the 81-year-old volunteer at the Alberta Railway Museum, now in it's 51 season.
Wide-eyed kids from Progressive Academy are on a field trip back into time.
Huizinga, a retired shop teacher, punches tickets, answers questions and maintains archives dedicated to the preservation of train history.
The Alberta Railway Museum is open on the weekends during the summer and offers walking tour of the train cars, history, memorabilia and on long weekends, train rides on a 106 year old steam locomotive.
"What we're all about here is preserving a bit of Canada's history related to the railways," said Stephen Yakimets, museum president.
The living museum at 24215 34th St. is staffed by volunteers. Yakimets, who sells photocopiers for a living during the week, leads a group of 40 others, all passionate about riding the rails.
"This is what I do for fun. I've always been into history, I've always loved trains," said Yakimets, who has memories of visiting the Jasper train station with his grandparents.
"A lot of people now think the train is that big thing that blocking them at the crossing as they want to get home from work," Yakimets said.
What many have forgotten is how the iron horse opened western Canada, moved goods and passengers across the country since 1850.
"What we try to do is show the history, so the railway cars themselves are the displays," Yakimets said.
From a fancy car complete with a hardwood dining-room table and stained-glass windows to a mail-sorting car, all manner of engines, a cattle car and others packed full of memorabilia, all are open to wander at your own pace.
Yakimets said the payoff for him is the reaction on people's faces.
"The satisfaction they get coming out seeing the trains, everything from a little boy going, 'Wow,' to the folks saying, 'I remember this, this is how we used to travel.'"
If you want to see more from the Alberta Railway Museum you can catch this week's history edition of Our Edmonton on Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and 11 a.m. Monday on CBC TV.