All aboard! Assiniboine Park's mini steam train is back on track
Internet research leads to simple fix, conductor of popular tourist attraction says
The miniature steam train that had been out of commission at Assiniboine Park is rolling again.
Tim Buzunis, owner and operator of the popular Winnipeg tourist attraction, credits a company in the United States with looking through the original blueprint of the train that has run loops next to the zoo for 54 years.
"I was very down and low on the weekend, but now I feel re-energized and ready to go," Buzunis said.
The mechanical issue that kept the coal-fired engine out of commission this year turned out to be minor: He was 1/30 of an inch off in an adjustment he needed to make to the engine. "It's amazing how little something that small could affect so much," he said.
Only days before, Buzunis says, he felt dejected. He sank $16,000 into repairs over the winter and went without $25,000 in sales.
Dealing with continuous repairs in recent months, he was convinced the train had to be shipped to the United States to be fixed, at a cost he couldn't guess.
His salvation came while doing online research when he discovered the blueprint for the engine was held by a theme park in North Carolina: "Thank God for the internet."
Buzunis won't make up the income he's lost, or the school tours that went elsewhere in June. He's says he's lost about 50 days of business, at least a third of his season.
Hollywood and hockey stars
But he's happy to have his train back, which he says matters to the many passengers he's met since taking ownership of the family-run business in 1988.
"I know the train is loved by a lot of people," he said. "I've had as many as four, five generations [of some families] ride this train."
He counts actors Richard Gere, Ed Asner and past and present Winnipeg Jets like Teemu Selanne and Blake Wheeler as some of his famous riders.
"I do run it with love and a lot of respect for my father, who started it," he said.