Winnipeg Christmas train ride, light display cancelled

Christmas in Winnipeg's Charleswood area will be a less spectacular this year.

Bill Taylor, who operated the Assiniboine Valley Railway in his back yard, died in August

The Assiniboine Valley Railway station in Bill Taylor's yard, ready to welcome guests for a Christmas run. The lights and trains will be absent this year after Taylor died in August. (Assiniboine Valley Railway Inc.)

Christmas in Winnipeg's Charleswood area will be a less spectacular this year.

Bill Taylor, the man behind the Assiniboine Valley Railway that ran on nearly 2,000 metres of miniature track alongside a massive light display on his property, died in August.

The trains are staying silent this year. 
There are 61 arches along the Assiniboine Valley Railway lines. (Assiniboine Valley Railway Inc.)

The AVR, which featured two routes through the treed property beside the western edge of Assiniboine Park, welcomed its first guests — including Manitoba's  then-Lt.-Gov Yvon Dumont — in 1997.

There were 600 visitors on opening day and its popularity never diminished.

Often, long lines of people would gather on even the coldest days to sip hot chocolate and take a spin under dozens of lighted arches, through tunnels and around decorated trees and other displays.

Len LaRue, one of the members of the AVR club that put on the event, said without Taylor it just couldn't happen this year.

"There was miles and miles of lights, over 101,000 of them last year. He probably touched pretty much every one of those lights as he was checking out the whole systems," LaRue said.

The only way the tradition can continue beyond this year is if enough people step forward to prepare and maintain the display, and if enough money can be raised by the club's other activities, such as rides during the summer.

Without the winter train runs, Christmas just won't be the same, said LaRue.

"Oh, quite different, because it was always a lot of fun. [We] hHad major enjoyment out of watching the sparkling faces and the smiles of everybody," he said.

"It was a winter wonderland. It was just absolutely magical — the whole property like that."


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