On the rails of the Short Line 101

Lisa Goudy
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The Short Line 101 at the Western Development Museum (WDM) is like a time machine.

“I feel like a big kid when I’m on it. It’s like playing with a toy,” said Dean Redman, an engineer on the train. “It’s really interesting to see the people that come out and enjoy the train as well as kids young and old.”

“I guess I feel the same and I meet a lot of different people,” added Ira Ellingson, the train’s conductor. “About a month ago there was a couple from Australia that brought their grandchildren up here to ride on the train.”

The 1914 Vulcan steam locomotive is the only operating steam locomotive in Saskatchewan. Sometime this summer, the WDM will celebrate its 100th birthday, but a date hasn’t been set yet.

For the last four years, the WDM has been working to double the length of the railroad track to make the ride twice as long.

“Most of the money comes through the admission onto the train,” said Redman. “Our biggest problem right now is having enough people to be able to do all the work that it takes to lay the track, pound the spikes and get it all set up.”

He has been helping out with the train for 15 years and he’s volunteered with the museum for more than 20 years.

“I have a big interest in antique stuff. I loved the museum and saw that they needed help with the engine,” said Redman.

His duties include looking after the boiler, performing maintenance and keeping the train operational during the day.

“As the engineer, we have to do the maintenance and lubrication, start up the fire and that usually takes about two hours by the time we’re up to speed,” said Redman.

Ellingson, on the other hand, is responsible for the passengers.

“I look after the passengers and take the tickets and make sure people are staying off the track and being where they’re supposed to be,” he said.

He’s been volunteering at the WDM for eight years.

“My grandson from Airdrie — we lived close to the railroad track —was really interested in trains. Every time he heard one, he’d run to the window. So one weekend I said, ‘Let’s come in here and I’ll give you a ride on one of these things,’” said Ellingson.

“When we got here, they weren’t running because they were short of help. They said it was volunteer help. So I put my name down. That night at supper time, the phone rang and they said, ‘Can you come in tomorrow?’”

Kathy Fitton, manager of the WDM, said running the train requires certain licenses and training, but there are many other things people can do, including cutting wood and working on the station or truck.

Also, for $100, people can purchase a railroad tie to support the locomotive. The museum will put a plaque and tie number onto the track of the Short Line 101. Anyone who buys a tie will also receive a certificate of authenticity and a tax receipt.

Another way to support the operation and maintenance of the train is to buy an engineer bear for $10.

The train runs on weekends in the summer from the May long weekend to the long weekend in September.

“But it doesn’t run every day of every weekend. It depends on when we have people available and the weather,” said Fitton. “We’re really fortunate to have it here.”

Fitton added without volunteers, the train couldn’t run.

“We can always use more, but the people that we have right now are fantastic,” she said. “They work long, hot dirty hours so they have to love what they’re doing.”

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Geographic location: Australia, Saskatchewan

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