The Western Development Museum here in Moose Jaw is home to the only operating steam locomotive of its kind in Saskatchewan but the local historic attraction is in need of some help. Years of prairie weather have caught up with the rails beneath the train and so the WDM has created their new fundraising initiative, The $101K for the 101.
Tim Pomeroy is the Conservation Manager and Chief Steam Engineer at the WDM and says it's going to take some work to get the popular train back rolling on the polished steel.
"Our little Vulcan locomotive is numbered the 101 and we're fundraising to make $101,000 to rebuilding the track for the locomotive to operate on." said Pomeroy. "It's tired and it's worn out."
The hope is to hit their fundraising goal and begin work on a new ground bed, new track and a much needed maintenance fund for the feature into the future. Donations for the project are already rolling in as the Vulcan has proved to be popular with visitors at the local museum. Staff are often asked about when the Vulcan will be running again, only to have to tell visitors that it's not safe under the current track conditions.
"It's the only operating (steam) locomotive in Saskatchewan." said Pomeroy with pride. "The nearest one to it would be in Heritage Park in Calgary and there's another one in Winnipeg but in Saskatchewan, it's the only one we have so, yeah we're pretty lucky."
The local branch of the WDM is focused on the history of transportation and features an entire gallery of train and railway artifacts. Pomeroy says they are very fortunate to have something that they can physically use to recreate the past, adding that people often forget that the steam locomotive opened up Western Canada. In fact, it's the entire reason Moose Jaw is here according to local history section on the city website.
In July of 1881, James Ross and Hector Sutherland were exploring for land that they felt sure would be the choice of the Canadian Pacific Railway for a divisional point. The juncture of Moose Jaw and Thunder Creek was the best place to cross the river valley and there was an abundant water supply for steam locomotives. They registered the town site with the Dominion Government and organized a permanent settlement. Permanent settlement began in 1882 when James Ross and his party of four arrived from Winnipeg on January 2nd. A third group from Ontario, led by Henry Battell, joined Ross’ settlement in the spring of 1882, on May 24th.
The construction of the CPR, with 7,600 men and 1,700 teams of horses, proceeded west from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba on Monday, May 2, 1881. The following construction season started at Oak Lake, Manitoba. They reached the settlement site of Moose Jaw in July of 1882. The first small work train arrived in Moose Jaw on September 6, 1882. The first combined work/passenger train arrived December 10, 1882. It was April 1, 1883 before the first scheduled passenger train arrived in Moose Jaw.
Donations to the $101K for the 101 project can be made in person at the WDM or through their website. So far, there is no timeline for repairing the track as it's dependant on getting donations to pay for the work. Staff are excited about the project and are hoping a good response will accelerate their timeline.