Battle River Train Excursions won the Wynn McLean Rural Tourism Champion Award on Wed. Feb 12 at the 12th Annual ‘Growing Rural Tourism Awards Gala’ in Camrose, Ab.
The award was presented and named after a champion of rural tourism, Wynn McLean, vice-president of community relations for Travel Alberta and General Manager of the Camrose Regional Exhibition.
The recognition award is open to applicants from municipalities, tourism businesses or communities in rural Alberta, and is designed to honour outstanding accomplishments, innovation and leadership in rural tourism.
The Battle River Railway provides unique and memorable day excursions based around different themes, such as Valentines and Santa Days.
Each memorable experience is created and hosted entirely by a team of dedicated volunteers, the Friends of The Battle River Railway.
“Many people don’t realize that it takes a fair amount of time to gain recognition,” said Ken Espeter, who originated the idea to offer passenger rides six years ago. “We hope that even more people will come out to experience what we have to offer.”
They have recently expanded the number of themed excursions from six to 12 and have had a very good response.
The Murder Mystery run in November and Santa Days trip to Alliance were both sold out.
“Our volunteers, Joanne McMahon, Virgie Herder-Robb, Ken Eshpeter, Muriel Fankanel, Dance adjudicator, Lisa E.J. Horvath Diane Dammann, Judi Solonick and Shara-Lynn Weller were on hand to accept this award on behalf of our organization,” said Joanne McMahon, “and we would also like to thank Maven and Caroline Boddy for their exceptional work on the application process.”
Maven Boddy volunteered to create a video submission for the Battle River Railway that helped them win the award. In it, Boddy informs the viewer with narration: “Once upon a time, there was a short line rail called the Alliance Spur, it was run by CN and served communities in the region. They offered passenger and agricultural services but eventually we became obsolete, or so they thought.
“That is when the Battle River Railway emerged and dreams began. Bringing passenger service back to the Alliance Spurline shows that it is possible to tour urban guests around the special rural places that we call home.
“We had a dream of preserving an important part of local history and without the continued support of volunteers, donors and believers, this dream would not be possible”
The Battle River Railway is a short line railway based out of Forestburg.
As a new generation cooperative, it was purchased by residents and producers in the area in 2010 from CN Rail.
The 83-kilometre rail line, that stretches from Camrose to Alliance, is the longest straight sectioned railway in Alberta.
It serves industrial and agricultural customers and offers commodity transportation, railcar storage services and tourism excursions.
Plans for the future include continued work on the newly renovated train station in Forestburg and finding ways to attract more visitors to the area.
They have also recently added the option of renting the train privately and can stop or pick up passengers anywhere along the line in Kelsey, Heisler, Rosalind, Forestburg, Galahad or Alliance.