In this December 2005 photo, crowds gather by the historic train station in Minnedosa for the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway Holiday Train. The railway has offered to sell the historic train station to the Minnedosa Heritage Committee for $30,000 with a five-year lease on the land for $1,800 annually.
It appears the train has left the station on the Minnedosa Heritage Committee’s bid to take over the historic train station and turn it into a seasonal museum and tourism booth.
While the committee doesn’t officially meet until today to discuss Canadian Pacific Railway’s proposal to sell the station, chairman Brion Pollon said it’s highly unlikely the not-for-profit organization can agree to the financial demands.
"We’ll make a formal decision at the next meeting, but there is no way the committee has that kind of money to proceed and turn around and develop the building into useable condition," Pollon said.
The purchase price set out in the proposal is $30,000 with a five-year lease on the land for $1,800 annually.
"They must think there are oil wells out in the backyard and we’re going to strike it rich," Pollon joked. "At that price we would bankrupt ourselves in the process."
Pollon, who worked for CP for more than 35 years before retirement, is confused about why the rail company is asking such an exorbitant amount of money for the 105-year-old station.
The proposal itself states CP has no operational use for the station and that its only value is for historical purposes, he said.
Other communities, such as Dauphin, Portage la Prairie, Neepawa and Virden, have negotiated fair settlements with rail companies in order to fix up and convert their historic stations into something with practical purpose.
In some cases the rail company even provided funding to help restore the building.
"We’re not setting any type of precedent and CP really owns it at the end of the day anyway," Pollon said, adding that since the committee won’t own the land that realistically the rail company would be able to take back the building by forcing them to relocate, something that would never happen.
"I thought with CP being a good corporate citizen that they wouldn’t make a big deal about it, but they aren’t willing to put anything in and we’re stuck in neutral."
It’s a disappointing end to a decade long saga that began when the committee believed it had secured the building for $1 at an announcement made by railway officials during the CP Rail’s Holiday Train run.
Since that 2005 announcement a lot of volunteers’ blood, sweat and tears have gone into the station to bring it up to code.
"We’re still caretaking it for CP," Pollon said. "We’ve already put $100,000 into the building so I don’t think we owe them five cents for it."
The roof has been fixed, windows have been replaced and concrete has been poured to ensure the building met standards. In total, approximately 1,400 volunteer hours can be accounted for, with many more spent in other facets of organizing the building is maintained.
"We did it on the honour system," Pollon said. "Maybe we did too good of a job on it."
Now the committee hopes the railway will honour its original proposal, otherwise "The station could sit there for a long time getting used for nothing," Pollon said.
A series of questions to CP regarding the proposal went unanswered.
"At the present moment the contract still lies with the committee and we are open to discussion should they have any concerns," a company spokesperson said.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 7, 2014