Arts & Life
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This article was published 16/11/2017 (1037 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
MINNEDOSA — No matter how many setbacks members of a committee trying to start a railway museum in Minnedosa face, they haven’t been derailed in their mission.
Over the span of a decade, they went from thinking they’d buy, lease, then buy again the town’s shuttered railway station — all because Canadian Pacific Railway kept changing its mind.
When none of those options came to pass, the local heritage committee reinvented itself. Either the group would build a replica train station, or bring an existing train station from elsewhere to Minnedosa’s Museum and Heritage Village.
Brion Pollon, a former railroad engineer who is part of the committee behind these plans, is 75 per cent confident "Plan B" will work. They want to bring a historic CP station on display near La Rivière to Minnedosa.
"It came to the point where Plan A didn’t work out, so let’s try Plan B," he said.
They stumbled upon a former train station at a museum outside La Rivière, which the province referred them to. Its distinctive mansard roof, a feature of French derivation, was popular from 1880 to 1890, according to the Manitoba Historical Society.
The committee returned to Minnedosa town council last month to discuss the plan, since council has final decision because the building would be placed on town property.
Volunteers were told to return with cost estimates before the station is brought to museum grounds.
It might take a while.
For a year, Pollon has waited on estimates from house movers. He’s still waiting.
He said the committee would finance the project, although it’s expected some maintenance work, once the station is in place, will be covered by government grants.
"As far as I’m concerned, we’re a little on the tight side," Pollon said of their budgeting.
Pollon wouldn’t share how much they have, but estimated just moving the home will cost tens of thousands.
Committee members aren’t as enthused by this initiative as a decade ago, a consequence of members growing older, moving away and dying.
"It’s dragged on for years, and people kind of lose interest as time goes by," Pollon said.
The town is supportive of the latest venture, but not willing to back it up with cash. The committee is hopeful it has enough money to pay for the move, electricity hook-up and concrete footing, among other requirements.
The CP railway station would function as a museum, a tribute to this "railroad town," Pollon said.
The Minnedosa station building was closed for good in 2000.
For committee members, bringing over La Rivière’s station is the best-case scenario, after they gave up acquiring the one in town.
"So many years went by, like 10 or 12, that I think everybody sort of said, ‘Well, this is the way it is,’" Pollon said. "We gave it our best shot."
The saga of Minnedosa’s drawn-out negotiations with CP is worthy of a book, Pollon figures.
It began in 2005 when a railway official, backdropped by the vibrant lights of CP’s Holiday Train, promised the company would hand over the train station for $1.
Impressed, the town made preparations.
"It was kind of a good faith set-up," Pollon acknowledged, noting no contract was ever signed.
In the meantime, volunteers repaired windows, replaced the roof and readied doors and soffits.
When they went to CP for permission to work on the interior, the company, back in 2009, balked.
Since then, negotiations have dragged on.
CP offered to lease the building to the committee, then withdrew the offer and asked if the committee wanted to buy it. In 2014, the committee walked away when CP mandated it take out $10 million in liability insurance to buy the building.
Last year, CP "paid us out" for the work volunteers did on the building in the late 2000s, Pollon said. He added the deal cannot be disclosed for confidentiality reasons.
Community boosters spent between $50,000 and $75,000 renovating the station.
» Twitter: @ianfroese
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