Apr 252014
 
Boxcar end

What the heck is going on at the Alberta 2005 Centennial Railway Museum in Beiseker Alberta? Their website is gone and the grounds appear as though abandoned. The old train station, what was to be the organization’s centrepiece, sits on blocks, as it has for a couple years now. In front is the foundation that it was to be placed upon, but it’s shifting and buckling and is in no shape to be used. The fenced-in compound where the rail cars are stored was open allowing anyone to enter freely. It’s as thought they simply up and walked away.

There are a lot of questions to be asked. Is the museum doomed? Is the dream dead? What will happen to the collection?

Let’s get some backstory…

The Alberta 2005 Centennial Railway Museum Society, the group that managed the museum, was established in the early years of this century. Their goal was simple, collect and preserve railway equipment and put it on display in Beiseker. Things started off well – they had a location and they quickly accumulated a collection of rail cars that they could put on display. The future looked good.

↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ Scroll down for photos and to comment ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓

Then, almost as fast as it started, it stalled. Outside of the couple boxcars being repainted little work was done to the collection as the years passed. The cars languished in a compound that was never really open to the public. It was museum, of sorts, I guess. You could view things through the fence, but no one got to go in. And for the next few years, that’s how it remained. Someone mowed the lawns around the site, but no work was done otherwise. Things moved at a snail’s pace – no, that’s wrong and there was no progress at all.

After years of inactivity, the organization surprisingly managed to acquire the old Bassano Station. It was an out of the blue, Hail-Mary move on the organization’s part – things had been deathly quiet for a long time and now this – maybe it would be the catalyst that would get the work happening again. A kick start.

The station was moved to Beiseker in 2012, not an easy task I bet, and a foundation was built, which, as planned, would become its final resting place. That trip was, by the way, was 150km long and took two days. Constructed over a century ago, the station was to become the centrepiece of the museum. It would house offices, a gift shop, exhibits, a library and archives. But nothing happened, and it has not moved since. In front, the foundation that was to support it has buckled and is basically useless (it was also full of water on our visit).

So what’s going on today?

Well, first the organization’s website went down then it vanished completely a few weeks back. I was alerted to this by a reader of this blog. With that we decided that it was a good idea to visit the place to see what’s up. And what do we find? Nothing much really, the station is sitting exactly where it did when we visited it a year ago and the foundation is falling apart much as it was. One thing changed however, and the gate to rail car compound was now minus a lock and was wide open – we walked right in. I’d say it’s been abandoned. Not really all that surprising I guess.

So was it bad management, inexperience, corruption or just bad circumstances that brought it down? Was it ever up? We can only speculate. We do know one thing, the group has been the recipient of grants, so at one time they had money. But clearly it was not enough.

In defence of the museum group, I understand they faced some obstacles. Cancellation of funding, contractor problems being two that come to mind. Maybe they had good hearts but it seems like they were in over their heads and have little to show for their work.

The station right now is locked up fairly tight but a small section of the roof is open to the elements (and the cap sits nearby). Birds are getting inside and that’s bad. The building is already beat up, and this means it will only deteriorate further. If not fixed up soon, will it be too late? I understand some people in Bassano tried to keep the station in its hometown, unsuccessfully of course. They must be fuming now.

I don’t even want to think what could happen if someone gets hurt playing around the station or rail cars. We closed up the compound gate when we left – not much help, but it looks better than if it’s wide open like when we arrived. Interestingly it does not look like many people have entered the site. There was still some snow on the ground and there were no footprints in them. Vandals have yet to make their mark. That’s good. Time is ticking though.

If it has folded, can others railway museums pick up the remains? My understanding, speaking with some in the business, is yes. But it’s not always easy. The person I spoke with in regards to this, had some knowledge of the Alberta 2005 Centennial Railway Museum Society and had few good things to say about them. In fact anyone I have contacted that knows them has been very critical of how things have been handled.

Let’s take a look at the collection…

The CPR Bassano Station dates from 1911 and is a monster, one of the largest of it type still extant. It’s last job prior to being moved here was as a storage shed and a base for maintenance crews – we saw an old sign saying it belonged to the signals and communications department. Looking at the building it’s amazing how many layers of paint are on it.

Outside the fenced-in compound and sitting on a short section of track is an old hopper car converted to ballast service. It was built in 1952 by the Eastern Car Company (aka ECC) of Trenton Nova Scotia. That factory closed down in 2007 and by then was known as TrentonWorks. Sitting nearby are various track components and some signal-light poles.

Inside the enclosure is CPR #51997, a fairly run of he mill 40 foot boxcar (no metric in the old days). It was built by National Steel Car (aka NSC) in Hamilton Ontario in 1956. This company today is the last freight car maker in the country. Beside it is an old railway shed and a second boxcar sans wheels and bogies. For some reason, it did not get photographed, nor was its number taken down.

Next up are two rows of cars. In the first line, we see flat car, another whose number I did not record (admittedly I was a bit distracted this adventure). Beside it is a tank car dating from the early 1920s. It was used to provide potable water to mobile crew camps. Continuing on, we see an ore car, CPR #377208, and a second hopper/ballast car, CPR #420880, built by ECC in 1953 and NSC in 1941, respectively. Adjacent we find an auto box car, CPR #296186, built by NSC in 1953. It would be used to transport, you guessed it, automobiles. Today, they use long bi-level and tril-evel auto racks. Last in that line is an ex-CPR Burro locomotive crane. It’s self propelled and can even pull a few cars. It’s from 1956.

In line two, we see a caboose, CPR #434430, built by in the company shops in the early 1970s. Check out the report (Canadian Pacific Railway Station, Beiseker Alberta) to read about another similar caboose a block or two away, and a second train station used as the town offices.

Up next are two grain box cars, CPR #401222 and #252797, built by ECC in 1956 and Canadian Car and Foundry (CC&F) of Montreal PQ in 1947. CC&F back then was one of the “big three” rail car makers in Canada – they closed in the early 1960s. These cars were repainted at some point – the wheat symbol tells us the car was for grain loading only. On the sunny side, the paint has faded badly.

Beside it is an a former CPR baggage car painted up with a number of murals (Artwork by Jan Kruger, Feb 1990) showing various working-on-the-railways scenes. It was last used as a storage and equipment car for maintenance of way crews. Its lineage has not been established by this author (speak up in if you know). Note how faded and peeled the paint is on the sun-facing side. Next is a Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW) model S13 switcher, built for the CNR in 1959. Lastly, we see a snow plow. It’s a special one used for double track lines and throws snow only to one side. It was built by the CPR shops in 1930.

In the southwest corner of the fenced enclosure is a collection of speeders and small maintenance cars.

This author believes the collection is a bit disjointed. There is no theme and some of the cars seems out of place. Don’t get me wrong, any vintage rail car saved is a positive, it’s just that certain elements have a dubious value in some respects (IMO). Grain boxes are good but an ore car and an MLW switcher (neither of which would be seen out west), don’t really represent the prairie railway experience. Neither does a double track plow (the first I have seen BTW) – it’s meant for busy double track lines back east and not a sleepy branch. Coal boxes, stock cars, a creaky old combine, a suitably small steamer or early model GM diesel, that’s what they should have searched out. That is prairie railroading.

It looks like they simply picked up what they could, when they could with no set direction. I realize the scarcity of suitable cars and the like makes it hard to be a purist. You sometimes have to settle for what’s out there to a degree. None the less, these guys just seemed rudderless.

Also, I have one complaint, not that it really matters now, but the cars are, side to side, too close together. This make photographing things difficult. I guess since the museum appears disbanded, it’s a moot point anyway.

The location where the museum sits is along the CPR’s former Langdon Subdivision. At one time a grain elevator, served by the railway once sat roughly at this location. This line closed in the 1990s. Interestingly, on the other side of town is a second (active) rail line, the CNR’s secondary mainline from Edmonton to Calgary. The two railways paralleled each other here for a few kilometres, making Beiseker one of a handful of small towns served by two railways.

We visited the museum under gorgeous blue skies. None the less, our mood was a bit somber.

I expect this post will be subject to further updates and I have not doubt many people will chime in on what they think.

Update: May 2014. We’ve heard from a lot of people on this subject and all have voiced their displeasure at what’s happening, or rather what’s not happening, at the museum. We stirred up a hornet’s nest!

One, who’s had some contact with the museum group, and wishes to remain anonymous, had this to say…

“In around late September, early October (of 2013), Mammoet, (the company which performed the move at their own expense) were on site to slide the station onto the foundation. It appeared as though all was a go. They had the steel beams laid out and the machinery in place to move the unit. For some reason, the next day they packed up all their gear and left. The station has now sat another winter with the centre portion open to the sky while Beiseker has experienced record snowfalls. I was inside the station when it arrived in Beiseker and have been inside a couple of times since it arrived here. The damage to the interior, not to mention the amount of pigeon droppings, is very disappointing.”

The Bassano station was recently moved onto its (ahem) foundation…
Bassano Railway Station.

To see some other outdoor museums we’ve documented, follow these links…
Alberta Railway Museum 1997
Historic Atlas Mine.
Unrestored trucks Pioneer Acres Museum Irricana.

Check out this post…
Genealogists don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.

If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: April, 2014.
Location: Beiseker, AB.

  • Facebook
    Facebook
    Google+
    Google+
    http://www.bigdoer.com/14726/exploring-history/alberta-2005-centennial-railway-museum-whats-going-on/
    PINTEREST
    PINTEREST
    RSS
    YOUTUBE

    Social share using the buttons above – we encourage it! If photo sharing, credit “BIGDoer.com”.

    Something to say? Jump to comments!
    Something to say in private? Click here to: Reach Us!

CPR Bassano station

The former Bassano train station. Birds just flew out of a hole in the roof and that’s bad.

Bassano AB train station

I wonder how many layers of paint there are?

CPR Bassano AB station

Yup, it’s a door. It even says so.

Bassano train station foundation

The foundation is buckling and as you can see, it’s full of water.

Bassano train station Beiseker

Since being moved here a couple years ago, work on the station has stalled.

CPR 40 foot boxcar

CPR 40 foot boxcar, #51997, built in 1956.

Alberta 2005 Centennial Railway Museum

The website seen on this banner, as of April 2014, is gone.

Beiseker railway museum

An old railway storage shed.

CPR MOW baggage car

Artwork by Jan Kruger, Feb 1990.

CPR baggage car murals

One, of a series of paintings, seen on an old baggage car.

Railway museum Beiseker

Note how shiny the cars on left are – this side sees little sun.

CPR railway artwork

Compare this mural to the same one on the opposite side (a few pics down).

CPR grain boxcar

This symbol tells us the car is to be used for grain loading only.

Row of cars Beiseker Railway Museum

Mid-left is a hopper and behind, an ore car, from 1941 and 1953 respectively.

Railway Museum Beiseker Alberta

Cars seen here include an auto box (green one), a caboose, two grain boxes and a railway crane.

Beiseker AB railway museum

Speeders and some small maintenance cars.

Burro Locomotive crane

A Burro Locomotive crane – it can travel under its own power and can even pull a couple cars.

Boxcar end

Browns and yellows and a gorgeous blue sky.

Beiseker Alberta Railway Museum

Two grain boxcars in front.

CPR grain boxcar

This car, #401222, dates from 1956.

Canadian Pacific Railway boxcar

Another CPR boxcar, #252797, from 1947.

CPR baggage car

This old baggage car was last used by the CPR’s MOW department.

Old CPR baggage car

This side sees more sun, causing the paint to fade and peel.

MLW S13 switcher

This switch engine once belonged to the CNR and was built in 1959.

MLW S13 locomotive

It is a model S13 built by the Montreal Locomotive Works.

Double track snowplow

This is a special double track snowplow – read the post to find out what that means.

Alberta 2005 Railway Museum

An old timer, it was built way back in 1930.

CP Rail Signals and Communicatoins

The station was last used by the CPR’s signal maintenance department.

Buckling foundation

The station’s foundation is buckling, as you can plainly see.

Bassano Station roof

The roof cap in front and where it’s supposed to be, in behind (top).

Alberta Centennial Railway Museum

Me in back (centre), doing what I do best, exploring and documenting.

CPR ballast car

This old hopper dates from the early 1950s.

Railway switch frogs

A line up of switch frogs.

Railway museum Beiseker AB

Some signal-light poles in front.

We recommend...

Join the discussion...

46 Comments on "Alberta 2005 Centennial Railway Museum – what’s going on?"

Subscribe only
avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest
krista_j
Guest
krista_j

hmmm that isn’t a good sign…

Bob Kamin
Guest
Bob Kamin

I wonder if the station could be moved back to Bassano? It saddens me to see it so neglected.

jimmy knock around
Guest
jimmy knock around

Strange and weird!

dakotabuller
Guest
dakotabuller

Why doesn’t someone thrown a tarp over that roof opening? That’d solve the bird problem right away.

jpp452
Guest
jpp452

No, it probably wouldn’t. Moisture would get trapped under the tarp and rot the timbers that much faster.

samidatz
Guest
samidatz

What a cluster ****!

Georgina
Guest
Georgina

Sad, I hope the station gets saved. Thx for all these great pics!!

Tim Swaren
Guest
Tim Swaren

I stopped by here in the summer of 2013. I took some pics of the equipment from outside the fence. Had I noticed the gate was open I would have went in myself! I toured through the other old station that is the town offices. I asked the girls working there about the status of the old Bassano station but they knew nothing, except that. “everything is kind of in limbo”. It is certainly sad to see such an historical artifact sitting there rotting away when it could be sitting somewhere else and being restored.

Steve Boyko
Guest

It’s really strange. We were through there last summer and it appeared to be totally deserted. What a shame.

Rhys
Guest
Rhys

As of October, the Bassano Station building is on its foundation but otherwise not much else has changed; http://raycourtman.blogspot.ca/2014/10/bassano-station-now-on-foundation.html

Diane
Guest
Diane

Maybe if you are so worried becoming involved would be a good idea and knowing the whole inside story before you talk, these things would be most important. I understand that people have opinions but peoples opinions have destroyed this project. As for the lock being gone maybe there should of been pictures of the lock missing and the sign saying no entry, means you trespassed. This project needs a heart transplant! Please find it in your heart to not knock it but support it. Believe me I know the inside story.

jpp452
Guest
jpp452
Diane, “opinions” don’t destroy anything. Lack of preparation, lack of foresight and one of many forms of general incompetence do that work. Railway equipment and, especially, wood frame buildings, take a LOT of time, hard work and money just to maintain in a status quo. Unlike more common projects like automobile restorations, where the work can be done under cover, these items are continuously deteriorating — including the all-steel cars. I’ve been involved with railway restoration for many years. I can tell you even a limited project like this takes a large, active gung-ho group. I have seen too many of these amateurish attempts go astray because, when people began to understand what they had taken on, they lost interest — or just didn’t have the time, expertise and resources to carry on. The railway equipment, for the most part, can survive. I am most concerned about the station’s future.… Read more »
Dianne
Guest
Dianne
Alberta 2005 Railway Society in 2010 or 2011 hires Stavely Building Mover Ponderosa Building Movers advances them up to about $160,000.00 They sub out moving the station this company is not paid. The Edmonton area man that supplied the main isn’t paid any rent. The welder that put the beams together didn’t get paid. Railway Society works that out. New contractor starts spring of 2012 discovers that foundation and building do not match up. Alberta transportation says it can’t be moved in on piece. At this point new contractor hires engineering company, and discovers that other building movers would have moved it in two pieces for around $75,000.00 loaded on foundation. But the fools in the Railway Society don’t like that plan. No they gave away $160,000.00 dollars and get nothing for it. They also hire long view Engineering company to design foundation that the Engineer never measure station, foundation… Read more »
Joshua Guerney
Guest
Joshua Guerney

(via Facebook)
So what’s going to happen to all the equipment? I’ve heard the museum has disbanded and the Web site is gone. Also the town wants it gone.

Trevor Proutt
Guest
Trevor Proutt

Too bad it isn’t closer to Pioneer Village Museum. We could use a few of those grain cars when we move the elevator.

Ken McCutcheon
Guest
Ken McCutcheon

(via Facebook)
Thank you Chris for the post. Your postings, as sad as they may be, are very timely.

Dean R Bannick
Guest
Dean R Bannick

(via Facebook)
What’s the latest on this?

Tony Geitenbeek
Guest
Tony Geitenbeek

Great article, worth the read!

Jeremy MacPherson
Guest
Jeremy MacPherson

It would be great to see that S13 return to Moncton where it spent much of it’s life. The 8700s were all remanufactured at the Moncton shops before it closed in the late Eighties. Having it displayed in Moncton would be a great tribute to the employees who worked there. Sadly it will likely end up being scrapped like so many other historical artifacts.

Jeff Keddy
Guest
Jeff Keddy

(via Facebook)
Whatever happened to the ex-CP MLW RS-23 that’s supposedly stored somewhere near Calgary that was also part of the Beiseker collection?

Ken McCutcheon
Guest
Ken McCutcheon

(via Facebook)
Sounds to me like this museum needs to be absorbed/ taken over by a viable museum before all the equipment is vandalized and destroyed.

Nathan Brown
Guest
Nathan Brown

It’s too bad, it gives other groups like are a bit of a bad name…we have had bumps too, but still milling away…gotta take your time sometimes, but I would love to see that Van(caboose) on our site for safe keeping.

wpDiscuz