Two of Alberta’s history keepers – Alberta Prairie Railway and East Central Alberta Heritage Society have come together to host Rails and Tales.
Looked upon as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Albertans are getting an insight into the past, and are being “transported to the days of their forefathers.”
Rich Graydon, who is overseeing the event with a team of dedicated staff and volunteers, had a vision, which he has translated well.
“For Canada’s 150th, I thought it would be nice to do something locally, and since the Railways played such an important role in the area’s development that we decided to use it as a focal point for the event,” Graydon said. “That led to the idea of bringing in a second steam engine to help demonstrate how railways operated.”
According to Graydon, much of Western Canada was developed around the Railways as they proceeded to open up new territory for settlement.
“Towns were planned based on the range that locomotives could travel before needing fuel or water, and brought everything from produce to farm implements and mail to each community,” Graydon narrated. “The train station in a community was a hub of activity as a result and over Canada’s 150 years of history, the railways have served as the backbone of commerce and trade, without them we wouldn’t have developed to where we are now. So what better way to celebrate than through a railway trip that takes you back to the days of our forefathers!”
Rails and Tales is showcasing the Metis Heritage in Big Valley with a Metis camp complete with tent and tipi; there will be an operating display of steam and oil-powered farm equipment north of the station in Big Valley.
“But to add to all this attraction were the two RCAF CF-18 that did a flyby on Thursday at 7 p.m.,” Graydon added. “There will be a Canada Day parade at 11 a.m. on July 1, and the Village of Big Valley along with local volunteer groups will also be putting on petting zoo, penny carnival, ukulele club and an art show.”
Graydon’s role at the Alberta Prairie Railway is to conduct and be a part of customer relations.
“As a conductor, I put our trains together, conduct safety inspections, load and unload passengers and make sure the train gets safely to its destination,” Graydon added. “At the Alberta Prairie Railway we are all customer relations specialists, ensuring our passengers have a great experience, their needs are met and any issues are dealt with quickly and professionally.”
The event, which kickstarted on Wednesday, June 27, will be running till Monday, July 3.
“We are in charge of putting smiles on every passenger’s face,” Graydon commented. “Rails and Tales has been a great experience for me because I’ve met a lot of new people in the Stettler area and throughout the province; we have had help putting the project together by a dedicated core of volunteers supported by both local businesses and non-profit groups.”
Needless to say, both Stettler and Big Valley are abuzz about the event. As the second engine was hauled into Stettler by road last Thursday, June 22 from Edmonton, area residents stopped by and photographed.
“It’s been a great learning experience and I’d like to thank everyone involved for their support and hard work,” Graydon said. “Special thanks to the staff at Alberta Prairie Railway who have gone above and beyond to make this happen.”