Big Valley Bulletin. FILE PHOTO

Free-Mo exhibit draws enthusiasts from far and wide

The 14th annual Alberta Free-Mo model train extravaganza amazes sightseers once again.

Linda Stillinger

Big Valley Bulletin

The Calgary Free-Mo Club unveiled their free-form modular railroading layout in the Big Valley Agriplex on Aug. 19 and 20 attracting a steady stream of curious visitors. Linking their modules together to form one huge interconnected layout, members ran their trains through realistically modelled landscapes including prairie towns, rural farmland and wilderness areas showcasing the Canadian landscape. Travelling around the track, one could admire the convincing appearance of rivers, appreciate the colourful landscapes and marvel at the attention to detail found in the towns and farms depicted throughout the layout. On closer examination, tiny surprises such as the eagle’s nest perched in a high branch, tiny fawns hidden under tree limbs or the fisherman casting his line into the river could be found all through the display. The Free-Mo layout is always remarkable and it is obvious that many hours of painstaking work goes into the creation of each module before this marvellous display is brought out for the public to enjoy.

Four tourist trains will be visiting us this week beginning with the Thursday, Aug. 24 train which will pull into the Big Valley station at 4:10 p.m. and leave at 6 p.m. On Friday, Aug. 25 the train arrives at 4:10 p.m. and departs at 6 p.m. and on Saturday, Aug. 26 the train arrives at 4:10 p.m. and departs at 6:30 p.m. On Sunday, Aug. 27, Big Valley will welcome the “Highland Special” steam train arriving at 12:40 p.m. and departing at 3 p.m. The Red Deer Legion Pipe Band will be performing both in Stettler and in Big Valley for this train.

A little bit of history …

When the C.N.R. selected Big Valley as a divisional point for central Alberta, a five-stall roundhouse, equipped with a modern turntable was erected. Soon more stalls were added so that 14 locomotives could be serviced. Five or six spur or business tracks were built to handle the large volume of freight that was hauled from the station by 18 draymen. At the peak of its activity, the C.N.R. employed 22 regular crews and distributed a payroll of $720,000.

In 1912 it took most of the day to come from Stettler to Big Valley because the train was a work train with a passenger coach behind. To add to the delay, the train stopped to unload lumber and other supplies at Warden and Fenn. At the same time, speeders were a common sight and it was by this mode of transportation that the first grain buyer from Strong and Dollar bought grain over the platform while the farmer shovelled the grain into the waiting boxcar.

This is an excerpt from The Big Valley Story. Golden Memories, 1914-1964

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