On June 30, 2010 at around noon, steam-locomotive Royal Hudson #2860 roars into the turntable to mark the Grand Opening of the CN Roundhouse and Conference Centre at West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish BC. In “preserving British Columbia’s railway heritage”, the West Coast Railway Association (WCRA) first acquired the site under lease from the District of Squamish and began building a world-class roundhouse and gather railway artifacts for the 12-acre heritage park to tell the story of what the railway meant to formation of Canada, the settling of the West and the development of BC. It is well-known that railways create communities. Vancouver prospered and never looked back when the Canadian Pacific Railway decided to make the port city a terminus for the transcontinental railway back in the 1880s.
The new facilities at the CN Roundhouse and Conference Centre have 21,000 sq. ft to accommodate 1,200 theatre-style or 600+ banquet-style booking. The Roundhouse complex has three levels with an outdoor viewing deck that oversees the turntable. The completion of this major construction of the roundhouse complex also marks the third phase of an overall development to turn the railway heritage park into a major railway tourist attraction for railway fans in Canada, U.S. the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the world.
The West Coast Railway Heritage Park is open year round and have already hosted almost 400,000 visitors since its opening in 1994. The WCRA is a non-profit organization in BC that also operates the Roundhouse Community Centre in Vancouver that housed the historic CPR locomotive engine 374. Although the WCRA has 15 paid employees, the organization cannot carry out al its function without the tremendous contribution from its volunteers who have altogether put in over 28,000 hours in 2009 alone. WCRA is an active rail tour operator running unique rail journeys such as the popular Whistler Sea To Sky Climb train and into other parts of British Columbia.
On display on that grand opening day were the historic CPR Business Car #16 and the 1939 Buick McLaughlin S/N 1 that was used for transport by the Royal Family when they visited Canada. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth first rode on this royal car in 1939 and almost 50 years later, Prince Charles and Princess Diana did the same when they came to Vancouver to open Expo 86, the 1986 World Exposition. The CPR Business Car #16 was the very first piece that WCRA acquired back in 1963 and had been totally refurbished.
West Coast Railway Heritage Park, 39645 Government Road, Squamish BC
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