Tatiana Tordoya with one-year-old Isabella Askerhaus (top right) look out the window. Mark Brett/Western News

All aboard the Summerland Christmas Express

The first train of the Summerland Christmas Express schedule.

Locomotive arrives at the Prairie Valley Station to pick up passengers for the Summerland Christmas Express trip. (Mark Brett/Western News)

“Allllll aboard!”

Conductor Ron Belisle shouts those words into the darkening sky from the coach car steps as he issues forth this inaugural Summerland Christmas Express of the season.

The 90-minute trip through the picturesque rural Prairie Valley with the twinkling lights of the farms and houses reflecting off the dusting of snow from the night before is a journey back in time, a gentler time.

Inside the two vintage coach cars pulled by the Kettle Valley Steam Railway’s 3716 steam locomotive its lonesome whistle echoing across the valley at each crossing, are young and old.

It’s a journey that’s taken over a century to reach this destination.

Like the other seven trips, this holiday season all the seats are sold, inside and out the train is decorated with all the Christmas trimmings including a few new ones this year.

“This train is so much fun, we look forward to it every year and of course Santa and the Mrs. are the stars of the show,” said longtime volunteer Chriss Knudsen during a break in her duties attending to the couple as they visit each of the children on board. “I enjoy the camaraderie and the people, we meet people from all over the world and all the children, how excited they are, that’s what we enjoy the most.”

Felix Possak, who has provided the musical entertainment on board the train for the last 15 years, agreed.

“It’s sheer joy, it’s just so much fun, there are people from all over the world that come and ride the train, many people have already read up on the train, they know everything about it,” said Possak who sings singes in four different dialects to the joy of international travellers. “I think it was a simpler time, there were no electronics there was no radio so people made their own (entertainment) they played the banjos the accordions the fiddles.”

His job as the conductor is also a labour of love for Belisle who can’t wait to see the expressions on passenger’s faces throughout the year, but especially now.

“These trains sold out last year and they’re sold out this year,” he said. “This is very rare, not too often can you have a Christmas ride on a steam train.”

Related:Railway to run trains on weekend

For Oliver’s Linda Nunweiler, who was on board with her grandson and daughter, it was her first time riding on the rails.

“The trip was excellent, the singing great and we had a wonderful time she,” said after the locomotive arrived back at Prairie Valley Station.

“Jennifer Jones probably travelled the furthest to take the train. Originally from Kelowna, she is now living in Fiji and coming back for the holidays thought it would be the perfect way to celebrate Christmas with the family.

“We thought the kids would enjoy it with Santa Claus and the lights and everything and all kids love a train,” said Jones. “We really love the music the and singing and visiting Santa was a highlight .”

By this time conductor, Belisle was back helping passengers on board for the second trip of the evening and once people were safely loaded he took his spot up on the coach stairs.

“Allllll aboard!”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Brakeman Neil Andrews checks the conditions. Mark Brett/Western News

Musician Felix Possak entertains passengers. Mark Brett/Western News

KVSR conductor Ron Belisle. Mark Brett/Western News

Just Posted

Kelowna career fair offers new opportunities

Don’t miss the upcoming Black Press Extreme Education and Career Fair in Kelowna, March 12.

Kelowna to introduce new strategy for community education about supportive housing

The model seeks to enhance community engagement, accessibility and transparency

GoFundMe campaign started for young Kelowna girl in need of service dog

Alena suffered from an in utero MCA stroke, that affected most of the right side of her brain

Summerhill Winery proposes college for sustainable food production

The proposed Culinary College for Humanity will help to develop a sustainable food culture

Kelowna woman reported missing

Kiana Haner Wilk’s family has not been able to contact her since Tuesday evening

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

Youth-led report calls on B.C. government to create plan to end youth homelessness

There are no dedicated programs for youth homelessness at federal, provincial level, report says

Regional district gives approval for farm worker housing near Summerland

Application is for 41-bedroom facility to be constructed in Meadow Valley area

Trudeau: Time for blockades to end and Indigenous leaders to work with government

Prime minister says situation in Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute is ‘unacceptable and untenable’

RCMP clarifies stance on removing officers from Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C.

Police say will remove officers only if hereditary chiefs keep road open to pipeline workers

Goose cull proposed in Vernon

Three options to manage bird populations in popular parks pitched to councillors

COLUMN: Losing and winning a book battle

Recalling a time when outraged parents spoke out against a book on the school curriculum

COLUMN: Acknowledging the freedom to read

We provide full access to material that some might find objectionable

Most Read