COVID-19 causes KHR to rethink its business plan

Kamloops Heritage Railway forced to cancel all on-rail tour experiences for the remainder of the 2020 season.

A look inside of the heritage fleet of railcars. (Submitted/Kamloops Heritage Railway)

The Ghost Train, Trick or Treat Train, and Christmas Train will not be running on the Kamloops Heritage Railway this year because of uncertain waters. Until an effective treatment or province-wide vaccination is made available to the public, all on-rail experiences at the Kamloops Heritage Railway will remain closed. 

Given it is unlikely a vaccine or treatment will surface in the forthcoming months, KHR’s executive director Cory Clark said, “it just made sense to go ahead and make those closures.”

Clark commented that the Kamloops Heritage Railway has “pivoted a bit” and hopes to stay relevant in the community and keep volunteers engaged by offering a new experience to guests called the Backshop Tour.  Clark says KHR rewrote the old tour to “better offer [the experience] in a very socially distant and safe way.” 

Although the Backshop Tour is a more so static experience in comparison to the on-rail tours in Clark’s opinion, he added that “KHR really [gets to] give [guests] an experience that most don’t get to see.”

Guests are welcome to walk through the railcars and see the workshop where the engine is stored, “we outline a brief history of the cars and share a whole bunch interesting stories,” says Clark. “Most of our volunteers are older, and a lot of us are in that high-risk category.”

For this reason, guests must wear masks and gloves while inside the railcars to limit the possibility of spreading coronavirus on the Backshop Tour. Clark added that KHR discovered that the alcohol in hand sanitizers degrades and dries out the wood in the historic railcars, so they’ve asked that guests please wear gloves to avoid damaging them. 

Clark revealed that the Kamloops Heritage Railway is looking to launch its education program during the lull in tours. The popular tourist destination will offer a unique learning experience to students grades two through seven within the Kamloops School District. 

“[KHR] hopes to open [the program] up to say TRU students, or other educational institutions further down the road as well,” says Clark. The program will include a virtual classroom, making it possible for children elsewhere in the world to learn about the railway too. 

“KHR is in need of volunteers,” says Clark, “especially with the introduction of these new experiences since it’s not just an on-rail [operation] anymore.” Kamloops Heritage Railway is looking for all kinds of volunteers with differing skills and capabilities. “If you’re an actor, welder, carpenter, or administrator… we’ve got a spot for you,” says Clark. He added that KHR is inspired to help those who hope to one day drive the steam engine reach that goal, “it might take us a while to get you there, but we will get you there eventually.”

Clark commented that “since closing, we’ve gotten messages from all over the world… everyone seems to be in our corner and is willing us to reopen next year.” He added KHR is incredibly thankful for the support received since announcing the closures and adding new experiences. 

Feel free to call if interested in more information concerning the Backshop Tour or if looking for a quote.