Not too many tourist attractions can offer a murder mystery party on rails in the Okanagan hills, but the Kettle Valley Steam Railway (KVR) can and will this summer.
One of the Okanagan’s premier tourist attractions continues to offer new events and attractions and will be offering its first Murder on the Rails celebration this summer, said board member Gerry Conrad, during a presentation to District of Summerland council Monday evening.
The KVR attraction in Summerland officially opens for the 2018 season on Saturday.
Conrad said the popular tourist attraction is continuing to enjoy great success and wants to attract even more customers in 2018.
The KVR, which provides a scenic, historical train ride in the hills and valleys in and around Summerland, attracted more than 30,000 riders during the 2017 tourist season, which is just below the 32,000 riders in 2016, said Conrad.
These last two years have been the best in the society's history, he said.
Things are going so well that the KVR society is looking at purchasing a third viewing cabin or spending a significant amount of money to upgrade the one it currently uses as it's run down and needs upgrading, he said.
An experiment to offer train rides over the Christmas holiday season last December was a huge success and will continue this year, he said.
More than 60 of the society’s 100 members attended the recent annual general meeting (AGM), which shows the amount of community support for the railway, he said.
Joe Smuin, a longtime archivist and supporter of the KVR, showed artifacts a that meeting and the society is committed to showing more of those artifacts at the railway’s station in Summerland, he said.
A new eight-member board of directors was also selected at the AGM and longtime supporter Sharon Unrau was named new president, he said.
Unrau is the woman who volunteered to write the society’s constitution and bylaws and knows the long history with the Kettle Valley Railway, he said.
For the first time ever, the KVR is going to hold a murder mystery party on the train on Saturday, July 21, he said.
Murder on the Rails will be a classic “who done it” mystery, he said.
The event will include the Summerland Singers and Players and will include a buffet meal and great deal of fun, said Conrad.
Tickets are now on sale at the KVR station or by calling 1-877-494-8424. You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.kettlevalleyrail.org.
If this event is a success, there’s a very strong likelihood a second Murder Mystery event will take place later in 2018, he said.
There will also be Halloween parties on the train with celebrations set for Friday, Oct. 26 and Saturday, Oct. 27. There will be early trains for little ‘trick or treaters’ in the afternoon and a second one in the early evening, he said.
The train will also run as part of annual Christmas Light Up weekend in December, he said.
The KVR has already hosted events for 2018, but officially opens for its regular tours starting Saturday, said Conrad.
There will be a balloon artist and face painting for the kids and members of the public are invited to a barbecue featuring free hot dogs and refreshments. Summerland IGA is providing the food, while Tim Hortons will provide coffee and treats.
Conrad said the KVR society is committed to ensuring visitors to this area continue to experience a fun and rewarding experience.
“We want to continue to be a premier tourist attraction,” he said. “We also want to see ourselves woven into the framework of the South Okanagan and Summerland as part of the tourist, the history, the cultural, and quite frankly, the business community that is here in this great little village.”
Coun. Janet Peake, who is on the KVR Society board, said she’s been privileged to work with a society that is so enthusiastic and committed to running a successful business and tourist attraction.
“I believe the Kettle Valley Railway society is actually one of the best businesses that we have here in Summerland,” she said. “It portrays itself that way not only as an event and a business, but it brings the heritage of our community to the travelling public. I think that’s a great opportunity to showcase Summerland. I’m very pleased that they come to do regular updates. I’m especially impressed with the work they’re doing towards future planning and I know this council will really enjoy those ideas as they come forward.”
She congratulated Conrad on the success of the society over the last year and has every confidence the new endeavours will also be a big success.
The trestle the KVR train passes over on its regular route will hopefully not need any repairs in 2018, said Conrad.
“We remain caustiously optimistic” that the trestle is in good enough shape to handle traffic for another season, he said.
The society has employed a professional engineering company to conduct regular inspections of the trestle to provide oversight and certification, he said.
“If the trestle bridge should ever get to the point where we no longer believe it is 100 percent, absolutely safe to put the train on, we will not put the train on it,” he said. “We will simply continue to run and we will go down as far as as Canyon View platform where we will stop and because of the extra time, I imagine what we will do during that time, while we water up the engine, is to let people stroll a little under the bridge and take your photographs and then return.”
An important piece of equipment needed for the train to operate properly will be removed so it can be replaced, said Conrad.
New stairs will be replaced in front of the main station and the concrete platform will also be upgraded, he said.
“Everything continues to try to up our game incrementally … to be better and better all the time.”
Mayor Peter Waterman praised the society for all its efforts and working with its partners to make the KVR a successful business and tourist attraction.