The Winnipeg Railway Museum secures its home hub – the Winnipeg Free Press | So Good News
The trains are back on track at the Winnipeg Railway Museum.
The volunteer organization has signed a 25-year lease with Via Rail, the owner of the downtown train station that houses the museum.
“It’s a sense of relief,” said Gord Leathers, who heads public relations for the museum. “It was a real shock when we were told we had to close.”
In December 2021, the museum received news that it would have to move or close for good, after renovations to the Via triggered other building regulations for the train shed that houses the museum’s collection of locomotives, rolling stock and other rail-related items.
Now the national passenger service has said the Winnipeg museum can stay, as long as it addresses fire code issues in the more than 100-year-old building.
The lease “will give us a sense of stability for the future,” Leathers said.
However, it will take until the end of next year before the museum can reopen. Via Rail still needs to make extensive repairs to the roof.
“It’s longer than we hoped,” Leathers admitted, adding that VIA Rail has been a good and reasonable landlord. “There were years when they didn’t charge us any rent.”
Meanwhile, the museum (owned by the Midwestern Rail Association Inc.) has revamped its website to make it easier for visitors to use. “If you can’t come to us, we can come to you,” Leathers said.
Volunteers are also planning ways to make the museum more engaging when it can finally reopen.
“We are developing an interpretive exhibit plan,” Leathers said. “We want the museum to be more than just a collection of nice railway-related things. We want to organize it so that it better tells the story of what the railway meant to Winnipeg.
“We have a good board that works with fundraising. It keeps us going.”
One unknown is what the city of Winnipeg might do with the future rapid transit route, which is slated to use the space occupied by the museum at the station.
“It’s unclear to us what that might mean,” Leathers said, noting the city still needs to do a feasibility study, and he doesn’t expect that to derail plans in the near term.
“There’s still a lot of work left to do on it,” he said. – I don’t know how long it might take.
The museum, which houses the Countess of Dufferin, the first locomotive in the province, along with other iconic railway-related items, opened in 1992. Before the COVID-19 pandemic visited approx. 10,000 people every year.
John Longhurst has written for Winnipeg’s faith sites since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the US, and blogs about media, marketing and communications at Making the News.
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