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HOMETOWN TOURIST: The Kettle Valley Steam Railway Christmas Express

December 21, 2015 - 9:00 PM

SUMMERLAND - For most of us, Summerland is little more than a few orchards along Highway 97, unremarkable except for the beauty it shares with the rest of the Okanagan.

If that’s all you know of it, you are missing out on something special.

Push your way through the residential areas into Prairie Valley and you’ll find yourself in a distinct scene in the Okanagan, an almost too-perfect scene of orchards, farmland and homes in a bowl under Giant’s Head Mountain. It’s pretty by car but in a Christmas train during winter, it looks like an elaborate Christmas village scene in HO scale.

If you haven’t taken the Kettle Valley Steam Railway train during December, that’s probably because it’s already an annual tradition for many families throughout the Okanagan and beyond. The trip around Prairie Valley is often booked solid long before the snow flies.

This year the society volunteers and staff that keep the 1912 steam locomotive alive and chugging added extra runs and was booked within hours.

To get your seat for next year, consider booking now. Volunteers say many people get off the train and book for next year. It’s a family-friendly excursion that appears most attractive to young families and seniors. It will be most fun if you can book seats in groups of four. Two adults and two kids will get on the train for well under $100 and while the ride itself is an hour and a half, you can book it as about a three-hour experience. Even the waiting is enjoyable as you become acquainted with the locomotive, get a good look at the train and hear that distinctive whistle.

The view from the Kettle Valley Steam Railway.
The view from the Kettle Valley Steam Railway.

If it’s scenery you are after, you’ll want to choose your seat carefully because both sides of the train are not equal, though the conductor will invite you to swap seats across the aisle. From the valley view side, the open expanse is occasionally met by closer views of farmland and homes where native Summerlanders appear to be standing by to offer a friendly wave.

But it’s not just the view. The volunteers and staff will offer their knowledge of local and rail history. A banjo player will get you singing your favourite Christmas tune and of course Santa and Mrs. Claus make an appearance for photos and to hand out little treats for the kids.

It’s all enough to perhaps make a return trip in summer for where they put on a Great Train Robbery where they tell us you’ll be treated to some of the best barbecue around.

The steam train seemed to be a bigger hit with young families and seniors.
The steam train seemed to be a bigger hit with young families and seniors.

The society volunteers and staff tried to re-create an old world feel authentic to the 1913 steam locomotive.
The society volunteers and staff tried to re-create an old world feel authentic to the 1913 steam locomotive.

The conductor checks and stamps tickets, just like the old days.
The conductor checks and stamps tickets, just like the old days.

Santa rings the bells as he engages with riders.
Santa rings the bells as he engages with riders.

Santa and Mrs. Claus pose for pictures.
Santa and Mrs. Claus pose for pictures.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Marshall Jones at mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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