In order to understand the history of Friends of the Battle River Railway, we need to share the history of our for-profit partners, the Battle River Railway NGC Inc. In 2009 CN informed the Battle River Railway Producer Car Group that CN would be decommissioning the sub rail line between Camrose and Alliance. The Producer Group would have to buy the Camrose to Alliance sub 43.03 if it wanted to continue rail service. Since 2003 the Battle River Railway Producer Car Group had been loading producer cars at the six sidings along the 60 milesof track between Alliance and Camrose and then CN was threatening abandonment. The 175 members of theProducer Car group met in April of 2009, and decided unanimously to purchasethe line from CN.
The groupformed a co-operative which they called the Battle River Railway NGC Inc. andraised 3.5 million dollars in share sales. They took ownership of the sub line in June 2010. The Battle River Railway Co-op (BRR) pulledtheir first 50 car train in December of 2010 and have been operating the shortline railway ever since. The BRR now owns two locomotives, has built a barn to house the engines and has provided professional development training for engimen, brakemen, as well astrain and grain managers all from the local catchment area in order to operate the train and grain business.
About two years after the establishment of BRR, a group of like-minded individuals from within the BRR catchment area got together to explore the possibility of establishing a passenger train for tourism purposes utilizing the BRR train engine. In 2012 they established a not-for-profit society called the Friends of the Battle River Railway Society (FBRR). They began spreading the word about this project and the communities along the shortline railway responded. A 1952 Pullman passenger car was located in Kamloops British Columbia, which was for sale. However, the group needed $60,000 to purchase the car. A social was held in Alliancewhich raised $35,000, then a Platinum Club was formed as a means to secure therest of the funds needed to purchase the Pullman car. People were invited to join the Platinum Club for $1000 with all the proceeds going to help purchase the car. A total of $85,000 was raised in this manner. Between the two fundraisers FBRR was able to purchase the car, move it from British Columbia to its new home in East Central Alberta. The additional funds raised at these two events were put into a holding fund. As a way to show their appreciation to their donors, FBRR hosted aweekend of free train rides and banquets in June 2013.
Since 2014 FBRR has been offering at least six themed excursions each year. We try to coordinate our train excursions to coincide with events that are taking place in the communities along the shortline rail. This has enabled us to bring new visitors to the area as well as the events hosted by the communities and service clubs along our line.
As we live in a climate with significant winter, we immediately installed heat in our passenger car which enabled us to offer excursions year-round. In 2017, we increased our excursions to ten to allow us to offer four special sesquicentennial runs to commemorate Canada’s 150th Birthday. We continue to offer up to 11 excursions each year.