The organization that runs the streetcars along Nelson’s waterfront needs an estimated $80,000 to repair a section of its track before May, or it will not be able to operate in the upcoming tourist season.
Jim Robertson of the Nelson Electric Tramway Society says there’s a problem in a short section of track on the east side of the Chahko Mika Mall parking lot. The tracks are gradually separating, moving wider apart, and this could cause derailments.
“This is a dangerous situation,” he says.
The ties (the wooden timbers to which the rails are attached) are buried under concrete at that point on the tracks. Robertson believes they are probably rotting.
“It’s almost impossible to tell until we actually excavate it and see what was happening. But what we’re hoping to do is replace all the ties in that one area,” says Robertson.
The $80,000 price tag is only an estimate. The group already has a quote from a construction company of $62,400, but that’s just to unearth the 15-metre length of track but not to repair it or do geotechnical testing.
The ties on the rail line were installed when the track was laid in 1992, Robertson says, but even at that time they were not new, having already been used and then donated by CP Rail.
The mall parking lot was once a sawmill waste dump, but not all the material was removed before it was paved over. Robertson thinks a geotechnical analysis of the ground would be in order because it could be unstable.
At the mall, the streetcar tracks run across land owned by RioCan, the mall’s owner, which has an easement agreement with the City of Nelson to allow the streetcar.
Robertson says the society has approached the mall’s manager, looking for permission to do the work, but this has so far not been granted. The manager of the mall did not immediately respond to the Nelson Star’s phone call or email.
The streetcar society, which is a non-profit charitable organization, is asking the public for donations and looking for grants, hoping they can get the repair work done before tourist season.
To donate, use the contact information at https://www.nelsonstreetcar.org/.
Beginning in 1899, streetcars were Nelson’s transit system, and in 1949 they were replaced with buses. In the following years many business and citizens in Nelson contributed to the restoration of the cars and the construction of the waterfront tracks, where heritage streetcars began running in 1992 during the tourist season.
The streetcar society is currently run entirely by volunteers, many of whom are getting on in years.
“The average age of our volunteers is 75-plus,” says Robertson. “We need fresh blood to take up the cause.”
New volunteers – whom Robertson emphasizes could be male or female – would be trained to drive the streetcar or do maintenance work, or both. Interested people are invited to contact the society.