‘Sleeper’ village grand opening set

Innisfail Historical Village has been a bit of sleeper among Central Alberta attractions.

Dean and Wendy Jorden stand at the railing of the old Bowden Railway station at innisfail Heritage Village.

Dean and Wendy Jorden stand at the railing of the old Bowden Railway station at innisfail Heritage Village.

Innisfail Historical Village has been a bit of sleeper among Central Alberta attractions.

Curator Dean Jorden and other members of the Innisfail and District Historical Society plan to use their 40th anniversary celebrations to change that.

To draw more people to the society’s impressive collection of historic buildings, vehicles, equipment and other artifacts in the middle of Innisfail, a project to restore the 1904 Bowden CPR rail station has recently been unveiled.

The grand opening is set for May 22 with a vintage auto show and pancake breakfast at the 42nd Street and 52nd Avenue site.

A general store with many artifacts from the town’s first store owner George Washington West has been built in the station along with new exhibits emphasizing the area’s rail history.

Within a display case designed to look like an old-fashioned rail passenger car, volunteer and train enthusiast Rob Van der Velden has painstakingly crafted a pair of N-gauge model railway displays featuring dozens of scratch-built buildings.

They depict Innisfail in 1910 and in the 1960s, when an impressive line of grain elevators stood sentinel. A similar display for 1892 will be ready for next year.

Jorden said they have spent the past 18 months working on the project, which replaces a general exhibit of farm and household items.

Besides the child-pleasing railway displays, a pair of morse code stations have been set up to let visitors try their hands at dot-dash communicating.

A display case also features a range of CPR memorabilia, a collecting feat in itself.

“I didn’t realize how hard it was to this CPR stuff. It’s really collectible,” said Jorden.

The station master’s office and home were also given a facelift as part of the project.

Floors were refinished, walls repainted and period furniture added.

The $25,000 project was funded by local service clubs, community organizations, Museums Alberta and Red Deer and District Community Foundation and private donors.

Bowden Institution prisoners also contributed some of the labour through the Work Release Program.

In one station room sits an eerie display of life’s “what ifs.” A pair of suitcases owned by Innisfail farmer David Marshall are on display that had once been destined to join their owner on the Titanic.

Marshall had gone to England to marry his fianceé and had booked his return on the doomed ocean liner.

But a brother wanted him home sooner to help with spring planting so he cancelled his tickets and booked an earlier ship. He, his new bride and his suitcases missed their brush with fate.

The museum features 17 buildings displayed on two acres of land.

These are furnished to interpret the history of the area up to the 1930s and includes an original log stopping house built by settlers in 1884.

Similar structures were once posted every 20 miles (32 km) to give travellers respite.

There is also a large display of farm machinery and a day-use picnic area.

Throughout the summer there will be a number of events and celebrations including a Canada Day bash. A Bourbon Street Variety Show and Carnival is set for Aug. 14.

The season opens May 15. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays and holidays.

For information go to www.innisfailhistory.com

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com