Ernie Beskowiney’s dream of building a model steam engine railroad in his rural backyard near Eckville keeps chugging right along.
Lacombe County’s municipal planning commission has conditionally approved a development permit to allow Beskowiney to go ahead with his plan to build a one-eighth scale model railway track, complete with a working steam-powered miniature locomotive.
Beskowiney has spent years making the engine, a replica of the 6060 series U1F Mountain Type 4-8-2 locomotive that is one of the engines used by Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions out of Stettler.
The plan is to lay out 1,500 metres of track and to give the public rides on the miniature train similar to those found in amusement parks. Two big fundraising events are planned each year to benefit Alberta’s two children’s hospitals. Outside those events, the site will be open to the public on a drop-in basis and for educational purposes.
Beskowiney estimates he is still at least two or three years away from having his miniature railway up and going.
“There’s a tremendous amount of work to be done,” he said. “I have no cars yet. I’m still working on the engines.”
Beskowiney has invested thousands of hours over the last five or six years painstakingly creating the components for his diesel-powered steam engines and assembling them into amazingly accurate replicas of their giant inspirations.
He already has the rails and the ties he will need. He will start working on the a layout for the tracks when the crop comes off this fall.
When fully developed, the site will be landscaped and feature model buildings. There will also be barns for the rolling stock, a station and a covered area for guests.
The province’s children’s hospitals have already expressed their enthusiasm for the idea of taking part in twice yearly two-day fundraising events.