The current waiting place for Via rail passengers is a concrete platform near the tracks. Tourism Valemount is hoping to get the ball rolling on a heated, enclosed shelter. /LAURA KEIL

By Abigail Popple, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Tourism Valemount’s board of directors is asking for an enclosed train shelter to be installed near Main Street. Currently, passengers are meant to wait on a concrete platform near the tracks, with no roof or protection from the wind. After two passengers were found waiting for the train in -30° weather in February 2019, Council asked Via Rail to provide an enclosed shelter, but the shelter has not come to fruition.

At last week’s council meeting, Tourism Valemount Executive Director Marcie Down made a presentation on the need for a shelter near the railroad for Via Rail passengers. 

“Passengers are waiting out in the elements, unprotected, for the train. We would like to inquire into how we can assist in having a shelter installed at the Main Street location,” Down said.

Other small municipalities have successfully implemented Via rail stations, she added, citing McBride’s still-functioning station and a heated, enclosed glass shelter being built in Huntsville, Ontario. 

Drawing on statistics from Via Rail’s annual reports, Down noted that demand for rail travel through northern B.C. is growing. According to the company’s 2022 report, train services on the  Jasper-Prince Rupert line saw about 142 passengers per week – this rose to 232 per week in 2023. The company does not tabulate statistics for Valemount’s stop, though Down said she tried to obtain them.

“The Tourism Valemount board of directors would like to know how we can move this initiative forward, what steps we (and Council) can take together to have an end result of a well-lit, heated shelter put in place,” Down said.

Councillor Pete Pearson said this issue has been ongoing since Valemount’s previous shelter was relocated to Golden Years Lodge following vandalism.

“It would be nice to find a way for us to be able to support an initiative to try and get a shelter of some sort back,” he said.

Torgerson said that while Council does not make decisions during delegations, staff will exchange contact information for Village staff and CN Rail with Tourism Valemount, since the current concrete platform is on CN’s right-of-way.

Councillor Hollie Blanchette asked if Tourism Valemount has a vision for what the shelter would look like. Down said she’s following the construction of Huntsville’s shelter closely and may draw inspiration from it, though shelters tend to vary from community to community.

Councillor Hugo Mulyk also said the lack of an enclosed shelter has been an ongoing issue.

“Some Band-Aid plans have been tried over the years, and it hasn’t really worked all that well,” he said. “I think the timing is really good for this… I think there’s been interest in trying to do something that just kind of disappeared, but the timing right now seems to be good for it.”

A Valemount train shelter could serve as a model for communities of similar sizes, Mulyk added.

Councillor Pearson said the Village also needs to consider that Valemount doesn’t have taxi or transit services, so passengers who disembark at Valemount will need a way to get to one of Valemount’s hotels once they leave.

Councillor Donnie MacLean said passengers should have access to washrooms as well, since people often wait four to five hours for delayed trains.

“Ms. Down, thank you so much again,” Torgerson said at the end of the presentation. “We’ll commit to getting those contact pieces over to you to get the ball rolling.”