The Kamloops Heritage Railway has received an $80,000 grant that will allow it to repurpose an old rail car into a classroom.
After the society decommissioned passenger car #406 due to prohibitively expensive repairs, it decided to instead repurpose the old CN rail car.
"I'm a history guy and it pains me to chop anything up, so we were really motivated to find another use for this car," society executive director Cory Clark said.
The car is currently a blank canvas, with work only recently beginning. But once completed, it will feature a full classroom and a HO-scale railway model of 1940s Kamloops, from the waterfront to Victoria Street.
Railcar classrooms operated from 1926 to 1967 in the Prairies and remote parts of Ontario, providing education opportunities for smaller communities without a school.
"It was such an innovative way to cover that part of your obligation as a governing body to educate the people," Clark said, noting the classroom cars would visit communities seven or eight times a year.
Clark said KHR has developed an entire curriculum in consultation with the Kamloops-Thompson school district and, while early plans are mostly based around field trips to the car, he said he wants the classroom on wheels to be accessible to anybody who wants to use it.
"We're a non-profit and we really want to give back to the community. And the only way we can do that is through the knowledge we possess," he said.
Clark said the society is keeping alive a very rare heritage, especially in Kamloops.
"We're in a really unique position to tell that history of Kamloops, and not just Kamloops, but B.C.," he said.
The car was relocated by crane to a static set of tracks in January, where it will stay, alongside an art gallery car and the society's "day in the life" car.
The grant money will go toward providing services required for learning in the car, such as Wi-Fi, a TV screen, a slide-down blackboard, air conditioning, heating and other building materials to "bring it back to life," Clark said.
The new grant money won't cover the cost of the HO scale model, so the society is still searching for further funding.
And the COVID-19 pandemic hasn't helped, either. The society cancelled its 2020 season as a result.
Clark said other projects, such as work on speeder cars, has been delayed.
"We've been using this time to solidify our foundation — structural things for the society," he said.
"But financially, there's no doubt about it. It's been a bit of a hit."