After smoky skies caused a big drop in numbers in 2017, this year has been a record-setting one for Kamloops Heritage Railway.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic,” said Jordan Popadynetz, KHR’s manager of events and experiences.
“This year we’ve only lost two tours and we’re actually making them up at Christmas.”
Popadynetz said the summer numbers show a big spike in riders.
“We had about 170 passengers per train and our capacity is 220,” he said. “That’s really good.”
Taking smoky skies out of the equation, Popadynetz said a normal summer season would see an average of about 100 riders per tour.
“This year, we didn’t have a single train leave the station without 100 people on it,” he said. “We’re up quite significantly.”
The KHR’s summer season runs from July 1 to Sept. 14, operating tours three times each week. In that time, Popadynetz said, 4,170 passengers rode on 24 tours.
According to Popadynetz, this year’s spike is due to increased efforts in getting the word out about the 2141.
“This gem is right here in our own backyard and it’s kind of our little secret,” he said.
“Let’s get it out there. So we worked really closely with Tourism Kamloops, more than we had been. We are a premier attraction in the city and we have the only operating steam engine of its kind in the world.”
Popadynetz said KHR also turned to social media for targeted marketing.
“The majority [of riders] are still local — Kamloops and around B.C.,” he said. “We had a big increase in people from the Okanagan Valley, the Island and the Vancouver area.”
Among the 4,170 riders aboard KHR this summer, Popadynetz said, nearly a quarter came from abroad.
“We had about 970 ride with us from outside Canada,” he said.
“They heard about it through Tourism Kamloops and on the internet or in the hotels.”
Popadynetz said the plan is to keep growing.
“Next year, I know we’ll have the same — but, of course, we’d love to grow,” he said.
“The train holds 220 and I’d love to see it go out full. There’s been a substantial increase in revenues since 2017 and it looks extremely well for the future.”
Seasonal tours fill October and December
The summer season is in the rear-view, but the 2141 will be rolling well into December.
The KHR’s Trick or Treat Train will leave the station on Oct. 21 and Oct. 28, both times at 3 p.m. The event features a 90-minute train ride and treats, and each child will leave with a pumpkin.
The Oct. 21 event is sold out, but tickets remain for the Oct. 28 departure. The Trick or Treat Train is designed for families with children up to 10 years old.
The Ghost Train will return to the rails later this month, as well, with departures slated for Oct. 26, Oct. 27 and Oct. 29, each time at 7 p.m. The event is aimed at teenagers and adults.
The Spirit of Christmas includes two additional departures this year, making up for a pair of summer tours cancelled due to smoky skies.
There are nine tours in all: Dec. 8, Dec. 9, Dec. 14, Dec. 15, Dec. 16, Dec. 18, Dec. 19, Dec. 21 and Dec. 22. The departures on Dec. 9 and Dec. 16 are at 4 p.m. and all others are at 7 p.m.
Pricing for all events is as follows: $29 for adults, $26 for seniors and $17 for children, with family packs for two adults and two children available for $83.
Tickets for the October events are available now online at kamrail.com or at the KHR office, 3-510 Lorne St., 250-374-2141.
Tickets for the Spirit of Christmas tours are expected to go on sale soon.