About Us

  What We Did!

The Assiniboine Valley Railway, Inc. is a club of 1:8 scale rail enthusiasts.  The club was founded on his property in 1995 by Bill Taylor (died in 2013) with Peter Abel (died in 2006), Len La Rue, Mary-Lou Taylor (Bill’s wife) and Ken Simm (who moved on to other interests in the late 1990s).  It was located in Winnipeg immediately west of Assiniboine Park, at 3001 Roblin Blvd.  The driveway was clearly marked, on the North side of Roblin Blvd., as if it was a northern extension of Chalfont St. 

Most of the club activities took place outside the public eye.  Thousands and thousands of hours of fun and work have been had here laying track, shoveling gravel, building cars, maintaining locomotives, constructing buildings, chasing deer, sharing beers and eating hamburgers.  Several AVR members have visited & continue to visit many of the 1/8th scale clubs around North America, taking both private & club equipment.  We have developed many friends over the years, and look forward to renewing these friendships as we travel – the AVR is known far & wide!  We were always ready to welcome new friends who would like to do any or all of these things!

Our main public activity in the warmer weather was running our Summer Open House Weekends.  We gave rides to the public from 11 – 5 on Saturdays & 1 -5 on Sundays, on the 2nd full weekend of each month from June through October.  If there were enough riders, we ran bidirectionally, with co-ordinated meets at the passing sidings.  Engineers & the Station Master communicated via radios.  A ride consiseds of both loops and lasted ~10 minutes.  If possible, we tried to have one of the live steam locomotives fired up to pull one of the trains in the opposite direction to one of the diesels.  AVR members & riders all had a great time, and many people rioe more that once!

The club was known for several high profile public events.  For many years, the club put on a “Dinner Train Weekend” on the 3rd weekend in September, where diners enjoyed a meal while riding on the 1:8 scale train.  Inspired by Bill’s service in a Canadian Pacific Railway dining car as a young man, the AVR was one of the few scale railways to capture the importance of food in the rail experience, and we proudly resurrected this endeavour in 2015, with great success!  Unfortunately, we could not repeat in 2016, but  2017’s was a success.  We lost our tables in a fire the week of the 2018 Dinner Train Weekend, so it had to be cancelled.  We’ll tried again in 2019!  Here is a picture of the late Bill Taylor taking orders for a dinner train…

Probably the biggest claim to fame was the “Taylor Family Christmas Light Display”:  Bill Taylor had started doing a Christmas light display on his wooded property long before the AVR came into existence.   After we finished the 1st loop of the AVR, Bill started to expand the light display every year.  It was only natural for the club to think of running the trains in the glow of Bill’s expanding Christmas display with over 120,000 lights over the full 7 acres!  The Christmas Light Public Runs happened every evening over several weeks, and achieved wide-spread popularity, with as many as 17,000 passengers riding in the 2011-2012 season.  Overall, well over 200,000 rides were given by volunteer club members, brightening the holiday, generating donations for the Winnipeg Christmas Cheer Board, and allowing the club to grow.  Bill’s death in 2013 made for some big changes.  Because the AVR was located on Bill’s property, he was able to really live the railway – which was an instrumental part in him putting in many hours every day for several months going over & repairing all the lights and power distribution system!  For many reasons, the Family & the AVR have not been able to continue this work, but hope someday to give re-birth to this Winnipeg Christmas tradition.  In keeping with Bill’s wishes, it fell to the Taylor family, with AVR help, to see if a light display could be continued.  We faced some really large challenges, but we rebuilt some of the mini-light hoops, stars & candy canes with LED lights and were again running the Christmas Light Trains on the evenings of the 3 weekends around Christmas & New Years.  

In spite of Bill’s death, the AVR was “alive & well”!  We continued to work on maintenance of track & cars, built several new cars and were holding the Summer Open House/Rails as usual.  The Christmas Open House/Rails ran in the afternoons on the weekends around Christmas, then in the eves.  In recent years, we added a Hallowe’en Weekend, with evening rides and spooky decorations.  For further details on these & other events, go to the Events page.

We had continued Bill’s tradition of offering our facilities for Birthday Parties, Day Cares, Kindergartens, etc.  Included was the use of the picnic tables, the washroom in the station, and 2 rides each on the train.  These had to be booked ahead of time by contacting Len La Rue, the AVR President, but confirmation neeeds the availability of at least 2 AVR members for the chosen date & time.


The AVR is 1.6″ scale 7.5″ gauge and was located on a 7 acre site immediately west of Assiniboine Park. The railway started in 1995 and currently has about 20 members. A few of us spent most Saturday afternoons at the track. We currently have 3 “diesel” locomotives (2 F7s & a GP9), 1 electric box cab locomotive, one club live steamer, several live steamers owned by various members, and about 45 cars  – all in storage.

AVR Track Plan

We used aluminium rail on wood ties & ballast, on a gravel roadbed. Our ruling radius was 50’ & we had 6,400 feet of track on the ground. The main line was 3700’: the Old Loop & the New Loop, with a total of seven sidings & spurs, reversing loops, and a short turning wye.  We had a movable 12 foot lift for unloading/loading, and 3 elevated  steaming/repair bays.  The railway wound through an aspen and hardwood forest making for a very enjoyable ride. The main line allowed for bi-directional travel for a total run of 7400’ and a time of ~25 minutes, plus waits for opposing traffic. A CTC signal system (which also operated one of the switches) was in place on the Old Loop, and expansion was being planned.

We had a 24’ x 12.5’ CNR-style Station Bldg that served as a club room and  stored up to 12 pieces of equipment in an attached “Dog House”,  a 31’ x 10’  4-track Car Barn for additional rolling stock and miscellaneous storage, a 50′ long 2-track Car Storage Building, a 14′ x 10′ Maintenance Building, a 24′ x 30′ Engine House and Machine Shop & additional small storage buildings.

We welcomed new members who enjoyed the art of large scale live steam railroading.   As we look to the future rebuild, we will need many more (also younger!!) members and a serious infusion of cash!  Our motto was, and hopefully will continue to be:
                         Come ride “The Route Of The Hazel Nuts”. 

Please don’t “Leave a Reply”. Instead, go to Contact Info on the Main Menu, and phone or e-mail the President, Len La Rue.

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