April 23rd, 2021 by lenlarue Leave a reply »

April 23, 2021

The Assiniboine Valley Railway, Inc., 3001 Roblin Blvd, the 1/8th scale railway just west of Assiniboine Park, was saddened to report that the family of the AVR founder, the late Bill Taylor, gave notice on April 23, 2021 that the AVR had 6 months to vacate the property.  Due to COVID, and the donation of a warehouse for storage, which wasn’t finalized til fall, 2021, we were graciously given an extension into 2022 to finish our evacuation of the Taylor property.  We finally got everything moved and into storage by the fall of 2022.  

 We will need a new home, or else will have to dissolve the AVR and sell off our assets.  If we are to continue, we will need 6 -10 acres to rebuild on, with hydro, water & parking, close enough to the city that we & the public have easy access. We cannot see rebuilding without public monetary support, that is, riders (or a rich, philanthropic benefactor!).

All of us at the AVR miss Bill since his passing in 2013, and have been honoured to continue his dream hobby that has given pleasure to so many people. We want to thank the thousands of people – individuals, families & organizations, and the media, who have supported us and enjoyed riding on our Open House trains in the summer, on our Halloween & Christmas Weekend trains & sharing meals on the Dinner Train Weekends.

For more info about what the AVR has been (and, hopefully, could be again), check out EVENTS on the main menu.

Len La Rue, President, AVR
(204) 832-3448     olddoclen@gmail.com


Summer 2021 to Fall 2022:  All track not needed to move the rolling stock was removed to the Station area, where the track was dismantled.  Rails & ties were sorted & bundled.  Many ties were too far gone to reuse, so were piled up & eventually taken to the landfill.  After renting a tilting flatbed trailer, and emptying the Engine House locos into the AVR trailer, we moved the Engine House lift & the loco rack to the warehouse.  Then all the rolling stock was transported to the warehouse in our trailer. 

We moved all the tools, supplies, machinery, etc in Len’s van, and eventually rented another flatbed trailer to move the parking lot lift & the steaming bay tracks.  Jason used his truck, tilting flatbed trailer & skidsteer to move the big milling machine to the warehouse.  We moved all the salvageable Christmas light frames to the warehouse, using the AVR trailer.  

April 23, 2021: Over the last 2 Saturdays, Len, Richard & Gord moved all the Christmas lights out of the lean-to so we could rebuild the end wall & figure out how to redo the floor.  Len had had a new double-sided AVR sign made in aluminum and had framed it ready to install on the post on Roblin Blvd.  The sump pump in the Station washroom packed it in & was about to be replaced.  Now, with our eviction notice, we’ll be focused on working out how to put our assets into storage until we have plans to relocate.  Len will proceed to replace the sump pump, so we can use the sink & toilet over the next 6 months.  We’re all very disappointed… 

February 07, 2021:  Things have been very inactive at the AVR – the province is still in Code Red due to COVID!  Len got the 2nd Propane Car stripped and cleaned, then installed the new, Red River Co-op decals.  He also had small plaque-like decals made to honour the donation of the 1st car to the AVR by Caledon Propane, in memory of a long-time employee, and installed them on that car.   When it warms up, we’ll replace the missing safety placards on CALX 3108, and install safety placards on AVR 3107.  Here are the 2 Propane cars:  

Len has been working at home on a replacement sign for the end of the driveway at Roblin Blvd, as one has totally disintegrated, and the other is partly gone!  He had Justin at SignExpress make up 2 signs on 1/8″ thick aluminum, 18″ high x 24″ wide,  to be installed back to back.  He has designed & is building a 2″ x 3″ wood frame that will mount on the post at right-angles to the road, and should last many years…

We were again asked by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra to provide a package for their Silent Auction, usually held at their big spring fund-raising dinner & auction in Late February.  This year, due to COVID, the auction will be on-line, and the dinner will be specially catered for home delivery to those who order it.  Len re-did the poster & delivered two 10-ride passes, 2 AVR buttons, & 2 copies of the 2019 brochure (with the proviso that the weekends would be the same, but the dates would be different for 2021, and would only happen if we are open).

November 22, 2020:  Several weeks ago, we got the tar paper stapled onto the Christmas Light lean-to (Len’s “wacker-tacker), but it snowed, melted, then froze before the next Saturday.  We had to wait 2 weeks for warm weather to melt the ice on the roof.  Then, with our donated shingles, we installed a “patchwork quilt” of multi-colours!  We were a few shingles short, but Len’s son & his reno-buddy donated enough to finish the job!  Thanks to Richard, Gordon, Wayne, Wayne, Barry & Len (& his air nailers) for their input/work.  The air compressor we bought from Vic was definitely appreciated! 

Before the Code Red was instituted, and we had to shut down, a few more Christmas light frames were covered with LED lights by Barry, with help from Richard & Gordon.  

With the current “CODE RED” situation, we have shut down the AVR.  This means no get-togethers on Saturdays!!  However, individual members with keys can go alone if they have a project that needs attention.  So…  Len was at the AVR last Saturday.  The leaf blower started on the 1st try (a minor miracle!!), and did a great job of clearing the snow & leaves away from the turnouts around the station.  Then Len covered all the turnouts with their plywood protectors, and covered the switch stands with 5 gallon pails.  

We are indebted to Bill’s great nephew, Jeri Stern, who used his expertise to get the Google Maps app to show the correct way to get to both the AVR & 3001 Roblin – via Roblin, not Swann Dr. & a climb over the fence!!!  The lane off Roblin to the AVR & the house is now called “William Taylor Way”, which was key to correcting the directions to 3001 Roblin Ave.  He & Len spent a fair bit of time on the phone (COVID…).  He also helped Len finally figure out how to edit the “old web-site”, so the date-sensitive stuff is no longer there.  Thank you Jeri!!

Yesterday, Len stripped more of the vinyl Caledon labels off the 2nd propane car.  Barry showed up, and he & I had a nice chat while I worked – he sat at the far end of the Engine House (no yelling or singing occurred)!!  Next Saturday, Len will finish stripping the car, and hopefully clean it up well enough to install the Co-op decals. 

October 8, 2020:  Several members have continued to come out on Saturdays, usually from ~12:00 to ~3:30.  Some get some work done while others enjoy the comraderie… 
Several worn rails & a bunch of rotten ties have been replaced – thanks to Richard, Gordon, Barry, Len & Zach.  We had to cut some of our reserve long ties into normal track ties and prepare them for use.  Some of the pot holes on the driveway recurred, but after Len used the hoe to pull back the gravel that had squished out, the driveway is staying fairly smooth!  Box Cab #25 suddenly quit while “on the job”, and had to be pushed back to the Engine House.  It spent several weeks on the lift, after Len & Barrie were unable to figure out why there was no power to the motors.  Dwight, who knows the control circuitry, took the circuit board home and found a burned out diode.  By chance he had a replacement, so #25 is back at work.   The rotting roof on the lean-to that covers the Christmas lights was removed to the rafters, new treated 2 x 6’s were air-nailed to the old 2x 4’s, and 5 of the 4 x 8 sheets of painted 3/8 plywood that used to have Christmas symbols on them, we nailed to the rafters.  Thanks to Len, Richard, Gordon, Barry & Wayne Hillsden.   Tar paper & shingles are next.

August 6, 2020:  Much track work has been accomplished, as AVR members continue to show up for work & “chin-wagging”, all of course with physical distancing. 
Our air compressor had “died” over the winter, so we bought a replacement from one of our members – it’s an older unit, but was recently refurbished, and is the much more reliable oiled-piston, belt-driven type, so should last a long time. 
We had to spend another Saturday moving gravel to refill the potholes on the driveway, which had predictably recurred, as we are unable to get them as compacted as the rest of the driveway!  We’ll have to repeat this process every few months, unless the entire driveway can be resurfaced…
One of our current “big” projects is to re-roof the lean-to on the East side of the garage where we store the Christmas light displays.  The original roof has rotted, and we have been preparing the materials to rebuild it.
We finally received the decals from the Red River Co-op for the propane cars, so we could advertise for them as our propane dealer.  Len spent several hours removing the old decals from the 1st tanker, cleaning the entire car, then applying the new decals.  The Co-op people are pleased, and so are we.  Len will get the 2nd car done before we re-open to the public.


July, 2020:  Depending on the weather on Saturdays, we have continued to practice physical distancing for working on the AVR.  A number of members worked on 2 Saturdays  to move all of the ballast stones off of the ties, on the entire main line & all passing sidings – this is over 2/3’s of a mile!  (After spreading new ballast last summer/fall, the rocks weren’t swept clear of the ties, and then froze in place, making it difficult to clean the snow off of the tracks – the shovel kept getting hung up on frozen rocks!)   We then spent another Saturday of hard work topping up the driveway pot holes – lots of shoveling & wheelbarrowing.    Thanks to all!
A number of small jobs have also been completed, and much “chin-wagging” was enjoyed in the cool of the Engine House.

May, 2020:  After all the post-storm clean-up last fall, we had great weather for our Christmas Rides.  This resulted in a lot more riders than the previous few years, and created a most welcome influx of donations to offset our ongoing essential costs of Hydro, Insurance, and maintenance.  Thanks to the AVR members who helped out, and to you, the public, for supporting us.
A few of us continued to show up at the AVR on most Saturday afternoons to do some work & share stories.  We expanded the lighting around the station, and over the early winter, have created 20 more hoops and a few more stars, etc.  We’re updating the charging systems for our “diesels”, and designing/building new power units for them (the original motors and custom gear boxes are no longer available, and are occasionally failing, so we are down to the last few replacements).  The new motors are more efficient & easily available, and the gears & gear boxes will be easier to maintain/repair, using commercially available gears.
Now  the COVID-19 situation!!  We shut down all activity for several weeks, and have just carefully done some heavy outside work with invited members and physical distancing (filling all the pot holes on the long driveway).  We’ll adjust our activity as recommended by the health people, and hope to be open to the public again sometime this season…

November, 2019:  It’s been an eventful fall!!   An insurance glitch meant we had to cancel the September Open House Weekend, but we managed to fix the problem quickly and had a successful Dinner Train Weekend.  Then the  huge ‘rain/wind/wet snow’ storm did a lot of damage to the trees on the Taylor property, and that was on the weekend of our October Open House, so we obviously had to cancel it!  It took several weeks to clear all the fallen trees and broken branches that blocked the tracks, so we had to cancel the Hallowe’en Rides Weekend, too!   If no further disasters hit the AVR, we are planning our usual Christmas Weekend afternoon rides, and have put up more LED lights, moving out a bit from the station.
Over last Christmas, we had locomotive problems and, one by one, had to pull all three of the “diesels” out of service.  We barely made it to the last day, using our small electric Box Cab to pull the last few trains!  Over the winter, we solved all their problems, and the “diesels” ran well over the summer.
Lots of track work was accomplished – mostly spreading ballast rock along the outside of the rails to stabilize the track, but many kinks & cross elevations were fixed, and many aging ties were replaced.
Several members are working on designing improved motive power for the “diesels”, using modern,  more efficient motors.  We have the motors, and the guys are designing the gear boxes.
This fall, we have been stripping the old mini lights from some of the simpler frames, then re-lighting them with LED lights.  We are slowly spreading out from the Station area for the Christmas rides.  We also added an extra hour to get us unto twilight, so the lights can be better appreciated.  We’d really appreciate donations of working LED light strings & all types of extension cords.

February, 2019:  The AGM of the AVR was held at the station on February 23.  All members should receive copies of the 2019 AGM Minutes & the 2019 President’s Report (for 2018).  This website now has the dates & times for all 2019 events.  Please note the time & price changes!
Work continues on our “diesels” to get them in running condition by spring.  Trusty Box Cab #25 took out the last few trains of the Christmas Runs.

December 31, 2018I’ve decided to update our activity from the top of this column, instead of  trying to integrate info into the narrative body below.

Over the fall, we continued with track maintenance – Richard, Gordon, Zach, Ben, Barry &  Dwight.  Len & Wayne finished reassembling the smokebox contents on Wayne’s steamer.  Len & Vic were at the AVR most Wednesday & Saturday afternoons.  Others who helped on various projects included Barry, Ed, Wayne Hillsden & Wayne Hamel.  The frames for the Dinner Train Tables are all straightened & re-welded where needed.  We’ll create new tops in the spring.  During our Christmas runs, Vic, Len, Dwight & Barry replaced a motor on 3001.  202 has sheared a pinion gear, so is on the lift to get that drive axle repaired.  Now it seems we may have to replace a battery charger on 3001.  Luckily, 6109 is doing a great job hauling our Christmas passengers!!   We’ve had great turn-outs, and hope for lots of riders for the last weekend, January 5 & 6.

Older Stuff: With the burning of the Christmas Light storage building on the night of September 10/11, Len & Richard, with some help from Vic, pulled up the long spur at Paterson on September 12.  This was done to allow access of the heavy equipment that will be needed to clear up the rubble.  We had moved the location of the ballast pile earlier this year to a more secure location along the driveway (last spring someone had stolen the remainder of the ballast pile that was along the Paterson spur!!), so we no longer need that long spur!  We will dismantle the track for re-use, as the rails are in almost new condition.

Last year, Len & Vic had replaced the failed front truck front motor/gear box assembly on 202.   This summer, 2 of the drive assemblies on 202 failed!  Len & Vic trouble-shot & replaced 2 of the drive units: one had a burned out armature winding, the other had a sheered pinion gear.  Len & Dwight replaced several of the brake hanger attachments that had failed, and the brakes were all adjusted again.  Len & Vic put all 3 diesels on the hoist (sequentially, not simultaneously!), and checked out the trucks, topping up the gear boxes with gear oil & adjusting the brakes.

In mid-summer, Len & Vic did a full inspection/lubrication/adjustment of all the riding cars on the 2 trains we use for the Open House rides, documenting the process in the record books.

Last year, we had finally run out of propane in the propane cars, but Vic was not able to get Superior Propane (who had bought Caledon Propane) to refill them!  He has finally negotiated a deal with Federated Co-op to supply our propane at a reduced cost, & they will be providing new logos to go on the cars.  Len has been firing up 2365 for several of the Open House Weekends.

Several dead trees fell down this spring & summer, so Wayne had to put his trusty chain saw to work again.  Thanks to Vic, Zach & Ben who helped Len & Wayne with the clear-up jobs.

Vic & Len had been working to sort out the problem of steam oil not getting to the left cylinder on 2365 – the cylinder had seized up with rust several times. We re-plumbed the feeds, now going to each cylinder separately, instead of into the common steam pipe.  This seems to work well, and Len has steamed up 2365 at several Open House Weekends this summer.  The cylinder drain cocks have been a perennial problem, so we tried out thicker Teflon in the cylinder drain cocks, as the original ones were too thin & suffered early failures.  This seems to have solved that problem!

Len & Vic are still working on designing & building the Tank Car kit, started several years ago by Frank.  (This project has been on hold while the cabooses were built & 2365 was worked on…)

Barry & Ed show up for moral support.  Richard & Gordon are also fairly regular on Saturdays, with Richard doing a yeoman’s job on re-ballasting last summer/fall & replacing rotten ties, with help from Gord, Zach & Ben, usually using the Box Cab 25.  Richard & Gord have also done a fair bit of track leveling & un-kinking.  Dwight continues to trouble-shoot turnout & signalling issues.  Due to health problems, Gil has unfortunately had to “retire” from the AVR – much to his, & our, regret!  He still visits occasionally…

The 2 cabooses (cabeese?) were finally completed in the early winter of 2017 and have run proudly at the end of each passenger train these past 2 summers!  Now our trains look like they did in the days of steam & early diesel – Bill would be very pleased!  Gil did most of the wood work in his workshop, and Ed scored all the board lines to simulate siding.  Gil & Ed did most of the main assembly & Vic helped out with various parts of the project.  All the details have been added/fabricated/painted – Len fabricated the hand rails (mostly from coat hanger wire), all end details including the ladders, 8 stair sets, and the undercarriage details – lots of silver soldering!  Castings were used for window frames, brake control components & hand rail attachment details.  We chose different colour schemes to make each caboose unique visually.

This year the AGM was held on Saturday, February 10, from 1:00 to ~2:15 in the AVR Station.  All paid-up Members were welcome, and some paid at the meeting!  Copies of the minutes are e-mailed to AVR members.

The club no longer maintains a Station phone number, but e-mail, cell phone, and postal contact information is kept  up-to-date on the Contact page.  So, if you try and ring the old number and find it disconnected, it doesn’t mean we’ve gone away – come out and see for yourself on a Members’ Work Day or Public Open House/Rails.

Interested in becoming an AVR Member?

We have application forms in the Station Building. Please contact one of the members or Executive, best done at the AVR, and we will explain the categories, etc.  Annual Individual Associate Memberships are $20, Annual Family Memberships are $30.

Please do NOT add to this Blog or “Leave a Reply”: If you wish to communicate with the AVR, please go to the Contact Info on the main menu and phone or e-mail the President, Len La Rue. Thanks.


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