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Rivers honours its railway history

Built along the CN main line, Rivers looks to honour its connection to the railway with the creation of a one-of-a-kind labyrinth in the shape of the front of a steam locomotive

A small Prairie town on a main rail line is defined by that presence.

The town of Rivers is a good example of this, just a few miles northwest of Brandon, according to local residents who have banded together to commemorate their history as a railway centre.

“We wouldn’t be here without the railway. Rivers was born because of the railway. We were the first repair depot west of Winnipeg,” said Donna Morken, local resident and chair of the Rivers Train Station Restoration Committee. “Today we remain main line CN, so we get 30 to 35 trains a day going through here.”

As well, the community is the only passenger train station stop between Portage la Prairie and the Saskatchewan community of Melville and between the U.S. border and Dauphin to the north.

That central place of rail travel in the community led the group to begin work around the turn of this century to restore the community’s 99-year-old train station and develop new initiatives to make it a sustainable part of the community in the future.

Caddie Noort-Cotton (l to r) and Annika Schmidt from Rivers Elementary School help to plant a few of the 235 little leaf lilacs.

Caddie Noort-Cotton (l to r) and Annika Schmidt from Rivers Elementary School help to plant a few of the 235 little leaf lilacs.
photo: Al Morken

“Our goal is to ensure the community and area have an opportunity to connect with the past, while creating a vision for the future. And, this is the first step toward building one of the sustainability projects not just for the station, but for the community as well,” Morken said.

The committee has come up with a unique idea for one of its sustainability projects that will draw attention to its railway ties, a labyrinth of shrubs, in the shape of the front of a steam locomotive.

On Sept. 23 more than 250 community members came out to take part in planting 235 little leaf lilacs on the community fairgrounds, which will make up the outline of the labyrinth.

Local resident, Aileen Sclater, who grew up beside the rails next to a country elevator just north of Rivers, created the design for the one-of-a-kind labyrinth.

“Aileen had this idea and design for the loco-labyrinth, back in 2006. So, we thank her for her idea as it has brought us to where we are today,” Morken said.

On Sept. 23, more than 250 Rivers community members came out to take part in planting 235 little leaf lilacs, which will make up the outline of the community’s railway-inspired labyrinth.

On Sept. 23, more than 250 Rivers community members came out to take part in planting 235 little leaf lilacs, which will make up the outline of the community’s railway-inspired labyrinth.
photo: Al Morken

Along with the labyrinth the community also has plans to develop a railway-themed RV park that will include 14 stations for RV parking to handle the overflow from Rivers Provincial Park.

The project was recently backed by CN through its Eco-connexions From the Ground Up Program.

The labyrinth and RV park project was one of four projects selected from 92 applications from across the country to receive a $25,000 grant.

“CN is committed to making a positive impact on the communities along our network, and we are proud to be part of a program that helps to make these communities better places to live, work and play,” said Claude Mongeau, president and chief executive officer of CN in a media release. “Since we started this program, more than 50,000 trees and shrubs have been planted in 120 communities across Canada, which not only add beauty, but is another way we positively contribute to a sustainable future one community at a time, as planting trees improves air quality and offsets carbon emissions.”

The Rivers Train Station Restoration Committee says it’s thrilled with the grant and for the recognition of its efforts by the rail giant.

“We were so happy to be selected for this grant because the others who were selected were much larger city centres. So, it is pretty huge that they saw value in this project in our town,” Morken said. “The grant funds are already spoken for, for the trees and the shrubs that we planted. We could not have done that without them.”

The committee continues to work at gathering funds for the completion of the project and aims to have the labyrinth and RV park open to the community by 2018.

About the author

Reporter

Jennifer Paige is a reporter centred in southwestern Manitoba. She previously wrote for the agriculture-based magazine publisher, Issues Ink and was the sole-reporter at the Minnedosa Tribune for two years prior to joining the Manitoba Co-operator.

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