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The anticipation could be felt throughout town and as the Tatamagouche Road Train was unveiled, it didn’t disappoint.

Dubbed the Foodland Express, the unique vehicle is a replica of a Canadian National Railway car from the 1950’s. It received a warm round of applause as it made its way into a parking lot beside the Tatamagouche Foodland on May 28. Residents, visitors and dignitaries gathered for an up close look at the road train – the first of its kind in Canada.

“It’s great to see how interested and excited people are about the road train,” said Darren Schriver, president of the Tatamagouche Road Train Society. “A lot of effort has gone into making this a reality so I’m pleased to see so many people turned out to be a part of its unveiling.”

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The road train is the brainchild of Tatamagouche residents Dave and Pam Gunn. A lifelong train enthusiast, Dave approached Schriver with the concept.

After hearing what the Gunn’s had to say, Schriver, who owns the Tatamagouche Foodland, said it was hard not to get behind the idea.

“They had already been working on this when we arrived in the community,” said Schriver.

“Fundraising had already begun and they were just shy of reaching their goal. This was definitely something they were passionate about and when you hear Dave talk about it, it’s tough not to get excited.”

The total cost of the project is around $100,000. The Municipality of Colchester committed $10,000 to the project while the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency kicked in approximately $47,000. Tatamagouche Foodland made the largest corporate donation at $10,000 while Scotiabank put forward $1,000. The Bavarian Society donated $4,000 to the project and the remainder was raised in the community.

For Gunn, it was a special moment. Much of the money raised was through barbecues in the village.

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“We raised more than $99,000 for this project over four years including $6,800 worth of hotdogs and hamburgers sold outside of Foodland every Saturday last summer,” said Gunn. “I thought the unveiling ceremony was perfect for our community. It was a fun time and very exciting for our community. There is great excitement about this train and I look forward to getting it on the road.”

The road train was expected to go into service on the day of its unveiling. However, because it’s so unique, Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal officials weren’t show how to license it. They requested a few minor alterations which includes the installation of seatbelts.

It’s now expected the train will officially hit the road later this month. When it does, Schriver says it will benefit visitors and residents alike.

“The fact this offered benefits to our residents was what really captured my attention,” said Schriver. “I’m all for bringing more people to the North Shore but it’s important to keep the people who live here in mind as well. Like any small community, we don’t have public transportation. It’s hard for some residents to get around. When we heard this would run different routes throughout the village and residents could take advantage of it, it just further sold us on the concept.”

The train will operate seven days a week. It will leave Tatamagouche Foodland at the top of each hour which will give people an idea on how to plan their outing. Before it goes into service, Gunn says they will run the train for a couple of days just to make sure the timing on each route will work.

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It will start at 8 a.m. and run until approximately 4  p.m. during the week and on weekends, Schriver says they’re not 100 per cent sure. With attractions like the Tatamagouche Farmers’ Market, he says it would be good if the train could transport people to and from the market when it’s open.

Of course, it will also be designed to show off some of the popular attractions.

“One of the goals is to highlight what our area has to offer,” Schriver said. “Right now, three different routes have been planned. Two will be focused on the village which includes our residential area while the third will be geared more toward tourists. At least twice a day we’re looking at traveling along the Trans Canada Trail which is the old rail line to Nelson Park. The idea is to go before lunch and then return in the early afternoon so tourists and residents alike can plan a picnic in the park.”

The potential to have a tour guide on the road train also exists. Schriver isn’t sure how that will look but admits both drivers – Mark Wasson and Gary Johnson – are excited and engaged.

“We’d love to see someone be able to explain some of our historical attractions,” he said.

“We’d like to have a tour guide as part of the presentation. In our first year, we just want to test and see how this is all going to work. But we have had some expressions of interest from local volunteers who would like to be tour guides. We’re not there yet but it’s a huge opportunity that would just add to the whole experience.”

The road train will operate on donations from its riders. Since it’s not like a transit system, organizers say it’s just too difficult to impose a pay structure similar to what is seen with busses.

A donation box will be mounted on the passenger portion of the train and it will be up to riders to determine how much they want to contribute. The hope is donations will be more than enough to keep the train on the road.

Built in China, the road train was shipped to Nova Scotia. It arrived May 2 in the port of Halifax. Once it cleared customs, Will-Kare Paving sent a truck to the shipyard free of charge and delivered it.

“It continues to put Tatamagouche on the cutting edge,” said Schriver. “We’re always looking at ways of improving things for residents and visitors alike. If you don’t take the time to put yourself on the map, people aren’t going to bother stopping.”

Just the facts

ROAD TRAIN
BUILT IN – Suzhou, China
TIME TO BUILD – 3 months
DELIVERY – Shanghai to Halifax via the Suez Canal
DELIVERY TIME – 1 month
COST – Approximately $100,000
LOOKS LIKE – Canadian National Railway car from the 1950’s

LOCOMOTIVE
ENGINE – Diesel
TOP SPEED – 25 km/h
WEIGHT – 2,360 kg

COACH
WEIGHT – 1,480 kg
LOAD CAPACITY – 2,100 kg
MAX PASSENGERS – 28