A train full of passengers during Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society’s Christmas event in 2016, in a photo posted to the organization’s Facebook page.

MINTY: Ride Surrey’s ‘Electric Express’ for a Christmas train trip back in time

In Newton, another ‘Artist Garage Sale’ is planned for a date in January

By Melanie Minty, arts columnist

This time of year we can be kept pretty busy as we prepare for the annual winter festivities. There are school concerts, Nutcracker ballet performances (many to choose from, for sure), putting up pretty lights to brighten the dull days, and perhaps some festive baking. Planning family events often means working around a schedule of some sort. But getting together as a group is important. Take the family on a train trip.

One such ride is Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society’s “Electric Express,” this Saturday and Sunday (Dec. 8-9). Travel back in time as you enjoy an electric-train experience starting from the Cloverdale station (at Highway 10 and 176A St., behind Clydesdale Inn). This historic rail car is all decked up for Christmas – as it might have been 100 years ago! Historic character actors will be aboard, traditional songs will be sung, and I understand there will be a visit to Father Christmas’ workshop.

FVHRS is a member of the Arts Council of Surrey, and recently hosted an art competition, called Paint the Train. So, we may not be getting a new rail line along King George Boulevard but we can experience the thrill of riding the rails. There will be six rides each day this weekend. Tickets are $20 for adults, seniors/students are $15, youth (age three to 10) are $10, and those under age three are free. You can purchase tickets online at fvhrs.org or phone 604 574-9056.

A bit of history here: BC Electric Rail (BCER) was incorporated on April 3, 1897, under English laws, with a head office at Threadneedle Street in London, England. This new rail system eventually connected Vancouver, New Westminster and the Fraser Valley as far as Chilliwack. The Fraser Valley line was completed in 1910, with passenger service inaugurated on Oct. 3, 1910.

There were up to four round-trip runs each day. Carrying not only passengers, the rail line also provided a fast method for moving freight, the mail and gossip. Settlements grew up along the line, including Whalley, Newton, Sullivan, Cloverdale, Langley, Abbotsford, Sumas, Yarrow and Chilliwack. The original Fraser Valley rail line still exists in the valley from New Westminster as far east as Chilliwack.

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You can learn more about the local history of electric rail by visiting the FVHRS website, or stopping by The Museum of Surrey. It was such an important part of our development. News (gossip) travelling the rails in the early 1900s was akin to our modern Facebook.

Besides shopping for presents, we are also looking to the end of the year, and ring in a new one. Well, it’s just another day and another page on our calendar. But traditionally we do make resolutions or plans for the new year ahead.

You might have a lot of creative or artistic supplies, or costumes that you need to clear out of closets (you know, to make room for all the new stuff). The Youth Arts Council of Surrey is having another Artist Garage Sale.

Last year’s inaugural event netted a tidy amount for the operation of YACOS events. These gatherings are amazing, and do connect to the youth of our community. You can participate two ways for this fundraiser: Donate gently used costumes, craft supplies, paints, pencils, art supplies, musical instruments, dance shoes, music books, art books, yarn, knitting needles, guitar strings – anything a creative person can use. Or, book a table and sell your own art or crafts. Tables are only $10.

The Artist Garage Sale is on Saturday, Jan. 12 from noon to 3 p.m., at Newton Cultural Centre. Admission is by donation, light refreshments will be served, door prizes to be won. Consider this a shout-out to Newton/Surrey businesses to donate a gift certificate, or something similar, to show support. To donate, or to learn more about the event, email youthartscouncil@gmail.com.

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ArtStarts from ArtStarts in Schools on Vimeo.

Donating to worthy causes does get a good bump on “Giving Tuesday,” an event that follows “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.” My extended family decided years ago to forego gifts for the adults. We gather together our Christmas gift fund, and select a charity. There are so many worthy charities, and we actually have a family dinner to discuss our selections. On the list this year is a program called ArtStarts In Schools (artstarts.com).

The charitable organization expands the role of art in education to activate learning and nurture creativity in British Columbia’s young people. Operating since 1996, ArtsStarts provides more than 640,000 arts “experiences” for students in grades K through 12. The key areas of activity are booking school performances, artist residencies, grants to schools, free family planning and professional learning opportunities for artists and teachers.

I believe in this organization’s mission: Invest in creativity. The arts must remain an integral part of the public education system, because it is a powerful tool. Go to the ArtStarts website. There is a big red donate button at the top of the home page. No gift wrap required.

Melanie Minty writes twice monthly for the Now-Leader. She can be reached at melminty@telus.net.

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