All aboard? Not for a long time.
Tim Buzunis, owner/operator of the Assiniboine Park Miniature Steam Train, which is nearing its sixth decade of operation, is nearing its final stop.
He wants to sell it and its tracks and help run the locomotive that has been running for a long time in Winnipeg. But so far, he and real estate agent Gary Davlut have only had contact with interested buyers in the United States.
Buzunis, 62, has operated the coal-fired steam train since he took over from his father and bought out the family from an uncle in 1989. He has been around the train since his father took him across the border American in 1964, when he was four years old. .
Now he told the Free Hurryit will soon be time to retire and enjoy your summers.
“I’m getting older, I’ve done this all my life – I’ve never experienced going to the lake, I’ve missed a lot of family (events) and the time has come. It’s a lot of hard physical work, the train itself takes you about two hours to start every morning, I work in the heat,” he said.
“I want to start enjoying my life, I don’t know how much time I have left… It’s time for someone else to take over.”
There’s a catch: he has no family to take over the business, and so far the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, which controls the land under the train’s infrastructure, hasn’t shown any interest. .
“My first goal is to sell it and keep it in this park,” Buzunis said.
“This train only ran through this park, it’s never run anywhere else, and it means a lot to me and it means a lot to the legacy of my dad and my uncles… If that train leaves, I don’t see never another train come to Winnipeg.”
Davlut, a Winnipeg real estate agent, said he hadn’t had much luck getting hold of anyone at the reserve, to whom Buzunis is subletting the land.
However, conservation public relations and communications manager Laura Cabak said she was unaware of Buzunis’ intentions.
“While we knew the steam train owner would eventually want to retire, he has not shared a specific plan or timeline with us at this time. Because his plans were unknown, we did not seriously consider to resume steam train operation. . There are many variables to consider,” she said in an email Monday.
“We would be delighted if the owner would continue to operate the steam train on hire, as he does now, and carry on the tradition started by his family nearly 60 years ago.”
The miniature coal-powered locomotive is a piece of history, its driver said.
“Steam trains – if you know anything about the history of Canada and the United States, that’s really what opened up the West,” Buzunis said.
“There were only about 50 of these trains ever made by the manufacturer and out of the 50 only about 10 of them (use) coal… This is what they call a genuine steam train at the coal, because it’s like the real thing.”
He estimates that there are only about 30 still running.
However, there’s less interest in the train these days, and the park as a whole, Buzunis said. On the locomotive’s first and second days of operation in July 1964, 10,000 people paid to ride. It operated from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the season, for 25 cents each way. Now it’s $3.75, 12-6 p.m.
“Back then that park was everything – they called it City Park…When I was a working kid, even at this time of year that park would have been full of people, the walkway you would have walked Buzunis said.
“Families didn’t have much, there wasn’t much to do at home, so the park was like the place to go.”
He hopes fresh blood or the reserve might renew interest.
Davlut notes that the asking price is $649,000. A robbery, Buzunis said.
“To put this train here today, physically, to level the ground, to lay the tracks, to build the tunnel, the station, the storage shed, you’re looking at $1 million, $1.2 million. The train? I don’t know. You can’t buy this type of train today.
Buzunis plans to start operating the train for the year soon, weather permitting, and would stay to support a new owner for a season or two.
“I hope someone buys it,” he said.
Erik Pindera reports for the city bureau, with a particular focus on crime and justice.
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