The Heritage Rail Players were out in full garb June 27 at the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway.
The Rail Players, led by organizer Stephen Plant, dressed up to promote both the acting troupe and the railway.
Plant is also the director of guest experience for the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society (FVHRS), the volunteer organization that runs the rail station.
“We started this group when we realized we were in the entertainment business,” said Plant. “So today, we’re just doing some promotional photos in the hopes we’ll be running at some point this year.”
Michael Gibbs, the director of communications for the FVHRS, said the society is currently polling all of its members to see who is willing to volunteer during the summer.
“If we don’t go ahead with a season this year, a summer season, then I think we’ll be open for a Christmas train,” he added. “Then maybe we’ll do something small for Easter. It’ll depend on what happens with the virus.”
John Sprung, chairman of the board for FVHRS, said the society’s poll will conclude next week, and he should know by Wednesday if the railway will open.
“We will make a decision next week as it will depend on what kind of information we get back from our volunteers.”
“If we don’t have enough volunteers, we can’t run the railway,” added Gibbs.
As for the Heritage Rail Players, Plant said once everything gets back to normal, the players will be back at the station.
He explained that along with the experience of riding the historic electric rail cars, people also want to learn some of the history when they visit.
“We also need to have entertainment for the kids. They are half of our customer base.”
Plant said several years ago the City of Surrey sponsored a group of players called the Re-enactors.
“They would come, usually twice during the season, and would spend several hours putting on set skits,” Plant noted. “These skits took us back in time to when the original BCER (B.C. Electric Railway) ran. These people were very entertaining and certainly enhanced our railway experience.”
Plant said eventually the Re-enactors became too busy to come down to the rail station. It was then Gibbs suggested the society form their own group of period actors.
So the Heritage Rail Players were born in 2019, with Plant acting in the lead role. Now the rail troupe volunteers at the station, but also attends events around town, promoting not only the railway, but also Surrey heritage.
Plant said outside of performing at the station in Cloverdale, the rail troupe has participated in about five or six other events.
“(In 2019) we did some special events and dressed up for each engagement,” said Plant. “We seemed to be very effective and we certainly had a lot of fun. Generally the players dress up in period costumes to celebrate some form of the rich BCER heritage. For each event we attempted to come up with a theme, then we dressed and acted accordingly.”
Plant added the troupe usually participates in several in-house (at the railway station) events each year. He said they also have great opportunities to reach out to the community through the Museum of Surrey, Cloverdale Market Days, and other possible events and venues.
“Our purpose is to entertain the public while promoting the rich heritage of the former BCER and now Surrey Heritage Rail,” explained Plant.
“We might (take) certain days during our season to set a theme and dress accordingly. Maybe act out some skits.”