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Nelson tramway society unveils plan for museum
The Nelson Electric Tramway Society hopes developing a museum in its streetcar barn will help bring the society’s annual budget back into the black.
Society president Walt Laurie has been at the past two Nelson city council meetings looking for help with society’s cash flow problems.
He said flooding along the the lakeshore last spring and summer caused $15,000 in damages to the streetcar tracks and the storage barn, plus about $7,500 in lost revenue because the streetcar couldn’t operate for two months at the peak of tourism season.
Some 720 feet of rail lines had to be raised up from below the water table and 42 rail ties replaced due to water damage. Additionally, a wooden walkway in the car barn became unstable and had to be replaced.
Eventually the streetcar was able to resume its route along the waterfront, and bring in $26,000 in revenues, but it still finished 2012 with a $10,000 deficit.
The society also has a long term debt of $48,000 owing to the City for expenses related to the original construction of the streetcar barn in 1991.
At the January 21 Committee of the Whole meeting, Laurie suggested the City might want to relieve some of that outstanding debt.
He returned to the February 4 regular meeting with the museum proposal, as a way the society could generate additional revenue.
The museum would be housed inside the streetcar barn, situated between the Lakeside playing fields and tennis courts, and would feature photos, old schematics, maps and artifacts related to the history of streetcars in Nelson.
The society plans to apply for grants to cover the cost of operating the museum, Laurie told council.
Because the streetcar barn is on city property, council’s permission was required for the society to alter it. Councillors unanimously supported a motion to allow the tramway society to go ahead with its plan to build the museum, however there was no formal discussion around debt relief.
Councillor Donna Macdonald had her doubts about how much additional revenue the museum would generate.
“I don’t think it’s going to be enough to cover it,” she said, referring to the society’s recent operating deficit.
She suggested the council liaison for the tramway society, Councillor Robin Cherbo, work with the society on financial planning and consider bringing a motion to a further meeting in regards to relieving the society’s long term debt.
But Cherbo said 2012 was an anomaly and that generally the streetcar operates at profit, in part because all the drivers and maintenance workers are volunteers.
The streetcar runs April to October, offering 20 minute tours along the lakeshore for $2 to $3 per person.
The tramway society expects to replace another 120 rail ties this spring, at a cost of approximately $5,000, to maintain the safety of the streetcar route.