Exporail volunteers win national award

By Robert Robinson, Canadian Railway Historical Association

The Canadian Museums Association (CMA), in partnership with the Canadian Federation of Friends of Museums announced the recipients of the 2020 CMA Awards program. Exporail, the museum of the Canadian Railway Historical Association, received the Museum Volunteer Award. The award recognizes individuals or groups who generously volunteer their time and commitment to a museum or related heritage institution and have made a significant impact within the museum community.

Volunteers have formed an integral part of CRHA since its inception in 1932 and especially since the creation of Exporail in 1961. Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum, owned and operated by the CRHA, is the foremost railway Museum in Canada, with its collection of :
▪160 vehicles
▪10 000 artifacts
▪321 archival collections
▪10,000 documents

Today, the CRHA counts close to 900 members, eleven Divisions throughout Canada and more than 140 implicated volunteers. They contributed to every sphere of the Museum life.

▪Composing the board of directors
▪Seating on different committees -development, fund raising, annual award, collection, operation section heads, qualification and health and safety
▪Editing Canadian Rail Magazine, published 6 times a year
▪Supporting the set up of exhibitions, conducting research, translating documents and promoting Exporail outside its walls
▪Helping to classify and digitalize the archives
▪Contributing to Exporail’s general public activities : Exhibition Halls, on site, Café and gift shop
▪Acting as facilitators in the Model train room and aboard railway vehicles ▪Animating demonstrations of telegraphy

The 22,000 hours contributed annually by the volunteers, in effect, doubles the size of the permanent staff.

Thanks to the engagement of devoted volunteers that Exporail is able to offer the visitors the opportunity to live a real railway experience that stands out from seeing static historical vehicles and artifacts. The volunteers possess the railway skills and knowledge, who can make the site come alive.
▪Handling all the railway operations -streetcars, diesel locomotives, miniature railway and John Molson steam locomotive.
▪Repairing, maintaining and restoring vehicles, railway infrastructures and collection pieces.
▪Developing specific training programs, like the streetcar operation program.

Volunteers propose new ideas to expend the railway experience at Exporail and contribute to implementing it. In the past years they developed the following ones :
▪Diesel locomotive exhibition weekend, where they worked hard to restart out of service collection locomotives.
▪Christmas train, they contributed to make possible a train ride for children, especially when Santa boarded the train on route.
▪Motorman for a day, for the next season, they will develop this activity to offer the visitors the possibility to operate a streetcar.

Volunteers are living libraries and they offer their unique and useful knowledge to operate and document the past technology preserved within Exporail’s walls and also continue year after year to transfer the know-how to future generations of volunteers.