A group of residents take in the memorabilia which was donated to the Centennial Station for a small museum which details the old train station’s past. Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News

Benalto’s train station sees new life as community hub

The Benalto Centennial Station held its grand opening on Sept. 28

The former Benalto train station has officially opened it doors as the Benalto Centennial Station.

The Benalto Centennial Station welcomed residents from the community and surrounding area to the grand opening Sept. 28 for a hot dog lunch and a tour of the new facility.

Six years of work on the old railroad station, and roughly half a million dollars has turned out what the committee behind the station hopes will become the hub of the community.

Dave More, a member of the Benalto Booster Club and chair of the grand opening committee, said the community has already been drawn to the new centre.

“We have already had some bookings, and we have one group that regularly holds meetings here,” More said.

The club planned to finish the work on the project in five years with a budget of about $500,000.

The timeline went a little longer than planned, and though final numbers are not official, came a little under budget.

“Because we had to fundraise and deal with grants there were stretches when we had to stop and wait because we didn’t have money at that time,” More said.

“In the end, I think we are all pretty pleased with what we have accomplished.”

The redone train station includes a new kitchen, a gathering space and a small museum full of memorabilia commemorating the history of Benalto and the train station.

The renovations also include a walk-out basement, which will be heavily used in the winter months as the Benalto Centennial Station backs onto the outdoor skating rink.

“The land we are on was donated to us, and we have always had the skating rink here. So, we knew right away that we wanted to place the station on the hill with a basement going out to the rink,” More said.

Skaters will be able to come in to warm-up, use the bathrooms or put on their skates through the basement doors.

There is still some work left to be done on the old station, and More says that means more fundraising is likely to come.

The next part of the work to come is the installation of a few solar panels.

“Keeping this place running will be expensive, so we are hoping the solar panels will help take some of that off our plates,” he said.

The train station began its life in 1928 before moving to become a summer home in the 1970s southwest of Red Deer.

Roughly a decade later it was moved again, this time to the Burnt Lake Industrial area where it stayed for roughly 30 years as a family home.

A community member in Benalto was contacted in the fall of 2012 asking if the Town would be interested in taking the station back.

“We got a call basically saying if we want it, its ours, we just hand to move it back to town… We ended up paying one dollar for it.”

The station was moved back to Benalto in April 2013.

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