Once upon a time, a little boy grew up on a farm in the small hamlet of Mossleigh, just outside of Calgary, Alberta. His name was Jason Thornhill.
Now on this farm, there was a rail line, where trains would travel through to get to the grain elevators, where farmers delivered grain to be picked up and transported to various global markets.
As a young boy, Jason’s Dad would hoist him up on his shoulders every time the train would travel through the family farm. Jason would wave to the engineer and conductor as they waved back. Jason was especially excited when they would blow the train whistle for him; he never got tired of hearing the sounds of rumbling tracks under the weight of the train or when the whistle would blow.
Later when Jason was a young man, he went to University to study horticulture. Much to his surprise and delight, he discovered that the railways and horticulture played a very important role in helping to settle the prairies, right where he lived.
You see, back in the early 1900’s, Canada needed more people to help create our great country. So the government offered land to many immigrant settlers if they would work the land. So, many railway stations developed parks to showcase how fertile the land was and welcome settlers to the prairies.
With this in mind, Jason thought he could now combine his two favourite things! So he built a garden centre that was a replica of an early 1900’s train station.
However, soon after, the trains stopped running and grain elevators were phased out to become obsolete. This was very disturbing to Jason, as he realized that he no longer heard the sounds of the rumbling trains or the thrilling sound of a train whistle. He had no idea how much he would miss those sounds, until they was gone.
As his garden centre grew, his love of trains never diminished. One day an opportunity to buy a very special historic rail car came up. It was an 1887 Pullman rail car that once belonged to Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, used during his campaign days. Jason was able purchase this historic car and transform it into a dining car. Now when people came from all over Southern Alberta to buy plants, they could stay and have a distinctly different place to eat.
In the course of 10 years, Aspen Crossing grew to include 85 camp ground sites, along with caboose cabins fully converted, for people to vacation in. The Station also evolved into a unique gift store combined with two greenhouses.
Jason’s love of trains and bringing people together kept getting stronger. He knew that to have a train run through the southern prairies again, had to happen. He had to bring people back to the prairies to share the importance of our historical beginnings combined with agriculture, which still play an important role for all of us to this day.
When Jason learned that the 14 mile of rail line that ran through his property was scheduled to be ripped up for scrap metal, he set about an arduous task of trying to buy the rail line. His dream of having a train run through the tiny hamlet of Mossleigh once again started to become real. After 6 long years, Jason finally succeeded in securing the rail line needed. He knew where he could get some forgotten rail cars and bring them all together to bring new life to the forgotten and abandoned cars.
In spring of 2015, the dream was now a reality and the Aspen Crossing Railway began offering different themed train excursions for people to choose from. Many people that had been coming to Aspen Crossing over the years, were so proud to have watched the dream and vision now become a reality.
There was only one more thing that would really top off Jason’s dream. He wanted to be able to have a very special Christmas train, THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride!
So with dogged determination, this Christmas, Aspen Crossing became the second location in all of Canada to secure the rights through Warner Bros. and Rail Events Inc. to have the rights to offer this magical journey to the North Pole!
Now families could ride a train again through the prairies, while creating and sharing treasured memories. Many families have rekindled a long forgotten fondness of trains, while budding new train enthusiasts have discovered a love of trains that hopefully will connect them with our history and future of agriculture, but more importantly connecting with family and friends!
So, only if you truly BELIEVE, you will always hear the melodious sounds a tinkling bell, along with the sound of a train whistle once again!
From all of us here at Aspen Crossing, we wish everyone, a very Merry Christmas!