BY ANDREJ FEHER
Visitors to the Halton County Radial Railway were treated to the opportunity to walk through a graveyard of ghouls, ghosts and rusting hulks on Oct. 21 and 28.
The Halloween Spooktacular, marketed as an all ages event, happens on the two Saturdays before Halloween every October. It is hosted by the Halton County Radial Railway, a fully operational transport museum situated on the outskirts of Milton. The museum owns more than 60 pieces of old transit equipment, including streetcars, subway cars, and old railway wagons, and the majority of their collection is in working order.
The cars that aren’t operational contributed to the creepy atmosphere. The main attraction was a haunted house and graveyard at the museum’s east end. After disembarking a streetcar from the west end, visitors walked through the graveyard before entering a haunted house that had been organized inside one of the museum’s storage barns.
The graveyard was organized by museum member Rick Wall, a task he has been doing for three years.
“I used to do this at home, and our neighbours used to do it, too,” he says, “When they all moved, they ended up giving me all their stuff. When I started here at the museum, I would bring my stuff up here, because I’d be here most of the time.”
Financial and material constraints mean that a lot of Wall’s decorations have to be put together from a variety of different objects.
“It’s all made from old Christmas lights and scrap material,” he says.
One example of this resourcefulness is an old owl that Wall equipped with illuminated eyes. The eyes were made out of a pair of marbles, and Christmas lights were placed inside.
When Wall started at the museum, he helped out with the haunted house preparations, but took charge of setting up the graveyard in 2014.
Because the yard is outdoors, there are a lot of time limitations, and Wall isn’t able to set up a lot of the electrical wiring too early. The equipment that requires indoor storage is kept inside Presidents Conference Committee Car (PCC) #4684, one of two cars situated at the museum’s east end that the museum acquired in 1982.
It is this car, along with sister car #4426, that contributed to the atmosphere on the night of the event. Visitors trudged through the graveyard among rusting streetcars, nightmarish creatures and fog machines, and then lined up for the walk through the haunted house.
Preparations for the haunted house started at the beginning of September, according to museum member Ryan Fenton, but they encountered delays so the project wasn’t done until just a few days before the event itself. Actors dressed up in Halloween costumes, colourful lighting, and fog all helped to create an immersive experience in the haunted house.
At the other end of the museum property, younger transport enthusiasts were entertained by a mad scientist putting on a show in one of the car barns.
According to the museum’s Twitter, the event was attended by 814 people on the first Saturday, and a little under 600 the following Saturday. The museum closed for the regular operational season on Oct. 29, but members of the public will have one last opportunity to ride the rails before the winter season sets in in earnest.
Christmas On The Rails will be taking place on Dec. 2 and 9 from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Visitors will be able to ride on the museum cars in the snowy countryside, and purchase various Christmas related food and drink.