From the time he unwrapped his first model set as a Christmas gift at age eight, to the day he died suddenly at age 51, Don Holzworth's life revolved around trains.
Riding the rails was his job, his hobby, his passion. His enthusiasm for everything to do with trains wore off on his co-workers at B.C. Rail, where he worked 27 years, and at the Prince Railway and Forestry Museum, where he was a tireless volunteer who earned a reputation for getting things done.
Saturday's dedication of the Don Holzworth Terrace at the museum was a fitting tribute to the work he put into preserving the region's railway past. With a collection of about 60 restored rail cars in the background in the museum yard where Holzworth served four years as park manager, a crowd of about 50 of his friends and family gathered on a warm sunny afternoon to hear stories of how he helped make the museum one of the city's most treasured tourist attractions.
Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond, a longtime family friend, joined Doris Holzworth, Don's mother, and his sister, Laura Fry, for the ribbon-cutting ceremony while museum volunteer Bob Jarbek sounded a train bell in honour of Holzworth.
Built through donations of material from Canfor, Carrier Lumber, Northern Hardware and labour from the city, Employment Action and Katimavik, the wooden terrace provides wheelchair access to the museum yard.
"I think Don would be very appreciative, he really poured his heart into this place," said Fry. "He'd be a little surprised because he never did anything for recognition.
"There's a Facebook saying -- the people who say it's not possible stay out of the way of the people who are doing -- and that sums up Don's approach."
Garry Grant, a founding member of the museum society when it formed in 1984, said Holzworth joined in 1986, when the museum was just getting established on the current site, a former city landfill. At that time, a single wooden snowplow engine donated by Northwood Pulp was the only railcar the museum owned. A couple years later, Holzworth had a hand in moving the Penny train station to the museum yard, a three-day operation on a truck that required building an ice bridge over the Fraser River.
"It's kind of neat that a whole raft of people including Don have come to together to make this worthwhile," said Grant. "Don is one fellow who stood out among the rest of us and his presence has always been there. He was very instrumental in ensuring we run our mini-rail [that carries people around the museum grounds] on a safe basis and there's instructions on how to run it, and how to maintain it and Don was instrumental in getting that done "
Holzworth loved kids and worked to get his steam ticket just so he could drive the Little Prince train at Fort George Park.
With Holzworth at the controls of a V-10 electric locomotive as engineer, he took a select group of invited friends for a memorable ride on the track to Tumbler Ridge, known for its steep grades, sharp corners and long non-ventilated tunnels that run underneath a lake. Grant was on board that day and remembers Holzworth stopping the engine to show everybody the pitch-blackness of the dripping wet tunnel, known as the "car wash."
Holzworth died Feb. 27, 2008 while in a strategic planning meeting of the museum society.
A plaque now on display at the museum reads:
"Don was part of everything that went on at the Railway Museum. He was the nuts and bolts. He was the idea man, the creative problem solver, the fire and the passion that stoked the museum. When you open the museum's back door you see Don's accomplishments."