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Man created beloved holiday wonderland

Loved celebrating faith, bringing joy

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Bill Taylor’s widow believes his meticulous work on the railway he created will continue.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Bill Taylor’s widow believes his meticulous work on the railway he created will continue. Photo Store

For many Winnipeggers, Christmas isn't complete unless it includes a mini-train ride through Bill Taylor's winter wonderland.

Taylor, the man behind the Assiniboine Valley Railway, died early Monday at 68.

His mission was simple -- to bring joy to visitors -- although the work to run the one-eighth-scale railway was extensive. However, Taylor said in a 2011 interview it was all worthwhile if it put smiles on the faces of his passengers.

"I like to share," he said in 2011. "We don't really own anything, we're just stewards of it while we're here. We share it and let the people enjoy it."

The railway featured more than two kilometres of track around his Charleswood property. Although there were rides at other times during the year, the Christmas journey was the highlight. It featured more than 102,000 miniature lights, which illuminate nativity scenes, angels, stars, snowmen, candy canes and even a bicycle rigged up on a tree.

Taylor's wife, Mary-Lou, said the railway was extremely important to her husband.

"That was one of the highlights of his life. That was what kept him going," she said.

She recalled how Bill would decorate the lights on the railway by hand for the Christmas season.

"He'd get these little bottles of paint and paint each light," she said.

The Christmas lights started going up about 22 years ago and quickly got the public's attention.

"One year he started decorating, and he started putting arches down the driveway, and people started driving down the driveway," she said.

Mary-Lou said Bill was a deeply religious and dependable man. The two would have been married for 39 years come September. Mary-Lou said religion was her most important criterion in finding a husband, and she found that in Bill.

"He was a person who didn't waver much from his opinions. You could rely on him," she said.

Carmelina Kjartanson worked with Taylor at the railway along with her husband. She said she will remember Taylor as an open-hearted man.

"(He was a) beautiful man. He was willing to help anybody that crossed his path," Kjartanson said.

A funeral is being planned for next week, Mary-Lou Taylor said..

Kjartanson said the other members of the railway will meet to determine the future of their organization. Kjartanson said she is not sure whether or how the railway will continue. She said she is hopeful it will keep going, but added it would probably not be on "the same scale that Bill Taylor had."

Though the dinner train, which happens in September every year, is cancelled and will probably not come back, the open houses at the railway will continue, Mary-Lou said. As for the winter, Mary-Lou said Christmas lights will be up, but not as many as before. She said her hope is her children and grandchildren keep the tradition going.

"The hope and the dream and the plan is to keep everything alive," she said.

oliver.sachgau@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 29, 2013 B4

History

Updated on Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 8:25 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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