Kettle Valley Brakemen schedule station stop in Peachland

The Kettle Valley Brakemen have added a surprise ending to the show, which means they’ll be coming to Peachland with a new caboose as part of this year’s heritage concert circuit. “There’s a lot that’s new for 2018,” says frontman Jack Godwin. “We’re sharpening our show with seniors in mind, and they remember the steam train era so we’re tailoring our show more for them.” The safety of employees was a lower priority back in the steam train days, and brakemen – who had to manually adjust levers from atop moving trains – were faced with some of the biggest risks. “It was a tough job,” Godwin said. “The brakeman’s job would get them maimed; they were killed and lost fingers on the job far more readily than any other branch. It’s their stories we make our show out of.” Alcohol was a popular tonic for those taking on such a stressful job. But even though it was very common for brakemen to be equipped with a flask around their hip, the railway company tried to enforce a zero-tolerance policy against drinking on the job. However the loyalty among brakemen was strong. They took their swigs with discretion and turned a blind eye if they noticed a fellow brakeman doing the same. So the railway company tried to crack down further. “They made a rule that if you didn’t report your buddies for drinking you’d be fired too,” said Godwin. “But that ended up just making the brakemen less loyal to the company and more loyal to each other.” Back in those days, anybody who tried to cut their teeth in the entertainment industry was also facing steep risks. And the Kettle Valley Brakemen feel like they’re on a pretty similar track. “We’re in that old troubadour position,” he said. “The very first musicians who ever got paid were troubradour – but if they weren’t entertaining then they didn’t get to eat. So entertaining the audience is job number one.” One hundred years ago – whether you were a brakeman or a musician a century ago – there were numerous ways to get the blues from a bad day at work. And much of the Brakemen’s music was written about the sorrow from those long gone days. For example, one man who commuted to work everyday on the Kettle Valley Rail would be met everyday by his dog upon arriving home, as the dog became familiar with the the train schedule. But the man was drafted into the First World War, and although he would never return, his dog continued to show up at the train stop at the same time everyday. When the songs (and encore) have finished, the Brakemen stick around to keep the discussion going. The crew likes to answer questions and elaborate on the stories being told through their music. “Post-performance chats with audience members always include grateful folks saying how wonderful it was to have forgotten memories “recovered” as a result of one of our concerts.” The Brakemen’s 2018 show in Peachland takes place at the 50+ Activity Centre on March 11 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling 250-767-2647, and they’re selling briskly. They can also be purchased at Bliss Bakery, the Peachland Museum and Peachland Pharmacy.

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