Bear Creek Park Train's Dave Penn passes away

A fixture for years as chief engineer of the Bear Creek Park Train, Dave Penn passed away on Sunday, June 17. - Leader file photo
A fixture for years as chief engineer of the Bear Creek Park Train, Dave Penn passed away on Sunday, June 17.
— image credit: Leader file photo

The staff at the popular Bear Creek Park Train will chug along heavy-hearted after the loss of their chief engineer Dave Penn.

A father of eight – and grandfather to 34 – Penn died from leukemia this past Father's Day (June17) at the age of 66.

"It was expected – he had been in hospice for three weeks," said Penn's wife Linda.

The accidental miniature train engineer fell into the amusement park business by chance in 1996. Dave had been involved in the "City of Lights" Christmas display at Softball City. He set up a similar festive scene at Bear Creek Park in 1995 for a British expat who had brought over a couple of mini locomotives to Surrey.

Less than a year later, that man went back to England, leaving Dave and Linda, who were now partners in the Bear Creek Park Train, with a $130,000 business loan.

"We of course had to work that [loan] off, to pay it back," said Linda. "Neither of us had any train experience. [Dave] was in real estate and I was a flight attendant."

But Dave embraced this new adventure, and retired from real estate early.

"He loved [the trains] because it gave him the creative outlet he wanted," said Linda. "He was such a fixture there and everybody knew him in the park."

There were 100,000 visitors to the Bear Creek Park Train in its inaugural year. Attendance continued to gain momentum in the year to follow.

Taking a ride on locomotives Eddy the Engine and Chough through the forested park at Christmas time and Halloween has been a long-standing tradition for many Surrey families. The latter holiday was Dave's favourite time of year.

"He thought it was fun to scare people," explained Linda. "We had a pact: I'd go to a scary movie with him if he went to a chick flick with me."

Dave's passing leaves a huge void in the labour-intensive Bear Creek Park Train operation. Linda has taken over the reins for now, but says the attraction is facing an uncertain future. Train and railway maintenance are chief among her concerns.

"We did ask the city if they would be interested in purchasing the train last year, but unfortunately they said they were not interested," said Linda.

The train's operating contract with Surrey is also up for renewal next year – a dilemma Linda struggles with.

"Like I said, I'm concerned about the maintenance aspect. If somebody was interested, I'd always be open to options. I would like to see [the train] continue – it brings so much joy to so many children. It's been quite the contribution to the community," said Linda.

In addition to lighting up the lives of young children at the train station, Dave was also a perennial volunteer in the community, lending his time to the Surrey Rehabilitation Society, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and as past president of the Surrey Board of Trade.

Funeral services will be held at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 10122 140 St. on Saturday, June 23rd at 4 p.m.



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