By Miriam Ostermann, Associate Editor
For the month of October, Aspen Crossing’s themed train excursion wasn’t for the faint of heart. Attendance nearly doubled from last year’s initial grand opening of the Train of Terror that saluted All Hallows Eve with animatronics, special effect makeup artists and a couple of moving end-of-the line railway cars.
An estimated 1,500 thrill seekers dared to enter a haunted maze before embarking on a staged interactive haunted train ride experience this year.
Aspen Crossing, located in the hamlet of Mossleigh, is known for its 11 different themed train excursions ranging from Wine and Cheese to the Circus Train to The Polar Express Train Ride. Now in its third year, Aspen Crossing Railway celebrated the second launch of operation of Canada’s first Halloween Haunt on rails.
“We love what we do,” said Rochelle Watt, marketing manager for Aspen Crossing.
“It’s not just the standard, it goes beyond that. We have a little bit of fun with it. There’s a variety of characters … and we have a makeup artist who’s from a movie set design who comes out and makes up the staff so wounds look very realistic.”
The idea came to fruition after owner Jason Thornhill took part in several Halloween Haunts in the United States, and soon became the brainchild of Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) student Jay Pocza, who managed to merge his love for mechanical engineering with electrical engineering. Pocza, who is an electrical engineering technology graduate and in his second year of mechanical engineering technology, combined design, hydraulics, pneumatic props, wiring relays and sensors to get the hearts pounding.
According to Watt, creating an experience different from last year was paramount – a detail Leduc resident Janelle Strandberg noticed quickly last weekend. Having participated previously, Strandberg and her group of friends experienced more scare tactics and were grabbed by actors rather than just having their feet and hair touched. The experience featured low visibility, intense audio and lighting, damp and wet conditions, tight spaces, close contact with actors and props, and graphic scenes.
“It had some of the same ideas but they moved them around so you didn’t expect the same thing coming up,” she said.
“It’s just a different experience. Everyone has haunted houses but with this you have the train ride too. You get to relax at the beginning, then you do the haunted part, and then there are drinks and snacks at the end. So it’s not just haunted house and done.”
Nearly 25 individuals helped with the success of the production: some took on the part of a clown with an axe, a butcher and a zombie – to name a few.
Last year, the Train of Terror attracted nearly 900 individuals. While the attendance is appreciated by the growing tourist attraction, the business is delighted in the interest expressed to surrounding areas.
“We’re very blessed that Alberta has such diverse offerings,” added Watt. “It’s another way to showcase another aspect of Alberta that people might not otherwise be made aware of. They’ve come out and it’s a whole different genre of people. A lot of them are excited to come back in the summer … or even come back to The Polar Express.”
Strandberg didn’t skip a beat when asked whether she would come back next year. Her answer was an assured yes.
The Train of Terror ran every weekend from Oct. 8 until this year’s final run on Oct. 31.