MORRISBURG – It’s official: the St. Lawrence Parks Commission (SLPC) intends to rid itself of the deteriorating locomotive and cars parked as a static display accompanying the old Aultsville station located at the entrance to Crysler Park Marina, west of Upper Canada Village.
Confirmed by the SLPC in a press release today, the news is not a surprise as the entity’s board of commissioners was known to be pondering the newest consultant’s report laden with a hefty repair estimate. Today’s projected cost of fixing up the train display, at $1.1-million, is not far off a similar estimate 20 years ago, when the provincial agency last aimed to divest itself of the old train — only to be stopped by a public outcry and a campaign that saved the display.
Acknowledging the work undertaken in the 1990s “slowed the deterioration but did not address the underlying structural issues,” the SLPC board pledges to “make every effort to keep the train in Eastern Ontario as a regional asset.” The board also concedes “mixed emotions” in arriving at the decision to divest itself of the train and attached cars — a decision also taken after consultation, it says, with the Municipality of South Dundas. The combined unit includes a steam locomotive, baggage/refrigeration car and passenger car.
“While the SLPC would like to see the train remain in this location, unfortunately, the costs for restoration are simply beyond what can be reasonably invested in this asset,” says Bob Runciman, former Senator and former longtime Tory MPP for Leeds-Grenville, who was named chair of the SLPC earlier this year. “The SLPC has significant aging infrastructure that urgently needs repair and we must allocate the capital budget towards the highest risk infrastructure needs such as aging septic systems and washrooms.”
For its part, the local municipality has opted not to get involved, citing its responsibility to local taxpayers while urging the SLPC to leave the train where it is.
Since its relocation to the site in the late 1950s, the train has fared badly from the passage of time and constant exposure to the elements for decades, according to the SLPC.
“While the train provides a representation of transportation in the region during the late 1950s, it is not of the same style as the historic ‘Moccasin’ train that operated in Eastern Ontario,” the SLPC also pointedly notes.
However, the agency concedes the train track and station at the site are both authentic and will remain where they are: The track was used for rail travel prior to the flooding in the late 1950s for the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project, while the relocated station is the genuine article from the “lost village” of Aultsville, constructed by the Grand Trunk Railway Company in 1889.
The SLPC says it will move forward with a Request for Expression of Interest (closing 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 30) with information to be posted at www.UpperCanadaVillage.com/train. Interested parties seeking more information or wanting a site visit are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org or to contact customer service at 800-437-2233 or 613-543-4328.
Intriguingly, the late 1990s effort to “Save the Train” kicked off a tradition of festooning the old locomotive and cars with Christmas lights during the Holiday season. It wasn’t long after this seasonal illumination at the train that the SLPC began lighting up the whole of Upper Canada Village for Christmas — the highly successful and award-winning ‘Alight at Night,’ which, in turn, sparked the hyper popular Pumpkinferno event at Hallowe’en. Perhaps it was coincidence, or perhaps the Village’s current innovative successes are historically hitched — even just a little bit — to what happened first at the train site all those years ago.