Edmonton

Fort Edmonton Park locomotive destined to run again

The iconic locomotive at Fort Edmonton Park is getting a new home and along with it, a new lease on life.

Council approves $6.3 million for a new shed and ongoing train maintenance

The city asked for the $6.3 million now so it can get the steam train running for Fort Edmonton Park's grand reopening in 2021. (City of Edmonton)

The iconic steam locomotive at Fort Edmonton Park is getting a new home and a new lease on life.

City council agreed on Tuesday to invest more than $6.3 million for a new shed to shelter the train, and for maintenance costs to keep it working.

The locomotive has been parked since an inspection in 2017 found the current 40-year-old barn where it is kept isn't safe.

Councillors grappled with the cost but heard from city staff that if the train doesn't get a new shed, it won't run again.

Coun. Michael Walters was among nine councillors who supported the funding request. 
Coun. Michael Walters believes the train at Fort Edmonton Park is worth the money. (CBC)

"People love Fort Edmonton and they love the train," he said. "This is an asset worth looking after."

Mayor Don Iveson voted in favour, noting that 20 per cent of the $6.3 million would be spent to remove the existing structure.

"I get the sticker shock," Iveson said about the cost. "If we're getting out of the train business, we've got to pay that anyway.

"I don't think we should get out of the train business. My kids don't think we should get out of the train business. Everybody I've talked to says the train is an integral part of the park experience."

Councillors and city staff noted that if the train doesn't run, tourism at the park will undoubtedly drop.

City manager Linda Cochrane said the historic steam train is a big draw to the park, which is one of the city's biggest tourism facilities.

"We know from previous surveys that the train is one of — if not the most — popular feature of the park," she said.

The investment extends the life of the new shed and the train for about 25 years.

Iveson calculated that it breaks down to about $250,000 a year. 
Mayor Don Iveson says the train is part of the Fort Edmonton Park experience. (CBC)

"I think it's worth it to the business model of the park, versus putting the train up on Kijiji and saying, 'Who wants this thing?' "

Councillors Mike Nickel, Tony Caterina, Moe Banga and Jon Dziadyk voted against the funding.

The funding request came ahead of an upcoming four-year budget discussion, something Dziadyk didn't agree with.

"We could still debate this when we're dealing the rest of the budget," Dziadyk said. "I really need to see how the numbers are going to pan out over all our competing priorities."

The apparent urgency for the $6.3 million didn't go over well with most councillors.

Coun. Bev Esslinger supported the funding but was dismayed it came up without much notice.

"I'm hoping in the future we have less surprises," she told city administration. "As we do our asset management well, I'm hoping we don't have these at the last hour again."

City administration told council the money is needed now to work on the train while the park is under construction between 2018 and 2020.

The goal is to have the locomotive running in time for the park's grand reopening in spring 2021. 

@natashariebe

About the Author

Natasha Riebe

Journalist

Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.

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