Railcar's last journey makes it a library for north Hamilton
Facility expected to open by October
A new train has rolled into Hamilton's Keith neighbourhood, but it didn't arrive via the tracks that bisect the north-end community.
A flatbed transport truck delivered a railcar to the Eva Rothwell Resource Centre on Wentworth Street North on Friday morning. The retired passenger car will serve as a reading room and study space for children who use the community hub.
'We want to get kids 'on track' for success.'—Don MacVicar, Eva Rothwell Resource Centre
Don MacVicar, who founded the centre, which occupies the former Robert Land school, said the idea behind the library on wheels was to create an "attraction" that would get children excited about learning.
"We want to get kids 'on track' for success," said MacVicar, a sales account representative at ArcelorMittal Dofasco.
The train has been named the "Larry Paikin Literacy Express," after the Hamilton businessman and philanthropist who has championed reading in the city. President of Ennis-Paikin Steel, a company that deals in locomotives, Paikin helped MacVicar secure a railcar for the project.
"He said, 'Let's find a railway car.' And I said, 'Donny, dream of something else. This is something so complex, so difficult to do, so difficult mechanically to performm that you've got to think of something else."
But MacVicar was persistent, and convinced Paikin to start looking.
He found one, a former Algoma Central car, in Port Colborne. It went to a Hamilton rail yard about 18 months ago for an exterior makeover, made possible with fundraising money as well as in-kind donations.
The project, MacVicar said, has received about $125,000 in monetary contributions and about $100,000 in donations in the form of supplies and labour.
He said he's looking for additional sponsors to help sustain the centre, whose operating costs are expected to run about $20,000 to $30,000 per year.
Feat of engineering
On Friday, crews, with the use of two cranes, hoisted the railcar from truck bed and then eased it into place on a strip of track that will become its permanent home.
The car will house the community centre's library resources, and will feature a "First Class" compartment for quiet reading. MacVicar said he expects the facility to be ready by October.
Paikin, a longtime supporter of the community centre, said he's stunned about the library train being named in his honour.
"When I looked at the sign on the side of it today, I had to do a double take," he said. "I'm still kind of sweating and shaking because I still can't believe it."
Moreover, he's thrilled about the impact he expects the library will have on the lives of the children growing up in the underprivileged north-end community.
"We expect that the six-year-olds who use it, in 10 years, 12 years, they will be up at Mohawk and McMaster, or schools elsewhere," he said. "This will provide the opportunity for so many kids to have a better future."