Nfld. & Labrador

Rusting locomotives not yet on track to restoration

A surviving piece of Newfoundland's railroading history may be heading to the junkyard if a volunteer group cannot raise enough money to protect it.

A piece of Newfoundland's railroading history may be heading to the junkyard if a volunteer group cannot raise enough money to protect it.

The Railway Coastal Museum in downtown St. John's is able to restore one of two surviving diesel locomotives in the city area. The fate of the other is less certain.

"It's the same story we see in Newfoundland all too often," said Steven Bonnell of the Clarenville Heritage Society, which is aiming to save the other locomotive.

"A lot of things get lost over time, and then, like, 10 years down the road, people will ask, 'Whatever happened to that old building? How come that went away?' "

The Newfoundland Railway, which was built to open up the island in the late 19th century, was wound down in 1988.

The No. 900 locomotive— the first diesel to cross the island— now stands in weeds and tall grass off Mount Scio Road, in Pippy Park in the north end of St. John's. A museum used to keep that locomotive, but it closed years ago.

The other diesel, No. 906, is in Bowring Park.

There are plans to save both engines, but so far only enough money to restore one. If only one can be saved, the 906 will be scrapped.

Gordon Barnes, who manages the Railway Coastal Museum, said the museum will let the Clarenville Heritage Society pick which locomotive it wants to restore, and then claim the other.

However, time is running out and money remains short.

The locomotive off Mount Scio Road must be removed from Pippy Park before Christmas, and the Clarenville Heritage Society only has $10,000 of the $25,000 it needs to move the locomotive.

The space in Pippy Park has been earmarked for a new headquarters for the Easter Seals organization.

"There's hardly a person in Newfoundland who in some way their family wasn't connected with or dealt with or travelled on the railway," Barnes said.

"It's an important part of our history that needs to be preserved."

Another four diesel locomotives exist in other communities in the province.

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