Volunteers hoping to rescue historic train

A group of rail enthusiasts says it's up to the task of getting a historic train near Upper Canada Village back on track.

Refurbishment to cost $1.1M, St. Lawrence Parks commission says

Jim Becksted, left, and Gardner Sage, right, are co-chairs of Save the Train 2.0. (Facebook/Save the Train Grand Trunk 1008 - Aultsville)

A group of rail enthusiasts says it's up to the task of getting a historic train near Upper Canada Village back on track.

The St. Lawrence Parks Commission is looking for a new home for the aging locomotive, passenger car and baggage car that have been at Crysler Park, about 80 kilometres southeast of Ottawa. 

The commission said it simply can't afford the $1.1 million in repairs it says the old train needs.

Gardner Sage, co-chair of Save the Trains 2.0, believes his volunteer group is up to the job. A similar group run by Sage's mother raised enough money to restore the train back in 2001.

Train neglected

Sage said the train has been neglected since its last makeover.

"It's definitely a bit of a fixer-upper. In the 15 to 20 years since the last restoration it hasn't actually had any upkeep or maintenance to it," he told CBC's All In A Day. 

"We would want to have a plan established going forward to make sure we don't have to do it a third time."

The paint on the former passenger car is peeling and there are other maintenance issues. (Facebook/ Save the Train Grand Trunk 1008 - Aultsville)

Sage said he believes the $1.1-million repair estimate is high.

"We don't really see it as needing a full restoration, more of a refurbishment, basically making sure it is structurally stable, safe to be near," he said, adding the last refurbishment was done for $60,000 despite an estimate of $800,000.

The train locomotive was built in 1910 and given to the commission in 1957. The first-class passenger car went into service in 1901, while the baggage car last trundled down the rails in 1964. 

Sage said the train is worth saving as an important part of the area's history. Beside it is the original Grand Trunk Railway station from Aultsville, a nearby village that was abandoned for the flooding of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1958. 

The parks commission's call for expressions of interest is open until October. 

With files from CBC Radio's All In A Day


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