From the Times-Journal
The future of St. Thomas’s railway heritage brightened considerably Tuesday with the announcement the Elgin County Railway Museum purchased its building from CN and the city acquired rail connections to the former L&PS nearby, now city-owned.
If the deal is finalized in approximately 90 days, it paves the way for St. Thomas residents to hear the sound of rolling stock moving along portions of the former Canada Southern line.
“At long last we have reached a stage for the purchase of the property,” Mayor Cliff Barwick said, addressing a small audience outside the railway museum.
Barwick estimated the city and railway museum had been in negotiations for two years to buy the building and railway yard from CN.
“The opportunity is here to give us back railway history,” Bareham, president of the Elgin County Railway Museum said.
While the city paid $75,000 for the four acres of connective lands, Bareham said the museum cannot disclose what it paid for the museum until the deal is finalized.
Barwick was asked what he thought was the turning point in the negotiations with CN for the purchase of the building.
“Persistence,” he replied. “If you saw me a year ago in Ottawa, patience would not have been a word you would have used to describe me.”
City officials agreed there would be several issues to address after the sale is confirmed, such as zoning.
Bareham said the long-term vision for the building would be to add tracks to the west side of the property and eventually welcome Port Stanley Terminal Rail tourist trains coming north to St. Thomas.
Barwick said he believes there is a commercial potential for the railway lands.
“In time, the commercial importance of railways will be recognized,” Barwick said. He predicted a scenario where the yard around the museum could be a viable operation with shortline railways using the space for storage.
Bareham said the museum will concentrate first on fixing the roof in the building, then the windows.
With a new roof, visitors can walk closer to the repair bays, an area currently taped off for safety reasons.
Structurally, Bareham said, the museum is sound although some roof and brickwork is needed.
Bob Hammerseley, president and CEO of the St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce, said the news is welcome.
“The significance of this can’t be understated,” he said.
He compared the development of the railway museum to a shopping mall which relies on an anchor attraction to succeed.
“If we can get London and Port Stanley Terminal Rail to come into St. Thomas, it makes a world of difference. It would give the Canada Southern station train service.”