Editorial: A will to save the train?

Data can be manipulated to give a certain result. This has been made apparent in the recent actions of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission in its handling of the Aultsville station train display disposition.

The SLPC used a report, provided by the commission to The Leader, that spells out a simplistic evaluation of the historical artifacts. Many of the “conclusions” are from previous reports and evaluations made 30 years or more years ago, and from anecdotal discussion within the restoration field. This report listed no published author, used few sources, and set a wild budget. The majority of the SLPC commissioners took the report at face value however, and voted to dispose of the train.

The $1.1 million restoration budget includes over $206K in assumed professional fees, and a contractors “overhead and profit”. The latter is a term used mostly by insurance adjusters for claims, not for renovation or restoration projects.

The report assumes that the SLPC with its historical trades people could not do any of the restoration work on the project. Construction techniques in 1867 and 1910 do not vary much. There is no reason why much of the restoration could not be taken on by the parks commission itself. Significantly missing from this vague report is the possibility of volunteer assistance. Also missing is the fact that except for operational items like brakes, wheels, and safety appliances, you do not require a specialized railway restoration outfit to do most of the rehabilitation.

The actions of the SLPC and the majority of its commissioner board have demonstrated no intention, up until now, to do anything with this train. The board appears ready to give an exhibit of local significance away to someone else – if they are willing to pay to move it – rather than take responsibility for the commission’s own 20-years of neglect. This is an attitude we have seen from this commission before. They have chosen not to let the local community help. Far too much of the park has been shut off from the public already.

Luckily a citizens group has emerged, who want to save the train. That group is actively growing. There is a will in South Dundas to save the train display and keep it where it is. The SLPC should abandon its disposal process and actively work with this citizen initiative. If the commission does not, this speaks to what the real motives behind this disposal is. The whole murky process, conducted without transparency since the fall of 2018, is simply going through the motions.

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