Save the Train 2.0 moving full steam ahead with proposal

Photo of Grand Trunk Railroad 1008 at Aultville station. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

SOUTH DUNDAS – Fewer than six weeks remain for groups interested in becoming the new owners of the historic train display at Crysler Park to submit their proposals. The local Save the Train 2.0 group is in the process of wrapping up their proposal to the St. Lawrence Parks Commission.

The group, founded and co-chaired by Gardner Sage and Jim Becksted, has been at the forefront of trying to save the 100-year-old artifacts at the park. The SLPC announced July 23rd that it would accept proposals for disposition of the display. The commission cited a $1.1-million price tag for restoration and financial strains as the reason for removing the display.

However the SLPC does plan on keeping the Aultsville Station building at its present location.

The Save the Train 2.0 group has been working on their plan to save the train ever since.

“We are developing an appropriate plan that addresses every point the Parks Commission has asked for,” said Sage. “We have a solid plan to preserve and refurbish this.”

Part of the group’s proposal includes a business plan for fundraising both short and long term goals. Until the group knows if it is successful in its bid, Sage said they were not accepting donations.

“There is a lot of money involved with this sort of project,” he said. “We want to make sure the application is approved first, then use the time after approval for initial fundraising.”

He added that the group had some significant donation amounts already pledged.

Sage said there was a lot of knowledge gathering involved as they prepare their proposal. This includes talking with other groups who have taken on this sort of project before, and talking to skilled trades people to find out what is involved.

“We’ve talked to several people with expertise who have offered to help out with the project if we’re successful in our bid,” he said.

The SLPC posted a set of criteria in the expression of interest process, which Sage said would be addressed.

Ideally, the group would like to keep the 100-year old train display together at the Crysler Park location. “That’s our Plan A, but we are also working on a Plan B, just in case,” Sage added.

The group does not want to see the equipment moved, fearing more damage could happen in any potential move. Sage said he felt that the cost of moving the equipment would be best spent stabilizing and refurbishing it instead.

If successful, one of the short term goals of the group is to get the train display covered at its current site, to protect it from the elements. The group would like to be able to get that done before the first snowfall this year..

While the leaders of the group complete the application process, they are also still building awareness of the group, and the display. Sage has been interviewed by media in the region including CBC Radio One’s All In A Day, and the group has an active Facebook group with over 1,550 supporters.

When asked how he felt the group’s chances were in securing the train display, Sage said he was optimistic. “I hope the SLPC would want to do the right thing and listen to the voices of the community.”

Groups interested in acquiring the train display have until October 4th at 4:30 p.m. to submit a proposal.

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