Nearly 20 years ago, a group from the South Dundas community rallied to save the train just outside Upper Canada Village. Individuals from all over our area rallied to clean up and paint the steam locomotive and passenger cars. After that work was done, the St. Lawrence Parks Commission made a commitment to maintain the train going forward. However, for an organization committed to preserving our history through landmarks like Upper Canada Village, the SLPC has certainly fallen short in this case.
All indications, as of last week, suggest only the SLPC’s desire to get rid of this train. We say shame on them for considering such an act.
Our community rallied to save the train. While it is not an attraction the SLPC can “sell ticket sales to ride,” it is a cultural and historic landmark, important to South Dundas, and to the story of Upper Canada.
Between Toronto and Montreal there are few reminders of the 1850s and 1860s, a crucial time in the growth of what became Ontario. Without the Grand Trunk Railroad, Canada West (Upper Canada) would not have grown into an economic engine driving a new country, Canada.
This train – representative of “The Moccasin”, a local train that connected the communities of Iroquois, Morrisburg, Aultsville and others to the larger centres of Brockville and Cornwall – was a vital lifeline for Eastern Ontario agriculture along the St. Lawrence River right up to the end of World War One. For many, that lifeline continued through to the creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Symbolically, the train and station are a monument to those whose communities were moved or removed in the name of “progress”. Upper Canada Village shares some of that same symbolism, but what stands as a more recognizable symbol of the strong and durable heart of a community, than this train?
Our train has become an area landmark. It attracts the young and the young at heart. It preserves tangible evidence of our immigrant past. It enhances Village events like Alight at Night. The train at Aultsville Station should be preserved. And the SLPC should be responsible for that preservation. The SLPC should honour its past commitment, remaining mindful of the pride this community takes in “its train”.
Do not take this grand old symbol of our heritage away from the South Dundas community.