Friends of Grand Trunk 1008 ready when able to proceed

Photo of Grand Trunk Railroad 1008 at Aultville station taken Spring 2019. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

MORRISBURG – It’s been one year since The Leader first reported the St. Lawrence Parks Commission’s intent to divest itself of the Grand Trunk 1008 and a whole lot has happened since then.
December 11, 2019 SLPC chair Bob Runciman announced that the commission selected the proposal of the community-based Save the Train 2.0 Committee to maintain the heritage equipment display at its current South Dundas location. The committee’s proposal to refurbish the train through cosmetic restoration as a newly formed Friends of the Grand Trunk 1008 committee won the favour of the commission. This local proposal was selected from 11 submissions.

Since that announcement Gardner Sage, who chairs the committee, along with a number of active volunteers has been very much looking forward to progressing to the point where the community can get hands-on with the project.

But since then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

In the months between the announcement and the pandemic a fair amount of work happened.

“Since our application was approved by the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, we have established an active board of directors, made up of 10 very dedicated and enthusiastic individuals with a variety of different skills and experience,” said Sage.

The executive includes: Gardner Sage, Jim Becksted, Shaun Milligan, Maggie Wheeler, Kirsten Gardner, Craig Stevenson, Jim Brownell, Don Whiting, Ewen McIntosh, and Ross Miller.

Updating the progress of Friends of Grand Trunk 1008 Sage reports: “We have developed all the necessary components to allow us to become an incorporated entity.”

To cover the costs associated with incorporation a print of the train and an antique poster, both of which were generously donated by members of the community, were auctioned off.

“Our application for this was unanimously passed by the Ontario Historical Society, and we are currently waiting on our official incorporation number,” said Sage.

“We have also begun planning for the formation of a base membership for those interested in getting involved, as well as started planning for the non functional cosmetic restoration of the locomotive, tender, and two cars.”

Pre-pandemic, the Friends group had also been working with the Upper Canada District School Board to implement a partnership which would allow students in three local schools to contribute to the refurbishment of the train via a high skills trade program.

“As everything is currently on hold due to the situation with COVID-19, we have not gathered since the social distancing guidelines have been in place, but we had three executive meetings prior to the pandemic, and continue to communicate via email,” said Sage. “We also had regular meetings with the SLPC, up until business was put on hold on their end, and are currently waiting on a draft agreement.”

“As the gathering restrictions are lifted, we will be looking to begin some fundraising projects one of which is already in the works, and possible events or gatherings to engage with the public and answer questions about this project, as well as to connect with individuals who would like to get involved,” concluded Sage.

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