MORRISBURG – Supporters got onboard for the first major fundraiser for Friends of Grand Trunk Railway 1008, raising $11,765 April 24.
The event, which featured a live auction, tea and desserts, and an Elvis impersonator singing, starts the train rolling on what will be a substantial fundraising effort to help stabilize the historic train display at Crysler Park.
The Friends group successfully won the competition for the steam engine and two car display in late 2019, when the St. Lawrence Parks Commission offered the items up for possible removal.
FGTR 1008 chair Gardner Sage updated supporters at the event how this group had gotten to the point of taking ownership of the train display and what the plans are for the group’s next steps.
“Our group now owns the [train] and it will be staying where it is, in partnership with the SLPC,” Sage told the audience at the Morrisburg Legion. “Our next goal is to have an assessment of the train this spring.”
Sage said that the group plans to engage the community to assist with more fundraising for the project, and also to help in the hands-on work with restoring the historic train display.
Part of that engagement includes tying into local secondary schools and their trades programs to get students involved.
South Dundas Deputy Mayor and FGTR 1008 board member Kirsten Gardner spoke of the area’s connection with the train display, the first restoration project, and why it was important that it is saved again.
“The great train robbery will never occur ever again,” Gardner said. “It’s a landmark. It’s a historical representation of how important transportation was to our communities. How they had greater access to health care and secondary education.”
The event was organized by Jessie Duchesne, Gail McCooeye, Claude Lavoie, Gaby Swank, and Henry Swank.
Duchesne told The Leader after the event that it far exceeded her expectations.
“Fantastic. This went way over what I thought it would be,” she said. “I’ve never seen an auction do as well as that.”
Tickets for the event were sold at Scotiabank in Morrisburg and raised $2,700, which was matched by the bank. The live-auction and in-person donations at the event more than doubled the money raised from the ticket sales and matching donation.
Sage said after the event that the group’s next step is evaluating the condition of the equipment and prioritizing projects to work on this summer. “We’re eager to get started. The pandemic put stuff behind so we have a lot of catch up to do.”