Along with the many reasons to celebrate what has been saved, Steve noted that there is also a great deal that has been lost in the last 25 years. He encouraged organizations to continue to work together in order not to miss future opportunities to preserve local railway heritage. On a final note, he emphasized the importance of maintaining the presence of the L&PS Trestle as a vital north-south rail connection.
“It all started in l988, with a group of friends in Cliff Chaplow's Ross Street barbershop discussing the desire to bring a steam engine to St. Thomas. At that time, the City of St. Thomas was in the market for a steam locomotive to serve as a symbol of the city's railway heritage. The CN 5700 locomotive became available when it was declared surplus by Canadian National and taken off display at the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa. With the help of John Wise, the local Member of Parliament at the time, 5700 was transported to St. Thomas and donated to the people of Elgin County as part of the newly formed Elgin County Railway Museum.
"With their first artifact in place, a dedicated group of volunteers began meeting at the barbershop and a local church, and the Elgin County Railway Museum was incorporated as a non-profit organization in February of 1989. Their goals were to preserve, teach and display to the public the rich heritage of the railroads and their role in the development of St Thomas and Elgin County. These goals became the organization’s mission that continues today.
"Early museum events were held at Arthur Voaden Secondary School, later at the New York Central railway station, (now the CASO station) and eventually at the Michigan Central Railroad Locomotive Shops. Constructed in 1913, the 52,000 square foot Locomotive Shops were a part of a large parcel of land once owned by the Michigan Central Railroad. This parcel once contained a roundhouse, powerhouse, and numerous other buildings used to conduct railroad business. The only other buildings remaining today are the Michigan Central Station (built as the Canada Southern Station in 1873) and the BX Tower (owned by the City of St. Thomas). Until 2009, the Elgin County Railway Museum leased the facility from CN, purchasing the building and surrounding property in 2010.
"Governed by a Board of Directors, and operated by a knowledgeable and dedicated group of volunteers, the Elgin County Railway Museum maintained a seasonal operation, employing students during the summer months for more than twenty years. Upon the completion of an organizational strategic plan, and with the support of Sand Plains funding, the Museum hired their first full-time professional staff in 2010. The Museum Manager and active base of volunteers are dedicated to helping the organization grow, and keep the memory of the railway, which put St. Thomas on the map, alive.”