Elgin County Railway Museum (1988) / Location: former MCRR locomotive repair shops
The former Michigan Central Railroad (MCRR) locomotive repair shops are located just south of the CASO train station. They house extensive artifacts and rolling stock, including the CN 5700 steam engine. The organization has plans to restore the building as well as convert adjacent rail lands into a public Railway Park.
North America Railway Hall of Fame (1996) / Location: CASO Station
With a goal of educating the public about the impact of railways locally and across North America, NARHF purchased the CASO station and set out to restore the 1872 building as a museum home and unique event space. While currently operational, restoration efforts continue, both inside and outside.
On Track St. Thomas (1994) / Latest project: St. Thomas Elevated Park
Formed to promote the economic health of the community by highlighting its railway heritage, On Track has undertaken several important projects, including the purchase and stabilization of the CASO Station, the establishment of the Iron Horse Festival, commissioning of downtown railway-themed murals and, most recently the purchase and planned conversion of the MCR bridge across Kettle Creek into the St. Thomas Elevated Park.
Iron Horse Festival / Location: historic rail yards
The Festival began life as an annual railway-themed street fair on Talbot Street in downtown St. Thomas and now operates on the historic rail yards south of the CASO station, land destined to be developed into a Railway Park.
After over three decades of individual efforts to restore the city’s heritage railway assets, boards of the organizations see significant benefits to an amalgamation. Jeremy Locke, chair of the Elgin County Railway Museum says, “For years, our four organizations have been busy planning, fundraising, managing their assets and building a relationship with the community. There’s been a lot of hard work but also a lot of duplication. Going forward, we’ll be stronger together.”
The public announcement of merger discussions was made at the November 16th Chamber Business After 5 event with representatives on hand from all four organizations.
This sounds like an idea whose time has come, with exciting possibilities for the future. There will be lots to work out in bringing four divergent operations under one umbrella. However, there are many commonalities to be found in their approaches and significant contributions:
- an appreciation for and desire to celebrate local railway heritage and assets;
- demonstrated ability to take a long-term outlook and work toward big goals;
- a desire to make their efforts, though rooted in heritage, relevant now and into the future, and
- considerable accomplishments achieved largely through the input of thousands of dedicated volunteer hours
Some of CASO event photos by Mark Girdauskas (Spitzky Media); sepia MCR bridge by Joseph O'Neil (On Track St. Thomas)