Petition wants Council to take responsibility for Locomotive #17

Image of Nick Seebruch
By Nick Seebruch
Petition wants Council to take responsibility for Locomotive #17
Locomotive #17 at the corner of Ninth and Brookdale Avenue. Notice the sign on the front side of the train asking people not to climb on the structure (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

CORNWALL, Ontario – Locomotive #17 is one of the last physical manifestations of Cornwall’s railroad history. Now located on the corner of Brookdale Ave. and Ninth St., Cornwall City Council voted in February to donate the train to a museum in Smiths Falls, but has since pressed pause on that plan. Cornwall’s Little Historian Sara Racine has put forward a petition asking that Council take responsibility for the train and preserve Cornwall’s history by keeping it in the city.

Going back to 2016 Cornwall City Council was aware that the train needed $100,000 worth of repairs, but year after year, Council chose not to invest the money.

The deadlock around deciding where to move the train and whether or not to restore it lead the city to look at different options, and they found interest in the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario in Smiths Falls to take the train. On Feb. 3, 2021, Cornwall City Council voted to donate the train to the museum. As the first step in divesting itself of the train, the City of Cornwall announced on April 30 its intention to repeal the by-law that gave the train its heritage designation.

“I believe de-designating this piece of our history is a horrible decision,” reads a letter Racine sent to Cornwall Council, administration and local media. “This is one of the few remaining pieces of our industrial heritage left, and this locomotive is one of four of its kind to still exist in Canada. It is also a huge slap in the face to the large number of volunteers who aid in promoting Cornwall’s heritage and history. A designation takes a lot of time and effort to research, present, and complete, and having already been voted on and passed through, I do not believe the original vote and decision should be reneged. If this de-designation is accepted, I sincerely hope all members of local heritage groups step down from their committees, because this decision shows great proof that the City of Cornwall believes their efforts are useless.”

Racine says that she hopes that the City chooses to keep the train in Cornwall and move it to the Benson Centre, where it can be appreciated by city residents. She explained that this location also made historic sense, as the train had a strong historical connection to the former Domtar lands that are adjacent to the site.

Racine said that in future, she hoped that Cornwall City Council would set aside money annually for the maintenance of the train so that it does not fall into disrepair again. Racine’s petition has already garnered more than 1,400 signatures.

Council has yet to accept or discuss the petition, but will likely do so at a Council meeting in the near future.

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