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Old steam locomotive back on the rails

A piece of railway history will be back in service this weekend.

The Essex Terminal Railway locomotive No. 9 has been fully restored and can be seen travelling through the region, including stops in St. Jacobs and Elmira in the month of October. [wilhelm nassau / submitted]
Essex Terminal Railway No. 9 will return to the rails this fall after undergoing a restoration and will travel between Waterloo and St. Jacobs in October along the Waterloo Central Railway.

Over the past few weekends the locomotive performed test runs through the region and could be seen travelling into Elmira.

The steam engine was built by the Montreal Locomotive Works in 1923, spending its operating life working on the Essex Terminal Railway in Windsor. It was retired in the 1960s replaced by diesel engines.

The train was dismantled and stored in pieces until it was rebuilt and restored from scratch by a fiercely dedicated group of volunteers from the Southern Ontario Locomotive Restoration Society (SOLRS), a charity operating out of St. Jacobs, who spent hundreds of hours rebuilding the locomotive.

On Nov. 11, 2011, Locomotive No. 9 passed a milestone on its restoration journey with the completion of the required boiler repairs. The Technical Standards Safety Authority tested and passed the boiler meeting accepted criteria.

“We have received approval from Transport Canada to operate the steam locomotive. It’s a pressure vessel on wheels and had to meet a whole separate array of requirements and rules above and beyond what a diesel train does,” said Peter McGough, general manager of the railway

During the course of the restoration SOLRS had to purchase special raw materials to manufacture new custom parts and they had to invent and make special tools to complete the process. The throttle was removed and repaired as part of the recertification process.

“As you can imagine there were hardly any parts and very few tools we could find to help rebuild a train of this vintage,” said McGough.

To operate a steam engine the train must have coal shoveled into its fire box. This in turn heats the water in the boiler and the steam under pressure powers the pistons which makes it move.

“A lot of people have never seen this kind of train in service. This locomotive may be one of two or three operating in eastern Canada,” said McGough. “It’s quite rare.”

The train will be travelling to the Farmer’s Market and to St. Jacobs Oct. 6 and 13. There will be a special excursion from Waterloo to Elmira on Oct. 8 departing from Waterloo at 1:30 p.m. Fares cost $15 for children over the age of two and $25 for adults.

The Elmira excursion will depart Waterloo at 1:30 p.m. Boarding will begin approximately 15 minutes prior to the scheduled departure. The train trip will last between two and three hours and will include one pass on the southbound journey for photography.

For more information visit the website www.waterloocentralrailway.com.

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