Don’t be surprised to hear a steam whistle ring out over the Family Day weekend as a historical train makes the trek between Waterloo and Elmira.
Having made its historical debut in October 2012, the Essex Terminal Railway No. 9 will be back in service for its first winter in many years, since the completion of a long refurbishment process, said Southern Ontario Locomotive Restoration Society (SOLRS) general manager Peter McGough.
Originally built in 1923 by Montreal Locomotive Works, the rare piece of railway history was the subject of years of repair work by a team of volunteers and enthusiasts.
“Pretty much everything that was done had to be rebuilt from scratch because the equipment doesn’t exist anymore,” McGough explained.
Everything was done by hand, he added. Local machinists, electricians and train enthusiasts took on the thousands of hours of labour it took to restore the steam locomotive to its glory last year before the work was finally finished at the SOLRS shop in St. Jacobs.
SOLRS is also the operator of the Waterloo Central Railway, a shortline railway licensed by the province that is specially certified to run steam engine trains.
“Most people, regardless of age, have never been on a train so it’s that whole experience and the fact that you’re being pulled by a steam locomotive. It’s a different smell, it’s a different sound, it’s a whole different experience that even if you took a train right now you’d never be able to duplicate,” McGough said.
Essex Terminal Railway No. 9 is one of only a few left in Canada, he adds, and is one of three remaining operational locomotives east of Manitoba. Along with providing a spectacle for train aficionados, the continued use and upkeep of the train is most importantly a hats-off to Canadian history, he added.
Passengers can board the train over three days of winter excursions that will carry 224 passengers per trip. Starting off from uptown Waterloo for a round trip, the steam engine will pull travellers through Woolwich Township to Elmira, offering a different look at of the surrounding countryside.
“You get a chance to see the township and the City of Waterloo from a perspective you wouldn’t normally get to see from a car. We’re going through the middle of people’s farms, over trestles, bridges that aren’t anywhere close to a road,” McGough said.
The locomotive will depart from Waterloo on February 16-18 at 1 p.m., with trips taking approximately two-and-a-half hours. Tickets can be purchased on board the train or prior to the trip through the SOLRS website at www.waterloocentral railway.com.