Two delegations at council, each looking for money, took councillors’ attention late Tuesday amidst horn honking and hollering from the outside street protestors.
Tony Humphrey, president of the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario, accompanied by Leisa Bell, made a request to council for $20,000 from the 2019 Municipal Grants. He gave a quick brush-up on what’s happening at the museum — a locomotive bell going to Brockville, 1,649 attendees at Trainfest last year, overnight in the caboose with 84 guests last year but with an increase in revenue; Humphrey attributed this to international guests who come to walk the trails around Smiths Falls and stay for several nights.
“The old engine,” he continued, “served 316 passengers this year. It cost $1,560 to operate and brought in over $14,000.”
Humphrey said in the past the museum has been criticized for keeping old coaches on site; but he went on to describe how one (now about 95 percent revitalized) is being used. He was approached at a train show by a group needing a place to set up a model railway. “We have a coach here for you,” he told them. The Museum supplied the material and they did the work on car 5802, an old 90-ton car with a cement floor which had to be removed.
The intent of the group is to recreate the Smiths Falls of 1955 with an interactive display. Eventually visitors will see a miniature rail yard, “from the Bascule bridge down to the CPR overpass.”
Humphrey made sure council understood the two purposes behind the rehabilitation — to increase what the museum is offering in terms of attracting visitors, and rehabilitating one of the derelict coaches.
It will be a huge draw for model railroaders, he went on. “Everything is to scale, and everything has to be perfect.”
Humphrey expects the coach to be up and running this year.
The roof of the building is still an ongoing concern (a huge expense) but a recent donation of $5,000 has been put towards doors, a near-future plan is to clear out the brush on the land east of the Museum once they get the go-ahead from the Conservation Authority, the board number increased from three to seven this year, and there has been a huge increase in volunteers.
“We’re not asking for money,” Humphrey concluded. “We’re just asking for what the Museum pays back to the Town of Smiths Falls.”For information about the museum, go to http://rmeo.org.