Sunday, July 4, 2010

South Simcoe Railway

My sister Marie is travelling with a friend, Jan, who is a dedicated rail and steam engine enthusiast. We decided to take her to South Simcoe Railway (SSR) which operates the only steam locomotive close to Toronto. The locomotive a magnificent beast built way back in the 1880s. Unfortunately, once we got to Tottenham, we discovered the locomotive is out of service. It has been undergoing maintenance for the past three years, with no estimated time for completion. Oh no!

SSR is an all volunteer organisation with about 40 members, which unfortunately, pretty much represents the entire rail and steam locomotive enthusiast community in Canada. And the number of volunteers is decreasing as there is little interest among younger engineers. One problem with having such a small group of volunteers, is that they likely do not have all the expertise needed maintain the steam locomotive. That means they must hire people to do the work, and when the money runs out, the work stops. Hence the lack of a estimated time for completion.

Currently the scheduled train service is running with a diesel locomotive from the 1940s, but I suspect that the steam engine draws more passengers. When I last rode the SSR in 2003 and the steam engine was operational, all three coaches were full. Today, they filled only one coach. If this doesn't improve, we may lose this small part of Ontario history altogether.

The best solution is finding people with technical expertise who can volunteer their time to maintenance the steam locomotive. The next best possibility is that a patron appears to support the organisation. However, if someone was interested, he or she would have stepped forward by now. The remaining option is to keep the train running in order to generate income.

This is where regular folks can help by getting the word out about this little piece of history. If you like steam engines, trains, or just history in general, I highly recommend visiting Tottenham to ride the SSR.

1 comment:

  1. I know this post is old, but our car club has organized a special day here July 1st. As far as we’re aware, the steam train is running!