Conestoga news

February 12, 2010 3:00 PM

Carden Street Hub of Activity

The historic steam locomotive that has sat for decades near the downtown bus depot will get a new home this spring on the other side of the rail tracks –but the trick will be getting it there.

Canadian National steam locomotive 6167, which CN donated to Guelph in 1967, has to be relocated to make way for construction of a new transit hub on Carden Street this year.

As part of the area’s makeover, city council approved a deal last week to buy the Greyhound bus depot on Macdonell Street. It will be demolished as part of the construction of a new hub. Bus service will continue at the bus depot until service is relocated to the new transit hub.

After years of discussion about where to shift the old train, a decision has been made to move it to a small, triangular piece of city-owned land abutting Farquhar Street, just east of the Hammill Building.

"The trick is getting it moved,” said Derek McCaughan, the city’s director of operations. “I can’t even conceptualize how to do it."

Together, the locomotive and an attached rectangular unit, which was once used to carry coal and water, weigh 682,950 pounds, he said. “This is a real heavy baby. It’s huge,” he observed.

It’s believed the locomotive’s wheels no longer turn, he said, "so if they don’t lift it, they’ll drag it to where it needs to go."

The city is issuing a request for proposals for expert help to accomplish the task of somehow getting the locomotive from the north side of the CN tracks to the south side, McCaughan said in an interview Friday.

He said it will be moved sometime in April, before work starts on the new transit hub for city buses, intercity buses, VIA trains and GO trains –which could come to Guelph as soon as next year.

The estimated cost of moving it has soared to the $400,000 to $500,000 range, compared with the original estimate of $100,000 to $200,000, McCaughan said. The money will come from the overall budget for building the new transit hub, which will be paid partly out of federal and provincial infrastructure stimulus funds, he said.

It’s hoped that in its new location the train will become “an icon, a focal point” of the new transit hub, said Paul Breadner, chair of the Guelph 6167 Locomotive Restoration Committee.

"She is going to occupy a more prominent position than she does now, and we are very pleased about that," he said.

If the locomotive “has to be lifted, that is going to create quite a significant media event, because as far as I know that hasn’t been done before in this part of Canada,” said Breadner, whose committee was created by city council to fix up the aging locomotive.

Most of the restoration work has happened in the past year or so, since hazardous asbestos was removed from the locomotive. It has been sandblasted, and Conestoga College students at the Guelph campus are fabricating a new outer skin, known as a boiler jacket, he said.

The restoration is being done with a budget of more than $200,000 from the city. The restoration committee has also been raising funds by selling limited edition prints showing the locomotive when it was a tourist train during the 1960s, as well as by selling commemorative buttons, Breadner said.

The committee is hoping the train can be adequately protected with special paint, so that it can be displayed without a “shed-type roof” over top of it, he said. This would allow it to be photographed by train buffs without shadows or supportive beams showing.

Doug Hallett, Guelph Tribune