After over three decades of individual efforts to restore the city’s heritage railway assets, four organizations have agreed in principle to pursue an amalgamation of their operations. Representatives of the four boards – Elgin County Railway Museum (1988), North American Railway Hall of Fame (1996), On Track St. Thomas (1994) and the Iron Horse Festival (1994) – have been meeting over the last several weeks to identify the benefits and to discuss the options available to them.
Jeremy Locke, President of the Elgin County Railway Museum, clearly sees the benefits. “For years, our four organizations have been busy planning, fundraising, managing their assets and building a relationship with the community. There’s been a lot of hard work but also a lot of duplication. Going forward, we’ll be stronger together.”
For Matt Janes, Chair of the North American Railway Hall of Fame, the focus should be on future growth. “These four groups have had terrific success helping to build the St. Thomas brand as the Railway City. When you look at the plans currently on the drawing board, such as restoring the MCR Shops, establishing Railway Park and building the Elevated Park, it’s pretty clear that the community will benefit greatly from increased cooperation.”
Dubbed “Railworks”, the amalgamation project will continue to seek legal, accounting and marketing advice over the coming months and will begin a process of community consultations, the aim being to identify an acceptable amalgamation model and to implement it in stages over the next two to three years.
All four groups agree that it will be critical to achieving the obvious benefits of consolidation without affecting current operations or creating confusion with community stakeholders.