No legal obligation to keep historic Cornwall locomotive: report

In this February 2017, file photo, Locomotive #17 sits at the corner of Brookdale Avenue and Ninth Street West in Cornwall, Ont. A report from city staff says the corporation has no legal obligation to keep the aging locomotive, clearing the way to donate it to a Smiths Falls museum. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – City brass appear to be clearing the way for Cornwall city council to give away Locomotive #17.

A report for Monday’s budget meeting, acting on a request from Coun. Elaine MacDonald to look at donating the locomotive, seemingly absolves the corporation of any ownership requirements.

“Administration is not aware of any record which obligates the City to any conditions of ownership of the locomotive,” Infrastructure Division Manager Bill de Wit wrote.

Locomotive #17, built in 1962, was a gift to the City of Cornwall from the Cornwall Street Railway, Light and Power Company in 1977. It was the last electric-power engine in Canada, according to Heritage Cornwall.

But the train has fallen victim to years of neglect. It’s been painted a couple of times – 1981 and 2006 – but not much else. Council had earmarked $100,000 in 2017 to restore the Locomotive #17 which would have been funded from reserves to be paid back the following year, meaning the money was never actually taken from taxpayers.

The Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario is still interested in having the locomotive, which they would restore and have as an exhibit, the report states. Restoring would not have it back to original working condition but would more or less stabilize it from further deterioration.

De Wit estimates getting the train to Smiths Falls, which would happen this spring or summer, will cost about $50,000 because there needs to be a crane rental (it weighs 75 metric tons), MTO permits and a police escort.

But councillors still need to vote on whether to donate it.

As for the heritage designation, that can be rescinded by council, which includes the land at the southeast corner of Brookdale Avenue and Ninth Street West. Coun. Syd Gardiner has already expressed that the land would make a great parking lot.

Monday’s virtual budget meeting starts at 2:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on YourTV.