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In 1988 the Elgin County Railway Museum (ECRM) opened its doors with the goal of preserving our railway heritage while educating audiences with its collection of celebrated trains and artifacts.
This museum is found in the Michigan Central Railroad (MCRR) locomotive shops; a historic location that holds the title of the oldest operating locomotive repair shop in North America. Today, incredible efforts are going towards restoring this building to its former glory. This is done, in part, through events hosted by the ECRM, such as Day Out With Thomas -- which draws visitors from as far as Japan!
The ECRM also maintains the unique BX Tower which is open for tours during special events.
Following in the footsteps of the ECRM, many other heritage preservation initiatives have come to fruition. This revival of the “Railway City” identity comes as we reflect on how much the rail is ingrained in our community psyche; just like San Antonio, Texas is known as "Alamo City" or Fredericksburg, Virginia as "America's most historic city".
The North America Railway Hall of Fame came onto the scene in 1996 and began induction ceremonies in 1999. This non-profit organization acquired CASO Station, which is the largest railway station of its style in North America. Although rail operations ceased in 1980, the station has been protected since 1989 under the "Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act". Under the new ownership, restorations of the iconic building began in 2005.
Today, CASO has been reinvented into a multi-use space. It houses the Hall of Fame, Las Chicas Del Cafe, the local MP and MPP offices and more. Stop by and take a tour of this architectural masterpiece, or rent the space for your wedding or private function.
In addition to our historic tourist destinations, there are many other things to see and do! Jumbo the Elephant is one of the biggest (don't mind the pun!) tourist attractions in St. Thomas. Visitors arrive from around the world to admire and “take a selfie” with the memorial statue that was erected in 1985 ... 100 years after his death.
Iron Horse Festival began in 1996 as a lively way to celebrate St. Thomas' railway heritage. Its new location, on the future site of Railway Park, serves as the perfect spot for visitors to hop aboard a train ride. Of course, Iron Horse still has the classic elements of a community festival like rides and live music!
Railway City Tourism opened in 2013 at the replica L&PS Station. It serves as a hub for information on local events and attractions. During special events, it hosts train rides on the historic line. Railway City Tourism also hosts the annual Railway City Arts Crawl, which features the creative talents of local artists and artisans. You can also hop on the the Whistlestop Trail with your bicycle from here that runs along the L&PS Line connecting St. Thomas to Port Stanley with a multi-use trail and cycle route.
BUSINESS AND ORGANIZATIONS
In 2008, Railway City Brewing came onto the scene celebrating our railway past with its beers and brand. Using natural ingredients that are locally sourced, the Brewery is known to craft award winning beers. It has since grown into the biggest, most "Jumbo-sized" craft brewery in Ontario's' Southwest. Their staple beer, Dead Elephant (you guessed it, a direct tribute to Jumbo the Elephant), was once the official beer of the Canadian Parliament.
There are also a growing number of innovative local businesses branding with the railway city roots, such as Streamliners Espresso Bar, Railway City Hobbies, Rail City Bistro, and the Railway City Cycling Club to name a few.
With investment pouring into the city, many exciting projects are coming down the pipeline. Most anticipated is the Elevated Park, set to open in August 2017. This ambitious undertaking will be built on the historic 1930 Michigan Central Railway Bridge, using a design modelled after the High Line in New York. Did you know, this will be the first elevated park in Canada? It will provide a beautiful trail, display space for artists and buskers, and a one-of-a-kind event site!
Another exciting project is the Railway Park. The Park, which is still in visionary development, would create a multifunctional festival and event space in the heart of St. Thomas.
Keep your eyes peeled over the coming months as well for what looks to be a totally epic tribute to the Railway City at the currently under construction gateway roundabout at the bottom of Talbot Hill. Local blacksmith artist Scott McKay is working away on an artistic representation of the trains that used to roar through the city. We can't wait to see the final product!
Railway City Brewing has an exciting part in our future as well. With an expanding retail reach, a new pizza pop-up shop, and a proven record of drawing visitors for tours and tastings, we can't wait to see what they're brewing next...
RAILWAY EXPERIENCE GUIDE
Don't just sit there! Get out and explore the Railway City today with our Railway Experience Guide. Feel free to print at home, or drop by Railway City Tourism to get your copy.
It is not down in any map; true places never are.