| Jan 24, 2008

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Feature Article - January 24, 2008 Railway Museum Committee Still on Trackby Gary Giller

Murry Middleton loads ties, rails, and artifacts for transport to new museum location.

The heart and soul of a community is nurtured by the strength of its historical roots.

Although the tracks have been torn up, the old track beds of the Kingston to Pembrooke, and the Toronto to Ottawa lines, remain as physical proof of the important role that the railway played in the economic and cultural development of Central Frontenac. In fact, these railway lines were the lifeblood of Sharbot Lake, having been in existence well before any major road connected the village to other communities. Preserving and celebrating our railway heritage is vital to the creation of a strong community.

As a result of some initial interest by certain key individuals, a not-for-profit organization was formed to publicly house the impressive collection of railway memorabilia, which former C.P.R. employee, Gary Cooke, has gathered over the years.

On January 22, 2001, the Central Frontenac Township Council endorsed, in principle, a resolution to support the development of plans for a railway museum at the original site of the Sharbot Lake station, which stood across from the present municipal office building.

Consequently, the Central Frontenac Railway Museum Committee was incorporated and a Board of Directors was formed. At another township council meeting in July of 2001, further council support was given to the venture, and a group of committed members began the task of making its goal a reality.

Although a museum building has yet to be built, a great amount of effort has gone into the project. As with many projects of this nature, it has been an uphill climb, with numerous challenges and frustrations. Some of the committee's key figures have "passed on the torch" and these people deserve our heart-felt appreciation for their significant contributions to the project.

Even with these challenges, the committee is continuing to make progress. Some of the issues involved have to do with the surveying and acquisition of the original railway station site, the design and function of the actual building, and the financing and long-term maintenance of the museum.

Since its formation, the committee has continued to operate as an incorporated body, with the Board of Directors having just held its annual general meeting on November 29, 2007.

It has erected an impressive sign crafted by Roger MacMunn to mark the site of the old station, and maintains an information kiosk near the site. If you haven't yet taken the time to look at the kiosk display, it is certainly worth perusing.

Since the building of an actual museum seems to require a rather lengthy timeline, the committee has arranged for the movement and safe storage of Gary Cooke's collection of memorabilia. Committee members have also been attending community functions with displays promoting our railway heritage.

In an effort to move forward, the committee is now in the process of developing the concept of a Living Museum by displaying items and information in various locations throughout Central Frontenac. You may have noticed some of the railway artifacts, which have already been relocated in local villages. Signage of these items is presently being undertaken.

As part of this initiative, with the approval of the township, the ground has been levelled and a gravel bed has been prepared at the former station site in Sharbot Lake. A length of track will be laid there, so that some of the larger items in the collection can be displayed. Special thanks to Hugh Gray and his son for the excavation. Thanks as well to Murray and Josh Middleton for moving the ties, rails and heavy artifacts from Gary Cooke's yard.

Work on this project will resume in the spring.

The committee is to be congratulated for its on-going work to preserve and celebrate the railway heritage of Central Frontenac. Its efforts can only strengthen the vitality of our community through fostering pride in our past, and helping to enhance future possibilities. Please consider supporting this worthwhile project by purchasing an annual membership to the organization ($5 /person or $10 /family). For further information, or to become involved, contact any of the following board members: Sally Angle (613-279-2777), Gary Cooke (613-279-2409), Ann Walsh (613-279-2908) or Lois Webster (613-375-6332).

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