Dispute threatens to let Wakefield train run out of steam

Dave Rogers
The Ottawa Citizen (link to original)
Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Hull-Chelsea-Wakefield steam train -- recently touted by an influential travel website as one of Canada's great tourism gems -- could be shut down because of an impasse between the train's owner and the municipalities of Gatineau and Chelsea.

La lumière sur la situation du Train à vapeur Hull-Chelsea-Wakefield

(Gatineau, le mardi 6 novembre 2007) - Le Conseil d'administration de la CCFO refuse de déposer une entente qui assurera la continuité du train touristique en plus de tarder à remettre par écrit leur plus récente série de demandes. « Nous avons besoin d'analyser leurs demandes maintenant car il y déjà six mois que nous avons demandé d'en finir une fois pour toute.


An Up-date Report

Generally unbeknownst by the citizens of the Outaouais, our municipal politicians have now been negotiating with the HCW Train Company for three years without yet signing a new contract. The latest wrinkle is that when La Pêche and Chelsea recently appeared ready to sign a new contract, officials of Gatineau and Chelsea decided to add a new clause to the contract about bridges and culverts - even if this would appear to be a municipal rather than a Train Company responsibility.

The owners of the Train Company have become enraged and are threatening to sell the Wakefield train business to another operator or to sell the train itself to another locality.

Join our Bumper Sticker campaign

Now we can show our appreciation for the steam train by proudly displaying the logo of its Friends, now available on a colour bumper sticker.

Friends of the Steam Train are getting steamed up!

The Hull-Chelsea-Wakefield tourist steam train has become a symbol of the identity of West Quebec. In national and international tourist literature on the region it is often the one picture that is used to represent our region. The wail of its whistle has become synonymous with life in the Gatineau Hills.

In Chelsea, the steam train maintains a community corridor and access to the river for walkers in the summer and cross-country skiers in the winter. In La Pêche/Wakefield the train brings in thousands of sight-seers and paying tourists. Gatineau is the recipient of hundreds of overnight hotel and restaurant patrons. The train employs many of our youth, is a heritage icon and keeps open a promise for commuters. The whole of Canada gains too. With an annual trade deficit of $7 billion, prize-winning tourist attractions are worth their weight in gold.

Everyone gains from the steam train either emotionally or materially. But, like a good mama who looks after the whole family, every once in a while she needs a hug. She needs to be reminded that everyone respects her and has feelings of affection for her. Especially the politicians who negotiate contracts with the railway company need to be reminded that the steam train really is appreciated by the citizens of Gatineau, Chelsea and La Pêche.

That is why we have decided to form the Friends of the Steam Train Association. We hope you will join us. It will be a ‘light’ association with few activities and aimed mainly at showing support for the train and lobbying for its best interests. No membership fees. We’ll sell bumper-stickers instead.

The association will also affirm the interests of its members in maintaining the heritage aspects of the train, its non-intrusive, environmentally friendly nature, and its benefits as a local employer. The association will also be a vehicle for promoting a commuter train service in the region in line with the recent report of the Ottawa Mayor’s Working Group on Transport.

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