Friday, September 11, 2009

The little train that could and still can.

The present Springbank Express is a simple little train with a surprisingly rich history.

The following is based on information from CEC: Closed Canadian Parks: In 1920, a miniature steam railway was put in Springbank Park in London, Ontario. This was a streamlined train built by Louie Haddad, Bob McKewn and Bill Shearme — it supposedly only operated for one year. Apparently eventually ending up at Port Stanley Amusement Park in 1942. Where it was from 1921 to 1941, is not known.

A second train was then put into service at Springbank Park. It is believed the start-up of this second train may have been in 1923 but there is a possibility that it was actually the third miniature train to be used in the park.

It seems that Ernest George Yeates, the consulting engineer involved in developing London's water supply was also the miniature railway builder for Dundurn Park which had opened in 1888. Reportedly, that ride came to Springbank Park at some point. Perhaps it was a second train and operated in the park in 1922. This would make the 1923 train yet a third one.

This third train was a 381mm gauge steam engine built in Scotland. It ran until 1965 when it was bought by the Supertest gasoline company as a gift to the local Lion's Club whose members wanted to run it as a fund raiser. However, it was difficult to find someone to run and maintain a steam locomotive, so the engine was converted to either a diesel or a gasoline engine

The converted train ran as the "Springbank Flyer" until 1998 when a new train known as The "Springbank Express" was placed on a new 350-meter track layout and a new station was built. This was all donated by Sifton Properties as part of its 75th Anniversary celebrations.

If anyone notices any errors in this history, please make a comment and I will correct the copy. I do want to get this story right.


Anonymous said...

I was wondering the name of the very nice couple who ran the train in the 1940-55?
I can still picture them in my mind but would like to know their names.

Hated it when they moved the train near storybook gardens as it took all the rich history of springbank away for the commerce of the city.

Anonymous said...

They were Jim and Minnie Kennedy who made their last run in 1965.
A cousin of mine made parts for it in the late 1950's when the train was derailed by rocks hidden in a pile of fallen leaves,

David Hamilton said...

I remember the Kennedys. They and the little train have had a big part in my love of steam powered trains.