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Doors Open 2008

  TRHA’s Doors Open 2008 event was held this year (2008) on Saturday, May 24th and Sunday, May 25th at the John Street Roundhouse and Union Station. It was the most successful so far in our history of hosting the Doors Open event in terms of the number of visitors and the quality of the displays. The weather was gloriously warm and sunny. Conditions were perfect for a mostly outdoor event.

Twelve tours were given of Union Station. We had photo displays in the roundhouse. People rode the turntable around. Speeder rides were given. The miniature railway ran at capacity with steam and diesel power all weekend. Newly-restored stalls 18-32 were open, as was the restoration shop in stalls 15-17. Stalls 1-3 were busy with our popular model train show and we had a "steam-up" dinner Saturday evening for members, exhibitors and volunteers for the first time.

Many, many volunteers helped us run this very successful event. We thank them all on behalf of the TRHA and the many visitors who benefited from the experience. Visitor numbers are hard to track as the event space was large and we had multiple events occurring simultaneously. We did count 2,300 riders on the miniature railway over the weekend. More than 600 riders also rode the railway speeders. That sets the turntable count at something close to 4,000 people all of whom visited the roundhouse.”

Since 2002, the Toronto Railway Historical Association, in cooperation with the City of Toronto Culture Division and Steam Whistle Brewing, has assumed responsibility for hosting Doors Open at the John Street Roundhouse. Steam Whistle generously made their normally revenue-producing public spaces available for railway displays and the TRHA has established this annual railway fair at the roundhouse.

Under our stewardship the event has evolved into an annual railway heritage fair and display, a preview of what the Toronto Railway Museum will become. Over the years, the TRHA and its affiliates have hosted:

  • Guided tours of Union Station
  • Tours of the newly renovated interior of the CPR Roundhouse
  • Rides on restored maintenance track cars (“speeders”) across the turntable
  • Rides on the turntable as it is turned using its air motors
  • A miniature live steam passenger railway in Roundhouse Park carrying over one thousand people each operating day
  • Several large operating electric model railway layouts
  • An operating garden scale steam railway layout
  • Displays of antique toy trains
  • An interactive computer simulation of the Toronto railway lands circa 1960, created by TRHA members
  • Displays of scale model Canadian steam and diesel locomotives
  • Displays of paintings by a noted Canadian railway artist
  • A display of historic photographs from the City archives
  • Displays from various railway heritage groups in the GTA

An estimated 33,000 people have visited the CPR Roundhouse and Roundhouse Park during a total of only fourteen days of Doors Open events since 2002. This success demonstrates the tremendous public interest in railway heritage and provides an excellent illustration of volunteers working in concert with private enterprise.

Steam Whistle Brewing has generously made all of their public areas available for railway displays during Doors Open. In turn, the railway heritage displays attracted far more visitors than might otherwise visit the brewery alone. We see this cooperation between public heritage and private enterprise as a model well worth emulating at the Toronto Railway Museum.

The Doors Open experience at Union Station has been so positive that the TRHA runs monthly guided tours. This TRHA initiative has relieved the City of Toronto of the responsibility for interpreting this historic building as is required by the Federal Level 2 Heritage Designation of the station. For more information on the tours, click here.
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