Museum Impact!

An absolutely devastating impact …..

The consequences of the current proposal by Toronto Hydro to the Toronto Railway Historical Association and the Roundhouse site are absolutely devastating.  The loss of the space within the Machine Shop eliminates any possibility for the establishment of the Toronto Railway Museum and negates over 10 years of planning and effort on the part of the TRHA and our volunteers, not to mention the explicit intent of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company when they donated the Roundhouse to the City of Toronto over 25 years ago.

As the Machine Shop constitutes the only remaining space available to the TRHA staff and volunteers, the loss of this space will adversely affect both the proposed and current programs and attractions, many of which have been developed in partnership with other agencies, compounding the negative affect that this current proposal will have.  As noted, the success of the Roundhouse Park to date owes much to the efforts of the TRHA’s volunteers; unfortunately, with little or no hope of the continued growth of the Rail Museum and its related programs, it is unlikely that many of them will remain committed.  To eliminate the implementation of the Rail Museum and jeopardize the further development of the Roundhouse Park negates the efforts of these volunteers and irreparably damages an incredibly valuable heritage site.  The ability to present and interpret the history of the Roundhouse in keeping with the National Historic Site Objectives is dependent upon the ability of the TRHA and our volunteers to interact with and engage visitors to the Railway Museum: the anticipated loss of volunteer involvement limits the possibilities for display and eliminates the potential for meaningful interpretation.  In 2011, the TRHA was awarded the Community Heritage Award by Heritage Toronto for our commitment to the celebration of rail history and the development of the Roundhouse Park: to destroy the only remaining opportunity for the continued work of the TRHA in the face of such recognition is an insult.

Furthermore, the loss of the Machine Shop and its related programs will eliminate the potential for revenue generation which would allow the Railway Museum to be self-sufficient and sustainable and set a precedent for the future development of City-owned or operated museums.  The TRHA and the City of Toronto remain committed to the establishment of the Toronto Railway Museum: in fact, the TRHA and the City of Toronto recently finalized the details for the TRHA’s operating budget, including funding for a temporary exhibit to be housed in Stall #17.  It was the intent of the TRHA that this temporary exhibit would generate interest and excitement for the upcoming Railway Museum: it would be an absolute disgrace for the TRHA to be denied yet another opportunity to establish the Railway Museum due to the actions of an organization with such a limited agenda.   This proposal by Toronto Hydro does not represent a legitimate alternative or attempt at adaptive re-use: the decision to appropriate space within the Machine Shop and eliminate the potential to establish the Toronto Railway Museum was made by Toronto Hydro with no direction from or consultation with the City of Toronto or the TRHA.

Without the space that we have relied upon to support an effective program, the existing artifacts, documents and other collection items currently in the possession of the TRHA will have to remain in storage at the City of Toronto Archives with little to no possibility for their future display and interpretation.  Additionally, the TRHA may have to refuse the donation of any new items which could lead to the disposal of valuable pieces of our rail heritage which have not yet been discovered.  The existing compressor and jacks, presently in situ in the Machine Shop, may never be available for presentation or research purposes and will limit the effective communication of the repair function of the site, to which the Machine Shop was central.  It is simply not possible to communicate the function of the Roundhouse without the ability to present the Machine Shop and its machinery and equipment in some semblance of their original setting; the Toronto Hydro proposal destroys that possibility completely.

It has been suggested that the TRHA can effectively establish the Railway Museum in the space that remains within the Restoration Stalls, possibly utilizing the catwalks above.  Accessibility issues notwithstanding, this does not constitute nearly enough space without the rolling stock much less with the continuation of the restoration work.  Similarly, any remaining space within the Machine Shop, possibly made available by Toronto Hydro to the TRHA four to five times a year, would allow for little beyond photographic display, limiting the opportunity for communication to static exhibition, cursory at best.  Not only is this contrary to the “vision document”, prepared by the TRHA, which envisioned a dynamic institution that would provide the opportunity for volunteer and community involvement, public and private partnerships, educational and vocational training opportunities and research activities, it utterly diminishes the importance of the Roundhouse site and its related history.  It is important to reiterate that the programs and activities outlined by the TRHA are completely in keeping with those offered at other comparable Railway Museums: indeed, the programme prepared by the TRHA for the Machine Shop is much more modest given the site constraints.

Not only does the current Toronto Hydro proposal eliminate any opportunity for the TRHA to utilize the Machine Shop for the communication and interpretation of the history of the Roundhouse site and railways in Toronto, it compromises the continued success and function of the Roundhouse Park in its entirety.  The loss of the Machine Shop and the resulting elimination of the Railway Museum are contrary to the National Historic Site Objectives as outlined in the Commemorative Integrity Statement and, as such, are completely inappropriate to the management of a National Historic Site:

  • The opportunity to foster the knowledge and appreciation of Canada’s past, as related to its rail history, will be eliminated
  • The current proposal does nothing to ensure that the commemorative integrity of the Roundhouse site is protected and presented for present and future generations: indeed, this current proposal jeopardizes the commemorative and physical integrity of the Machine Shop and Roundhouse forever

The continued use of the Machine Shop by the TRHA is absolutely vital to the establishment of the Toronto Railway Museum.

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