The Toronto Railway Historical Association (TRHA) is a registered charitable organization which was established in 2001; its mandate, as directed by the City of Toronto, is the promotion and establishment of a meaningful Railway Museum at the Roundhouse Park to celebrate the contributions of the rail lands to the success of Toronto through the industrial era. In addition to the establishment of the Rail Museum, the TRHA has developed a vision and mission statement which includes:
- The communication of the history of railways in Toronto
- The identification and celebration of the creative, technological, social and industrial achievements of Torontonians who have contributed to the development of railways in Canada
- To assemble, conserve and preserve artifacts and objects relating to the development of the railway industry
- To make available the resources of the TRHA and the Toronto Railway Museum to Canada and the world via internet technology
In 2001, the Toronto Railway Historical Committee (predecessor to the TRHA) began the development of the program to guide the establishment of the Railway Museum: this original “vision document” anticipated the use of display sites outside of the Roundhouse site in addition to the Machine Shop and five stalls. Due to outside interests, these additional sites are no longer available to the TRHA: these sites would have accounted for thousands of square feet of space. At present, the TRHA occupies only three stalls of the original 32 stalls which are used for the restoration of rolling stock. The Machine Shop constitutes the only remaining space in the Roundhouse Park available for use by the TRHA and our volunteers. In addition to the museum function, the use of the Machine Shop by the TRHA and our volunteers is vital to the continued success and function of the Roundhouse Park and is critical for the implementation of the following programs and activities:
The Machine Shop will function as the starting point for all historical railway tours, including Union Station and Rail Land tours, school and bus tours
- The TSSA certification required for volunteers to run the mini-steam engines will take place within the Machine Shop – the loss of this attraction would have an incredibly negative effect on the Roundhouse Park, in addition to the loss of income generated by the attraction
- The restoration work which takes place within Stalls 15-17 will be coordinated at the Machine Shop: currently, all staff and volunteer functions are temporarily housed in the Restoration Stalls which detracts from the restoration work to be done
- The rail simulators, including the restored Canadian National FP9, will be located in the Machine Shop, providing the public with an opportunity to experience rail operations in Toronto from the Engineer’s perspective
- Space within the Machine Shop will be dedicated to the archiving, interpretation and display of rail artifacts, documents and equipment, including the original Machine Shop equipment and blacksmith shop
- Public lecture series and educational and safety programs will be offered at the Machine Shop, including programs organized by Operation Lifesaver
- The establishment of a Railway Library to provide research facilities for rail enthusiasts and academics in addition to partnerships with other libraries, educational institutions and archives to create travelling exhibits and collections
- To foster research into rail history in the Toronto area
- A gift shop and bookstore to provide tourists and visitors the opportunity to purchase postcards, posters and books to enhance and reinforce their experience at the Railway Museum and Roundhouse Park and broaden the knowledge of Toronto railway history
- The programs and activities outlined by the TRHA are completely in keeping with those offered at other comparable Rail Museums: indeed, the programme prepared by the TRHA for the Machine Shop is much more modest given the site restraints
To date, TRHA volunteers have completed over 50,000 hours of work, including the restoration of rolling stock and associated rail buildings such as Cabin D and the relocated Don Station as well as the construction and operation of the mini-rail, an attraction which has proved incredibly popular with visitors. It is important to note that much of this work was completed by the volunteers within the Machine Shop, including the construction of the miniature railway; not only has the Machine Shop been critical to the work of the volunteers but it has also been central to the development of the Roundhouse Park as a whole.
During its operation, the Machine Shop functioned as the “heart” of the Roundhouse and it truly remains so today.
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