Chelsea, Quebec won’t be getting its grand-plan station when the Wakefield Steam Train returns to the tracks, nor will the village be one of the train’s new focal points as originally planned.
Instead, Chelsea will be a stop along the way if the iconic train gets rolling as hoped for the spring of 2014.
“It would have been spectacular for Chelsea if there would have been a full departure,” said Innovation Chelsea president Warren Major, whose company was to build the nostalgia-design train stop at Hwy 105 just south of the Chelsea Freshmart. “But it didn’t turn out to be the best for the train.”
Major admitted his disappointment, especially since his company funded a $270,000 study that outlined a $34-million conceptual design that promised to revitalize “New Chelsea” with a new hotel, housing units, shops, and more. It’s a lost opportunity, to reel in tourists and perhaps erase some of (its) deficit, said Major.
He’s thrilled however, that the train will stop in Chelsea and become an alternative launching point, even if it is just a simple platform and shelter. He said Compagnie du chemin de fer de l’Outaouais (CCFO), the company that owns the train and the tracks, could count on Innovation Chelsea for continued support.
“There’s no use crying over spilled milk,” Major added in a email to the Low Down. “All we can do is roll with the punches, and support the re-launch in any way we can.”
CCFO President Louise Boudrias told the Low Down that a full-blown Chelsea station isn’t in the plans yet, but could be in the picture in the future.
The pre-launch period gives Innovation, the municipality, Hydro Quebec, and the Meredith family in Chelsea time to figure out how pay for costly repairs to an eroding ravine at the end of Hudson Road.
The Ministry of Transport has put a building moratorium on the area because of landslide risk, the same area where the proposed train station would be sited. As well, the parties are at odds as to responsibility for the major repair liability.
But before a Chelsea station is even considered, the CCFO needs to find up to $13 million in funding to repair tracks, renovate cars, and launch the new service that Boudrias hopes will occur in 2014.
“Most of the damage is on the Gatineau side, the rest is really minor,” said Boudrias, explaining how the price tag jumped from $7 million last year to $13 million now.
Part of the reason is the plan to depart the train again from Gatineau, which means repairing the damaged stretches caused mostly by the June 2011 storms. While the costs are high, departing the train from Gatineau is the best option, she said.
“It was a nice Christmas present for us,” added a chuckling Boudrias,
New train, new name, new experience
Boudrias said that when the train does return, it might not be recognizable. With monthly theme nights planned, including Wild West, Christmas, and Halloween events, riders may be drawn to taking a trip more frequently.
The hope is to create a train experience that riders can enjoy again and again. The train will also include other amenities such as high-speed Internet, and storage cars for bikes, strollers, and even musical equipment.