• Stuart Benson

Building steam on new train park

Gallery owner proposes historical park to commemorate Wakefield’s steam train


Shawn Deneire, owner of Galerie d’art Riverside in Wakefield wants to bring the steam train, or at least a piece of it, back to the turntable in Place Roquebrune, along Riverside Drive in Wakefield, as a cafe and museum.


Shawn Deneire, owner of Galerie d’art Riverside in Wakefield, is seeking a private partnership with the municipality of La Pêche to bring a newly renovated train car back to the turntable in Wakefield and develop it into a historical park complete with a museum and cafe. Stuart Benson photo
Shawn Deneire, owner of Galerie d’art Riverside in Wakefield, is seeking a private partnership with the municipality of La Pêche to bring a newly renovated train car back to the turntable in Wakefield and develop it into a historical park complete with a museum and cafe. Stuart Benson photo

Originally hailing from St. Thomas, ON, Deneire said he remembers the memorial to Jumbo the Elephant – the Barnum & Bailey Circus star that was killed by a freight train during a stop in the town in 1885 – and the accompanying railway museum there, and can’t understand why Wakefield has absolutely no commemoration to the railway’s history in the region.


It’s why he has approached the municipality, which owns the park property where the turntable is located, to request a private partnership in order to develop Place Roquebrune, more commonly known as Turntable Park, with a cafe and museum in a newly renovated train car. Part of the plan is to transport the train car from its current home at the Edelweiss Quarry to Turntable Park. The turntable or wheelhouse is a device used to turn the locomotive around.


Deneire said he has an agreement with the current owner of the railcar to sell it to him under the condition he receives an agreement to a partnership with the municipality. Deneire said he’s optimistic about that partnership after speaking with Ward 6 Councillor Claude Giroux and Mayor Guillaume Lamoureux.


Deneire will be renovating the 77-foot long railcar himself, relying on his experience building hotrods and custom cars for 17 years, and using samples of the original seating, along with pattern swatches from the original floor and walls.


"I've got all of the skills to do this and photographs [from] the internet of what the interior looked like," Deneire explained, adding that all he needs is approval from the municipality. “I'm not the kind of person who likes to procrastinate, I'd like to start this now.”


Unfortunately for Deneire his proposal won’t be up for approval at the next council meeting on June 7, as it will need to be reviewed by council and the Urbanism Consultative Committee before being put to a vote, according to Lamoureux.


“[Deneire] shared a document that included a vision statement and financial projections, all of which will have to be reviewed by the council,” Lamoureux explained. “I find his project altogether very promising... I look forward to hearing feedback from the community.”


While Deneire wouldn’t share specific projections for the cost of the project, he said the total estimates came to $100,000 altogether, but assured taxpayers he wasn’t asking them to open their wallets.


“I will be funding this from my personal money as well as from provincial and federal grants,” Deneire explained. “I do not want to go to La Pêche for funding from taxpayers."


Deneire invites the public to express their support or concern for the project to galerieriverside@gmail.com.