Friends of Freeman station find they have friends at city hall as well - the city will pay to have rolling stock moved.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

September 11th, 2019



This one has been a long time coming – and very richly deserved.

The volunteers that made the restoration of the Freeman Station possible worked hard against some really unfortunate resistance from the city council at the time.

They had every reason to be smiling. Councillors Meed Ward and Lancaster pose with five members of the Friends of Freeman Station after the Council meeting that approved the entering into of a Joint Venture that would have the Friends moving the station and taking on the task of renovating the building.

They were never BFF but then Councillors Meed Ward and Lancaster stood up when it mattered. Here they pose with five members of the Friends of Freeman Station after the Council meeting that approved the entering into of a Joint Venture that would have the Friends moving the station and taking on the task of renovating the building.

It was then Councillors Marianne Meed Ward and Blair Lancaster that stood up to be counted and were there every step of the way as the volunteers overcame one obstacle after another.

The Mayor at the time seemed mute; two Councillors came close to conspiring to ensure that it didn’t happen; a staff civil engineer was less than truthful when she said the structure might well fall apart if any effort were made to move it.

Despite all this – a location was found, the station was successfully moved and the renovations began to take place. Hundreds of people offered memorabilia.


Telephone used by station masters,

The collection of railway lanterns is close to embarrassing – they have half a dozen key sets as well.

They have one of the receipt books that lists every package that came into the station and was shipped out from the Station.

Don Smith tells people of the days when he was a boy and would go with staff from his Dad’s funeral home to pick up new coffins that were being shipped to the then town.

A short while ago the Friends of Freeman FOFS learned that a steam engine and a tender plus two railway cars were available for the right organization.

The Friends of Freeman jumped aboard that idea and did their homework; approached council asking for some help.

They needed financial backing which they would have liked to see in the form of a grant, but if that was not possible, they would do the fundraising needed to pay the City back. A letter from the City indicating this financial support to move the equipment would form a key element of their proposal and would make it very compelling.

Council agreed to provide up to $150,000 to transport the engine and rail cars from Morrisburg,  Ontario where they are a part of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission (SLPC) and are located at Crysler Park, near Morrisburg.

The SLPC has decided the equipment does not fit its mandate as it is too modern for the era they depict at Upper Canada Village, and they do not wish to restore it. They have put it out to tender with the proviso that it must go to a museum, municipality or other similar entity in Canada, for preservation. The equipment will be granted at no cost, except its removal and relocation.

It was a great opportunity with a relatively short time line. An application had to be in by October 4th. FOFS didn’t have that kind of money – they asked the city if they would backstop the funding requirement.

Freeman - close to final

The station sits on private property that is a hydro right of way. Rent is $1 a year. The city owns the station – the Friends take care of it.

The city was prepared to go further than that – the recommendation out of committee was to put up the $150,000 as a grant – and then they got really generous and said that it was about time the city bought the land the Freeman Station sits on.

It can’t be used for any development – most of it is beneath a hydro right of way.


The engine – believed to have been used on one of the runs into Burlington.


The tender carried coal used to create steam to drive the four truck engine.


A passenger car that is believed to have been used during trips to Burlington.


A baggage car that could also be refrigerated.

This equipment is extremely rare, and in relatively good condition, needing only cosmetic restoration. The passenger car is so rare it may well be the only one left of its type in Canada. The locomotive served the Burlington area at one time, the refrigerated baggage car was of a type, and may have been one, that served the Freeman Station fruit platform. The passenger car may well have served Freeman Station.

FOFS has assembled a team of restoration experts and has the volunteer and sponsor base needed to restore this priceless historic railway equipment and make it, along with the station, a showpiece of which the citizens of Burlington can be proud.

They also have the land to accommodate the additions. Having restored Freeman Station and raised almost $1 million in funds, services and labour to do so, they can demonstrate to SLPC that they are a worthy candidate to receive their valued artifacts. At the present time FOFS has $30,000 available for restoration work.

The major issue is the cost of moving these large and heavy pieces to Burlington. FOFS has contacted four highly qualified and experienced movers of heavy equipment and asked each for a proposal. Three of the four have been to look at the equipment. All have given FOFS preliminary cost estimates ranging from $100,000 to $300,000. FOFS is now waiting on formal quotes and will meet with each to negotiate.

Freeman - scaffold outside platform windows

Volunteer working on the outside of the station.

The Freeman Station renovation is now virtually complete and is accepting visitors, and school trips. The station has proven to be a popular addition to the public spaces in Burlington.

They are now open Saturdays and Public Holidays and have visitor numbers typically between thirty and one hundred, with much larger crowds when they have a special event such as Doors Open. The addition of this rare railway rolling stock will add greatly to the attractiveness of Freeman Station and make it a more significant tourist attraction.

Freeman with stop and car in place

The challenge is going to be – where will the rolling stock go – they don’t want to block the view of the station.

It will draw visitors from far and wide and add to the educational experience provided by the station.

To make their proposal to SLPC credible by the deadline of October 4th, FOFS needs to demonstrate that they have the financial capability to move the equipment. Expect this to be approved at the council meeting on the 23rd.

Mayor Meed Ward may well drive to Morrisburg to present the application herself.


Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

2 comments to Friends of Freeman station find they have friends at city hall as well – the city will pay to have rolling stock moved.

  • David Fenton

    I have a great love of steam locomotives…If they need a good polisher, i’m available.

  • Gary Scobie

    This is fantastic news. We visited Upper Canada Village this summer and saw this engine on the site. It and the three cars will make a splendid addition to the Museum site.

    It shows what a difference an election can indeed make when new people with fresh thinking replace others who didn’t really want to think what the Freeman Station could be.