The Spirit of Sir John A.
26 May 2011
Full Steam Ahead for $1.1M "Spirit" Engine Restoration
Kingston Ontario - The planned restoration of The Spirit of Sir John A is back on track.
The much-touted refit of the rusty locomotive was approved by council a year ago, but the project had stalled because of rising costs.
The final spike of funding is now in place.
City councillors agreed to invest another $150,000 for the relocation and restoration of the century-old engine in Confederation Park, pushing the project's
overall cost to $1.1 million.
The higher cost is attributed to the delicate nature of restoring a large scale historical industrial landmark. The black engine contains hazardous materials
such as asbestos and construction contracts are higher than expected, according to city staff overseeing the project.
But enthusiastic councillors are fully on board with the inflated restoration costs, which they unanimously endorsed at their 17 May 2011 meeting.
"It's an icon for tourism and the choice of letting it melt into nothingness is just not an option," said Coun. Dorothy Hector.
Councillors were buoyed by presentations from labour and community groups who pledged to help the city with the restoration and fundraising of one of
Kingston's most photographed and familiar landmarks.
"We are very committed to this project," said Brian Maloney, representing Local 221 of plumbers, steamfitters, and welders.
The skilled trades group has committed over 3,000 volunteer hours, plus no-cost materials, to make the restoration a reality.
In addition, the Engine 1095 Restorers Group is planning a unique fundraising campaign to help defray some of the costs. With the city's permission, the group
will sell dozens of rail spikes and most of the 120 foot iron track where the locomotive rests as souvenirs.
"They're very valuable. A spike will sell for a minimum of $25 to $40. That adds up," said Engine 1095 spokesperson Ian Craig.
The Kingston-built locomotive was a gift to the city from the Kingston Jaycees in 1967. But time and the elements have taken their toll on The Spirit which is
in danger of falling apart without a heavy metal makeover.
The city plans to do the work in three phases over the next two years, the first phase is to build a stable concrete foundation about 10 metres away from the
current location which will involve a giant crane to relocate the massive engine, the second phase is to fully restore the deteriorating engine, and the final
phase is to construct a permanent shelter.
The massive lift and relocation job is expected to happen this summer and the labour intensive restoration work is slated for next year. Despite the lofty
price tag, trades volunteers will contribute about $223,000 in free labour and materials, plus an undetermined amount from the fundraising campaign will help
defray some of the tax money that's being invested.
Craig says it's a good deal for the city given some important milestones that are fast approaching, 2013 is the 100th anniversary of the locomotive's
construction, the 200th birthday of Sir John A. Macdonald is in 2015, and Canada's 150th anniversary is in 2017.
Of the engine's tourism appeal, he added: "The city has an enormous opportunity to be the destination of choice for tourists not only from across
Canada but around the world."