Photo of CP-7069 from Railroadfan.com
On the weekend when we celebrate our nation’s history, we seem on the verge of destroying some of it.
Sitting in its home at the CPR John Street Roundhouse, a 1948 CP Rail locomotive engine known as the Hauling Fool is about to be scrapped to make way for a Leon’s furniture store, and there is little its owners can do about it. Located just outside Bay 14 at the Roundhouse, the engine has been under restoration by Steam Whistle Brewing and owners Doug and Don Lister, and is a notable sight on tours of the Roundhouse.
The remaining, empty part of the City-owned building was slated for Toronto’s only Rail History Museum, so in 1997, the Lister brothers inked a deal with the City of Toronto’s Culture department to house the Hauling Fool so that it could be used on display in the future museum (which was to be established at no cost to the City).
Now, the City has slapped an order on the Lister brothers—both train engineers—demanding that they remove the 230,000-pound train engine by Tuesday, July 3 or else it will likely be dismantled and sold as scrap. Moving the locomotive can only be done by crane at a cost of $50,000—money that the Listers don’t have to spend.
Since the original agreement between the brothers and then-Mayor Art Eggleton’s government, the City has outsourced its planning of the Roundhouse to a private developer, which has scaled-back museum preparations to a fraction of their original size to accommodate a new Leon’s Discount Furniture Warehouse. The new museum will sit in only three of the Roundhouse’s 32 bays, and the furniture store will fill the remaining 16 bays in the 1929 structure, where locomotives underwent maintenance for 55 years.
The Hauling Fool was discovered in pieces by the Listers in 1978 and was restored at their own cost, and though it doesn’t represent the era of the Roundhouse’s construction, it is one of the only remaining models of its kind. The agreement with the City mandated that the Listers were to be given at least 180-days notice to remove the engine, which the City has complied with.
As for the furniture store, it can’t be stopped without the threat or lawsuits since the space has already been leased by the developer. Steam Whistle Brewery also leases Bays 1–14 of the Roundhouse—dismantled and rebuilt by the City in 1995—and beautifully restored the structure to its original post-and-beam construction. The brewery tours about 60,000 people through the facility each year and hosts about 35 weddings annually.
Leon’s is slated to move in by the fall of 2008, and the conditions of the lease require the furniture chain to restore and maintain the integrity of the historically-designated structure. The store will only be a showroom, and deliveries will be made from other warehouses. The owners of Steam Whistle are livid at the Leon’s deal—not only because they expected a rail museum to move into the remaining space, but because the developer is only paying the City 89¢ per square foot, whereas their 1999 lease mandates $7.50 per square foot, as reported by The Star‘s Christopher Hume.
Granted, Steam Whistle is just as much a business as Leon’s, but the brewery’s founders approached the City during a time when the nobody knew what to do with the Roundhouse with a plan to restore the structure and bring tourism to the National Heritage site. Steam Whistle also closely ties their whole corporate identity to the building and takes great pride in the restoration (which is not to suggest that Leon’s wouldn’t do the same). There is then the question whether or not a discount furniture store is an appropriate tenant for the Roundhouse, especially as it is requiring the removal of a historic locomotive from the railway facility.
And what happens if the downgraded railway museum, which will no longer include the large “rolling stock,” can’t attract enough tourists to its now-tiny location? Will it quietly be shuttered to make way for a few more couches and coffee tables? And will we lament the loss of engine No. 7069 as yet another symbol of our city’s vanishing history?
Archival image from 1935 from the Paterson-George Collection; Steam Whistle Brewery photo by Eugen S. from the Torontoist Flickr Pool. Thanks to Torontoist reader Jeremy K. for tipping us off to this story.