Our Project Vision
Brockville's New Railway Tunnel Park
Canada’s First Railway Tunnel was completed in 1860 for the Brockville and Ottawa Railway and later owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway until being acquired by the City of Brockville in 1983. Our historic Tunnel is a remarkable example of Canada’s pre-Confederation industrial heritage that our innovative restoration project will repurpose for recreation, tourism and economic development.
The City of Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee's vision for Railway Tunnel Park includes:
- Restoration of Canada’s First Railway Tunnel
- Redevelopment of the former railway “Gorge” property north of the Tunnel
- Proposed redevelopment of the former Grand Trunk Railway/Canadian National Railway property west of the Tunnel and Gorge
- Proposed improvements at our existing Armagh Sifton Price Park, south of the Tunnel.
Once open to the public, Canada’s First Railway Tunnel will be the new central hub of Brockville’s scenic Brock Trail recreational pathway. An active, exciting place for children, youth and their families, the Tunnel will enable pedestrians to connect from the Trail at the city’s waterfront, through the Gorge and under the bridge under the CN rail corridor, to other sections of the Trail running to the city’s north and west. The Tunnel, Gorge and Brock Trail will allow visitors to travel from the St. Lawrence River all the way to the Mac Johnson Conservation Area 7 km north of Brockville.
At 525 metres (1722 feet) long, the Tunnel will feature a smooth concrete travel surface and state-of-the-art energy efficient LED lighting. A programmable light show will highlight the Tunnel’s engineering, architectural, and geological features.
Open during the daylight hours in spring, summer and fall, the Tunnel will also be a unique and exciting venue for community special events and festivals year-round, such as exhibitions, receptions, dinners, parties, dances, performances, charity walks, races, and marathons.
Other Tunnel features will include a state-of-the art sound system; safety, security and fire protection systems; rest areas and benches; a ventilation system; wayfinding and education signage; and public wi-fi access. Canada’s First Railway Tunnel will be bright, smooth, safe, and fully wheelchair accessible.
A rubber-tired tour train will take visitors back and forth, through the Gorge and Canada’s First Railway Tunnel, to Armagh Sifton Price Park and to Brockville’s other waterfront and downtown attractions.
Originally part of the Brockville and Ottawa Railway when Canada’s First Railway Tunnel opened in 1860, the Gorge property immediately north of the Tunnel will be rehabilitated and landscaped as a park to enable pedestrians to connect from the Tunnel to the Brock Trail.
The Gorge will feature an accessible ramp to enable pedestrians, cyclists, people using wheelchairs, and as well as allow Railway Tunnel Park’s soft-tired tour train to travel back and forth through the Tunnel south to Armagh Sifton Price Park at Brockville’s waterfront.
Future phases of Railway Tunnel Park include proposed redevelopment of the former Grand Trunk Railway lands, west of the tunnel and south of the CN corridor, with a proposed new roundhouse-style visitors centre with public restrooms. In addition, a tour bus and car parking area is being considered and various improvements are proposed for Armagh Sifton Price Park, south of the tunnel. These future phases are conceptual at this stage and will proceed once funding and council approvals are received.
Restoration of the Tunnel formally commenced in the summer of 2016 in order to complete the first phase of Railway Tunnel Park in time for Brockville’s Canada 150 birthday celebrations now being planned for August 2017. The opening of the tunnel and north gorge area will be highlighted by a parade and opening ceremonies the morning of August 12, as part of the city’s Rails to Trails festival. Following the opening ceremonies, residents and visitors will be able to proceed through the tunnel, from end-to-end.
This project is being entirely funded by a special capital fundraising campaign. Interim financing is being provided by Infrastructure Ontario and is being secured by donations pledged to date.
Once open, Canada’s First Railway Tunnel and Railway Tunnel Park will attract more than 30,000 visitors annually – both local residents and tourists – and complement Brockville’s other downtown and waterfront attractions, such as Blockhouse Island, Tunnel Bay marina, Thousand Islands boat cruises, our new Aquatarium, the Brockville Museum, the Brockville Arts Centre, Rotary Park, King Street shopping and dining, and the Fulford Place Museum. Railway Tunnel Park will add to the reasons for people to visit and move to Brockville.
The following concept drawings were unveiled in early 2015 to illustrate the City of Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee's vision for Railway Tunnel Park: