October 2016

Full Steam Ahead – A Tunnel celebration on November 4th!

Free Concert November 4th to celebrate Canada’s First Railway Tunnel, and the opening of Brockville’s Railway Tunnel Park for Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017.

Concert Poster

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Restoration of Canada’s first railway tunnel now underway

Brockville, Ontario – September 9-2016 – Brockville City Councillor David LeSueur, chair of the City’s Railway Tunnel Committee, announced yesterday at the committee’s regular meeting that work recently began on the restoration of Brockville’s historic railway tunnel – Canada’s first – as part of the committee’s plan for the city’s new railway tunnel park.

Based on specifications prepared for the committee by consulting engineers GHD, tendering for masonry work was initiated earlier in the summer. As a result of a competitive bidding process, Phoenix Restoration of Whitby has been chosen to conduct masonry repairs in the tunnel and their work started two weeks ago. The Water Street “hump” will be closed to traffic for a several weeks while masonry work is completed at the south end of the tunnel.

Other work to be tendered for the project includes rock bolting, concrete and asphalt paving, drainage systems, electrical, lighting, and sound systems, security and fire protection systems, landscaping, and signage.

The tunnel committee’s goal is to restore and open the tunnel as well the former railway lands immediately north of the tunnel as the first phase of Railway Tunnel Park in time for Brockville’s Canada 150 birthday celebrations now being planned for August 2017. Once open, the tunnel will become the new central hub of the city’s Brock Trail recreational pathway.

Council has approved a minimum budget of $2.5 million for phase one. The project is being paid for by a capital fundraising campaign initiated by the tunnel committee in the spring of 2016. Said LeSueur, “the success of our fundraising means that we are able to obtain interim financing from Infrastructure Ontario at very low interest rates to start work to restore the tunnel. We are borrowing only against money pledged to date from donors and so the taxpayers won’t be exposed to any risk”. In addition to $300,000 committed by the City in 2014, the tunnel committee has secured funding from the federal and provincial governments and from private donors.

Said LeSueur, “We look forward to announcing our fundraising results later this fall when we launch our community-wide fundraising and awareness phase. I think our community will be very proud of the generous support we have obtained to realize the dream that so many people share with us, of making our tunnel a recreational place for everyone to explore and enjoy.”

An economic impact study prepared for the tunnel committee by the firm of TCI projects that the tunnel and Railway Tunnel Park will attract more than 30,000 visitors annually and bring an additional $1 million per year in revenues for local businesses. The project is intended to complement Brockville’s other downtown attractions such as the Aquatarium,1000 Islands boat tours, the Brockville Museum, the Brockville Arts Centre, Rotary Park, the Fulford Place Museum and King Street shopping, dining and entertainment businesses.

About Canada’s First Railway Tunnel and the City of Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee

As one of Canada’s oldest municipalities, Brockville is also one of its earliest railway centres. Canada’s First Railway Tunnel was completed here in 1860 for the new Brockville and Ottawa Railway, later owned and operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway. The tunnel and neighbouring former railway properties were acquired by the City from CP in 1983 and the first 80 feet of the tunnel has been open to the public since 1988.

Brockville’s Tunnel was a major feat of engineering for its time and it remains a remarkable example of Canada’s pre-Confederation industrial heritage. For years, people in Brockville have talked about what to do with our historic Tunnel and several previous committees have discussed its potential as a tourist attraction. Since 2011, the City of Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee has been conducting engineering and environmental assessments and market research to prepare our Tunnel and related properties for public use. This innovative restoration project will repurpose these historic but long unused heritage railway assets for the benefit of recreation, tourism, and economic development.

Phase two of the tunnel committee’s vision includes proposals for future redevelopment of the former Grand Trunk Railway property northeast of Brock and William Streets, purchased by the City early this year with funding from the Carolyn Sifton Foundation, and proposed improvements at Armagh Sifton Price Park. Community consultations will be conducted before these phase two initiatives proceed.

For more information, please contact
Councillor David LeSueur – Chair, City of Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee
613-803-5501 or

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Brockville City Council Approves Tunnel Project

On April 12 2016 a presentation and motion was made to Brockville City Council asking to approve a two phase project to restore the tunnel and surrounding property for public use.

The highlights of the revised and approved motion before Council was as follows:

Brockville Railway Tunnel Project Authorization

  1. THAT Council approve the vision, plans and budget of the City of Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee for restoration of Canada’s First Railway Tunnel, development of the vacant railway properties adjacent to the Tunnel, and improvements to Armagh S. Price Park in order to create Brockville’s new Railway Tunnel Park;
  2. THAT this project be undertaken by the City in the following two phases:
    Phase I
    Restoration of the Brockville Railway Tunnel and north gorge including masonry repairs, rock stabilization, drainage system, concrete travel surface, lighting, ventilation, safety and security features, slope stabilization, access ramp and landscaping features.
    Phase II
    Development of the vacant former railway lands north of the intersection of Tunnel Avenue and Brock Street, including a tour bus and visitor parking area, a Roundhouse Visitors Centre community multi-purpose building with public restrooms, snack bar, and attractions ticket kiosk, and acquisition of one or more antique railway cars for tour train office and historical displays. THAT all elements of Phase II must come before Council for approval.
    Full details of the motion are available at the City of Brockville meeting information site;
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City Approves Tunnel Application for Canada’s 150 Infrastructure Fund

The Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee is grateful that our tunnel restoration project has been selected by city council as Brockville’s application to the federal government’s Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program. We also express our sincere appreciation for the endorsements we have received from the Brock Trail, Cycling, and Rotary Park Committees, and from many other organizations and individuals recognizing the central role that restoration of our tunnel will play in the future of Brockville’s downtown.

Brockville’s tunnel is Canada’s first railway tunnel and a symbol of our pre-Confederation industrial history. The tunnel and the tunnel’s north portal gorge at Pearl and Victoria Streets are unused and unappreciated Canadian heritage assets that our project will open for recreation, tourism, and economic development. As a new part of the Brock Trail, the tunnel and gorge will provide an extended pathway for citizens and visitors alike to enjoy walking, jogging, cycling, and other outdoor activities, as well as heritage exploration, shopping, dining, and entertainment at several sites downtown, including our new Aquatarium.

Our committee’s immediate goal is to secure funding to restore the tunnel and gorge in order to open these to the public in time for Canada’s 150th birthday, July 1, 2017.

Activities to be funded include masonry repairs, rock and slope stabilization, drainage, a travel surface, lighting, ventilation, safety/security, landscaping, and accessibility features.

Fundraising planning was initiated by our committee in April 2015. We are currently focused on securing major grants and leadership gifts from key individuals and local businesses, national corporations, charitable foundations, and organizations as well as from federal and provincial government grant programs, and these activities will continue through 2015. A public phase of community-wide fundraising and awareness activities is expected to be launched later in 2016.

Based on the latest estimates, the cost to restore and open the tunnel and gorge will be about $2.4 million, of which we are now seeking $275,000 from the Canada 150 fund. The City of Brockville has already committed $300,000 toward the project.

Again, we are grateful for the encouragement and support we are receiving from the community for this project.

For more information about how to get involved, please contact:

Dave LeSueur
Chair, Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee

Linda Eyre
Vice-Chair, Fundraising
Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee

Follow our project on Facebook 

For Canada150 information, visit:


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Artistic Renderings of Tunnel Project Released

The Tunnel Committee presented artistic renderings of tunnel project to Brockville City Council on January 20th.

The creative illustrations were done by Margo Davies Leclair, of Visual Sense Illustrations, after consultations with the committee.

We would like to emphasize the fact that these are concepts of what we believe the tunnel and the areas at each end could look like, assuming the appropriate funding is secured, and assuming private or public interest enables the buildings to be constructed and managed.

We are excited to present a vision for the future of the tunnel and the land at it’s entrances. Check out our 19 page PDF below:

Brockville Railway Tunnel Approved Concept Presentation (PDF)

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Market Study Indicates Positive Economic Impact

A 2013-2014 Market Study Assessment performed by TCI Management Consultants indicates a potential economic impact of 1.1 million annually for the Brockville area.

Market Assessment cover In August 2013, following a public tendering process, TCI Management Consultants was retained to undertake a market assessment study for the Brockville Tunnel, Canada’s first railway tunnel and a key historical asset of the City of Brockville. The assignment was to undertake a market assessment review of the tunnel as an attraction and determine the broad financial implications of use of the facility by the target markets identified.

The first phase of the analysis demonstrated that the tunnel attraction could be a worthwhile community asset, and generate economic benefit to the community, but that there would be a need for some on-going subsidy and operating funding if the ‘tunnel project’ was seen just as an end in itself. However, if the tunnel is seen as a catalyst for the development of the property around its north end, then the entire project could generate net benefit to the municipality. Specifically the additional tax benefits generated by development at the north end would largely offset the operating deficit of the tunnel attraction. Phase 2 of the project was devoted in part to exploring this possibility in greater detail.

View the 38 page report here: Brockville Tunnel Market Assessment Report (pdf)

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Spring Clean-up Included North Entrance

spring clean up

April 27, 2014

We did it! About 25 bags of garbage were collected from the north end area of the Railway Tunnel! Cheers to our great clean up crew (L to R); Lorraine Strong, Dave LeSueur, Raul Cirne, Pete VanderVelde, Keith Hare, Chris Hansen, Brian Porter, Maggie Wheeler, Doug Grant (missing from photo; Doug Smith).

Dale Elliott, EON News, created a great video report of the Annual Brockville Community Wide Cleanup. Visit EON News here

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Tunnel Project Gets $300K

Brockville Railway Tunnel Plaque

The Brockville Railway Tunnel Plaque

When it comes to the historic railway tunnel revitalization project, city council is almost all aboard – at least for the first stop.

Council voted Tuesday night in favour of contributing $300,000 toward the project, over a four-year period, and including it on its list of capital priorities.

The money will go toward the repair and renovation of what is deemed Canada’s oldest railway tunnel, which runs under city hall from a point three blocks north of the building to Armagh S. Price Park. Councillor David LeSueur, chairman of the railway tunnel advisory committee, said after the vote the historic tunnel could put the city on the tourism map the same way the Magnetic Hill did for Moncton. “This will improve the economy. This will bring people,” said LeSueur.

Tuesday’s vote came after another pitch from tunnel committee members Brian Porter and Doug Grant. Porter acknowledged the project won’t be profitable as a tourist attraction on its own, but only as part of a “campus approach” with other venues such as the Aquatarium.

Grant said the tunnel is not meant only as a tourism attraction, but also as a “resource” for local residents to use for riding bikes or getting downtown.

“A tunnel is nothing if you can’t go into it,” said Grant.

Councillor David Beatty likened the group’s work to the success in the past decade of community efforts such as Project Encore, which led to the renovation of the Brockville Arts Centre, and the Thousand Islands Secondary School track project.

He expressed confidence in the advisory committee’s ability to raise the majority of the estimated $1.5 million needed for the project. “I think we’re going to be nicely surprised as well,” said Beatty. “It complements many of the tourism assets that we have in the community.” The community group needs financial support from the city before it can leverage other dollars from the community, added Councillor Leigh Bursey. Councillor Jeff Earle, meanwhile, reiterated skepticism about the project he expressed at last week’s finance committee meeting. While he likes the tunnel project, Earle said, he does not have enough information to back the motion. “Essentially, I’m buying a pig in a blanket. I just don’t want it to turn out to be a porcupine,” he said.

Councillors Mary Jean McFall and Tom Blanchard expressed similar skepticism. The latter, however, was swayed to support by Grant’s assertion the tunnel will be a community resource.

Councillors Jason Baker and Mike Kalivas were willing to support the motion, but warned they will not likely back any further outlay of city funds toward it.

“I will be disappointed if this project ends up escalating,” said Baker.

Mayor David Henderson also acknowledged some hesitation, but said his concern is to get the tunnel open.

Considering the project has languished for decades, the mayor believes supporting the process is the only way to ensure the tunnel will be repaired for public use.

Earle cast the lone dissenting vote and McFall abstained.

The motion city council approved Tuesday commits $75,000 a year to a railway tunnel reserve, for four years starting in 2014. The motion also places the project on the city’s 10-year capital priority list. Early estimates peg the cost of turning the tunnel into a tourist attraction at $1.5 million.

Republished from the Recorder and Times
By Ronald Zajac, Tuesday, March 26, 2013

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Brockville in Canadian Railway Hall of Fame

As Brockville officially joined the Canadian Railway Hall of Fame Tuesday, locals were looking down the line to a revamped railway tunnel and greater tourism success.

“Let’s get on board,” Brian Porter, a local historian and member of the railway tunnel advisory committee said in front of the historic railway tunnel’s south end.

Porter joined other rail tunnel enthusiasts and politicians at a ceremony Tuesday marking Brockville’s induction into the hall of fame, which honours Canadian achievement in the railway industry.

They used the event to boost the railway tunnel advisory committee’s efforts to see the tunnel refurbished and made a tourism attraction.

“We soon hope to see people walking, cycling and riding a train through the tunnel,” said city councillor and committee chairman David LeSueur.

He was referring to the small, rubber-wheeled train the committee would like to see taking tourists through the tunnel and to other downtown attractions.

Brockville has long proclaimed itself home of Canada’s oldest railway tunnel, an underground stretch that runs under city hall from a point three blocks north of the building to Armagh S. Price Park south of it.

Council this year committed $300,000 toward the railway tunnel project, over four years starting in 2014, and to include it on its list of capital priorities. That will go toward an estimated $1.5 million required to get the tunnel fixed, illuminated and ready for tours. The city is expected to have a feasibility study done this year.

The railway tunnel opened in 1860 and the first train passed through on December 31 that year, said Porter, who gave the crowd a history lesson about the tunnel and Brockville’s railway past.

Mayor David Henderson commended previous councils for committing funds to keep the tunnel from collapsing.

“We’re going to be all long gone in dust, but it’s going to be here,” said the mayor.

Henderson read a letter from Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark, who was unable to attend. It was Clark who, as mayor of Brockville, presided over the public opening of the southern portion of the tunnel.

Perhaps cementing the decision, last year, to induct Brockville into the hall of fame was Doug Smith, who is a member of the tunnel committee and the national hall of fame selection committee.

“I think it was time that the tunnel was officially recognized in the highest way possible,” Smith said. Smith also commended councillors willing to commit money to the project. “History certainly comes at a cost,” said Smith.

So did the railway tunnel itself. When first conceived in 1853, the tunnel cost a projected 900,000 British pounds, a whopping sum at the time, said Porter.

“Heated debates were held within town council about the costs,” he said.

“Some things don’t change.”

Brockville joins such communities as Craigellachie, B.C., where the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven, and larger cities that played a historic role in Canada’s rail industry, such as Montreal and Winnipeg, in the Canadian Railway Hall of Fame. The hall of fame committee notes: “Few Canadian communities have a richer rail history than … one of the country’s oldest railway centres: Brockville.”

Republisehd from the Recorder and Times
By Ronald Zajac, Tuesday, May 14, 2013


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