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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