Locomotive #219 is Unveiled on June 17th, 2018. Left to Right: Frank Madigan (Director, NORMHC), Dale Wilson (Director, NORMHC), Mike Jakubo (Councillor, City of Greater Sudbury), Brian Yensen (President,NORMHC), Derek Lingenfelter (Mind Over Metal), Ritchie Castonguay (Hite Services), Marc Serre (MP, Nickle Belt), Cody Cacciotti (Operations Manager, NORMHC).  Photo Credit: Ben Leeson.

The Northern Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre became the proud owner of Temiskaming and Northern Ontario steam locomotive #219 during the summer of 2012. The locomotive’s ongoing restoration has been an incredible process made possible by the hundreds of individual donors, organizations and businesses who have all contributed to the project, ensuring that the historic locomotive will be preserved and celebrated for years to come.

The Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railway (T&NO) was chartered in 1902 by the Ontario government to bring settlers and open up economic development to the territory north of North Bay. Renamed the Ontario Northland Railway (ONR) in 1946, it currently extends from North Bay through Cochrane to Moosonee, west from Cochrane past Hearst and east from Swastika to Rouyn-Noranda in Quebec.

Over the course of its existence, the railway company owned a total of seventy-four steam locomotives ranging from 4-4-0 to 4-8-4 wheel arrangements.  The #219 is the oldest surviving steam locomotive ever belonging to the T&NO.

In 1907, Montreal Locomotive Works was commissioned to build six freight 4-6-0s for the Temiskaming & Northern Ontario and were assigned the unit numbers 115-120.  The locomotive currently preserved by the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre was originally numbered #119. The #119 would receive its #219 numbering in 1935, three years before the unit was sold to Normetal Mines in Quebec.

Purchased from the T&NO in January of 1938 for a sum of $10,500.00, the recently renumbered #219 became the primary switcher for Normetal from 1938 until 1946 when the company purchased an 80 ton GE diesel switcher.  At that time, the #219 became the backup and by 1973, was deemed surplus.

In 1976, the locomotive was sold to Ron Morel, a conductor on the private railway operated by Spruce Falls Power & Paper Company between Kapuskasing and Smoky Falls, Ontario.  The locomotive was shipped to Cochrane, Ontario where it would be refurbished by the ONR to run steam passenger excursions on the “Smoky Falls Line.” Unfortunately, Morel’s dream was never realized as a result of his untimely death.

Unfortunately, Morel’s passing meant that the project would never come to fruition. The ONR too possession of the locomotive as payment for work completed and for a brief time, considered using the #219 to run its own steam excursions.  At that time. the $130,000 price tag to return the unit to proper operating condition was deemed too high to support a sustainable operation and the project was shuttered.

At first, the ONR kept the unit stored indoors but with shop space at a premium, the locomotive was eventually moved to the yard for storage where it spent years battling the elements, ultimately falling into a state of disrepair.

Significantly weathered and in need of some serious attention, the Ontario Northland finally decided to part ways with the old locomotive and released a tender to bid on the unit in May of 2012.

The Northern Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre’s manager Cody Cacciotti found the listing and immediately brought it to the attention of the board of directors for consideration.

Armed with nothing more than a photo of the unit by railway photographer Thomas Blampied, it was decided that the museum would pursue the unit by collecting pledges from individuals and businesses across the region. Within a week, NORMHC had successfully raised $5,000.00.  Dave Kilgour, then Greater Sudbury councillor for the town of Capreol proposed submitting a bid of $5,001.00 and agreed to supply the $1.00 should it be needed.

The $5,001.00 bid did in fact need every last dollar to be successful as the museum eventually beat out a scrap metal dealer by $1.00. The #219 had officially been acquired by NORMHC and would soon be calling the town of Capreol its new home.

The complex task of transporting the unit now became the focus of the project.  It would take nearly two years of planning before the #219 was set to make its final journey from Cochrane to Capreol. The first move was to get the locomotive to the weigh in station in Cochrane.  The task took place on July 23rd, 2013 under the watchful eye of ONR employees. The old locomotive weighed in at 189,150 pounds (approx. 85 tons).

On March 25th, 2014, RailTrans Services Inc., with the help of the ONR, loaded the #219 onto a specialized flatcar to transport the locomotive from Cochrane to Capreol, Ontario. The following day, the #219 was strapped in and ready for its final journey southward. The locomotive would travel through North Bay to Sudbury before making the final leg to Capreol thanks to the cooperation of the Ontario Northland, The Ottawa Valley Railway, Canadian Pacific Railways and Canadian National Railways.

Meanwhile, in Capreol, volunteers worked tirelessly laying two hundred feet of track through Prescott Park to ensure that the locomotive was able to be placed in position alongside retired Canadian National Railways steam locomotive #6077.

Once in Capreol, the #219 was separated from its tender and loaded on to separate floats so that it could be trucked down Bloor Street to the museum site on April 7th, 2014.  The following day it was lifted off of the floats and into Prescott Park thanks to Lacroix Construction and Northern Equipment and Crane Rentals.

Restoration work began during the summer of 2014 as the museum worked to remove the asbestos ensuring that the unit was safe for display. It would also allow the museum to access the condition of the boiler.

The next step was to remove the existing cab which had completely deteriorated.  Working with teams from Hite Services and Mind Over Metal Restorations, the museum would install a newly constructed cab. The cab would be constructed as one complete piece ensuring that the inner workings of the unit would be protected from the elements. Meanwhile, a volunteer team headed by Val Croswell was able to locate the locomotive’s bell, stack and head lamp in Cochrane, Ontario.

In the spring of 2018, a large shelter was erected in Prescott Park and the #219 disappeared from view. The unit underwent a complete sandblasting, patching and painting.  The new cab, stack, headlamp and bell were all reattached and the locomotive was ready to be unveiled.

On June 15th, 2018, a day before the museum’s annual Rods n’ Rails Classic Car show and in the midst of the town of Capreol’s centennial celebrations, the locomotive was officially opened to the public.  The project was made possible with donations from a countless individuals and organizations reaching as far as the southern United States as well as from funding from the City of Greater Sudbury, The Rural Economic Development Grant and the Canada 150 Fund.

The Northern Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre is now in the process of raising funds for the locomotive’s coal tender in order to complete the entire restoration on the historic unit.

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