Town wants CN station dealt with

By John Tapley, Ingersoll Times

Fix up your building or tear it down.

That's the bottom line in a letter Ingersoll is sending to Canadian National Railway about its train station on Thames Street South that has been left to rot since it closed in 1979.

Built by the Great Western Railway in 1886, the station is now in serious disrepair, including the roof having collapsed in some spots, and has become a safety concern and an eyesore.

“Over the past 35 years, the condition of the building has continued to deteriorate, making it a safety hazard and invites ongoing vandalism, including graffiti,” said Ingersoll clerk Michael Graves.

Since it is located on Crown owned land, the station is exempt from Ingersoll's municipal property standards and anti-graffiti bylaws.

“Any contravention of either bylaw by the Canadian National Railway cannot be enforced by the town,” Graves said.

The building has been included in the municipal heritage inventory, but has not been designated under the Ontario Heritage Act or the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act.

In 2004/2005, Ernie Hunt, a town councillor and Ingersoll Historical Society board member, contacted CN's engineering department about the station.

The historical society ended up renting the building for a year to prepare a report on the condition of te former train station and the possibility of moving the structure to allow it to be restored and reused. It was discovered that the building has self-supporting walls and would collapse if jacked up and moved.

Hunt was informed by a CN representative that it would cost the company $2 million to $3 million to renovate the building and that it “was not worth it.”

Graves' report also notes that the CN representative told Hunt that if the building continued to deteriorate and the number of public complaints increased, there would be minimal objection to its demolition.

The historical society ultimately concluded that the cost of moving and restoring the station along with the site clean up required would be prohibitive.

In the years since Hunt and the historical society looked into saving the station, the building has continued to decline.

Brad Smale, Ingersoll's chief building official, suggested that the town draft a letter to CN regarding the current state of the building and its lack of proper security.

“It could be recommended that CN take additional steps to properly secure the building against trespassers (i.e. installation of bars on the windows, security system etc.) and take preventative measures to deter ongoing vandalism and vagrancy,” Smale said.

If CN decides against additional security and basic clean up of the former railway station, Smale said the Town of Ingersoll should suggest the company repair and/or rehabilitate the building to allow for its reuse or demolish it.

During discussion on the report, Deputy Mayor Fred Freeman said CN has thousands of abandoned stations across the country and the corporation appears to be doing its best to ignore them due to the enormous cost of dealing with them.

He said raising the issue of the Ingersoll station could trigger a decision to simply tear it down without notice.

“If you want to save it for whatever, it's probably best to keep quiet,” Freeman said.

Council voted to proceed with Smale's recommendations, directing staff to draft a letter to CN.


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