KENSINGTON – The final phase of a project to restore Kensington’s locomotive, aimed at making it a key tourist attraction in that community, should be complete by spring.
The initiative is a joint project of the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation and Confederation Trails and involves refurbishing the diesel locomotive and site work.
Executive director Dr. David Keenlyside spoke about the project at the foundation’s annual meeting earlier this week in Summerside.
It was Keenlyside who first pitched the project to Confederation Trails, Parks Canada and the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. as part of the third phase of development of the Confederation Trail.
“Why not continue the theme development that Kensington has done over the last number of years on the railway because Kensington was so important to Island railway history,” he said after the meeting.
Kensington became a central station and shipping point for the region and, in 1905, the Kensington Train Station opened. The station closed in 1983, less than a decade after it was designated a National Historic Site.
Once the trains stopped running, the locomotive sat at the Summerside rail yards. Summerside resident Lowell Huestis had it moved close to his home where it fell victim to vandals and eventually approached the Kensington Chamer of Commerce about moving the engine to the town.
In 1990, the 120,00-pound locomotive was pushed to the station.
Engine 1762, the last of its kind on P.E.I., was acquired by the foundation last year through donation.
Keenlyside wouldn’t comment on the project’s cost, which included moving what’s known as the old McDonald’s caboose to the Elmira Railway Museum.
In addition to the locomotive’s restoration, landscaping will be done, fencing would be erected around the site and signage put in place.
“There will be interpretive panels that will talk about the history of the railway, the history of Kensington’s place in the railway, about Prince Edward Island and also looking at the role that the people that preserved that locomotive and brought it to Kensington played,” added Keenlyside.
He said the restoration is about 90 per cent complete. The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal will complete landscaping in the spring.
The foundation is also working closely with the owners of the Haunted Mansion to have a miniature railway at that site weave its way past the locomotive. The hope is to have signage in the community leading visitors to the attraction.
“We really want to build that strip as a railway fanatic area for visitors. It’s right on the trail so we get a captive audience of people walking by,” said Keenlyside. “It will look great. It’s a great them and story for Kensington.”