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Stratford (Ontario) Doings

by Ian Taylor

Back in 1989, the local heritage committee persuaded the provincial government to designate the Grand Trunk station as a heritage building (it was then 75 years old) and thus a plaque was struck under the Ontario Heritage Act of 1972. Then the plaque disappeared.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from VIA's Ken Rose (director of Real Estate, SW Ontario) with whom I had been dealing regarding our railway heritage show set for June 4. He had heard from a Stratford city employee about a plaque located in a drawer at City Hall, and what could we do about it. This was the missing plaque! We eventually arranged for its mounting on the platform side of the GT station, just three days before the show.

Why did the plaque go missing? Well, the feds and provincial governments were arguing about VIA cutbacks in those days, and service to Stratford was particularly cut, so it may not have been just a case of federal/provincial peek, but city animosity too. We'll likely never know.

The same day the plaque was mounted, a ReMax real estate representative placed a number of brochures in a slot at the station advertising the station building for lease. VIA has been desultorily advertising space for lease for a long time now. The Goderich-Exeter Railway moved into the west ground floor many moons ago, but not until this Spring was there any more success when a young lady set up a pottery business in the former baggage room. She's done a good job too (and gave our show a nice door prize) so maybe Ken Rose figured that ReMax might be the way to go. A simple ReMax sign went up in May saying not too much, but the brochure really set off the alarm bells. The local press has only just got onto the story, but it was page 3 headlines in the Beacon Herald dated June 6, which was supposed to be about our very successful 4th annual show. Oh, we did get some lines, but the article picture was myself and the vice-president of Heritage Stratford officially unveiling the plaque, and the headline all about the station's future.

The station will obviously survive (two VIA reps came down to look at the plaque on June 3, as the building now has more cachet), but I guess we will eventually get VIA's equivalent of the Amshack, such as now exists at Grimsby.

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