Refurbished Brockville Railway Tunnel Receiving Many Accolades

Brockville, Ontario – October 16, 2017: The refurbished Brockville Railway Tunnel opened end-to-end for resident and visitor traffic to much fanfare Saturday, August 12, 2017. The opening included an exciting parade, which followed the route used for the 1854 cornerstone-laying of the tunnel travelling from Court House Square to the tunnel’s south portal. Well attended opening ceremonies followed the parade. The tunnel opening was part of Brockville’s Canada 150 weekend festival titled “Rails to Trails”. The festival drew huge crowds which saw over 25,000 of them tour the tunnel the Saturday and Sunday following the tunnel’s opening.


December 4 to March 30: Closed for winter.
The Tunnel will re-open for 2018 on Saturday, March 31, 2018
Opening ceremonies commencing at 11:00 AM
Tunnel will then be open daily from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM.


The restored Canada’s First Railway Tunnel was opened too much fanfare August 12, 2017. Residents and visitor traffic was brisk with much congratulatory feedback. Jackie Hribernik of Toronto writes, “Every year, my family of 11 chooses a place to visit for our Thanksgiving weekend. This year, a radio station from Toronto posted on Facebook the Brockville Railway Tunnel and I decided that that would be a nice thing for us to see as a family. We had an amazing time! Everyone absolutely loved the tunnel, the colours, the music. A phenomenal job was done to renovate it!”. Just one of many such accolades.


The dazzling light show highlights the features of the tunnel, especially the colourful and sometimes spooky mineral deposits on the walls. The fully programmable, multi-coloured LED lighting technology is by Philips Lighting, a renowned world-wide organization. The installation and programming of the lights and sound is by David Bouwers, owner and CEO of Ford Electric, Brockville. At this time, the light show is on a 90 minute cycle with 5 minutes of white light, then 5 minutes of a colour show, interspersed with train sounds and light running the tunnel’s length at 15 minute intervals.


The same Philips Lighting technology, with an outdoor casing, has been installed outside along the face of the tunnel’s south portal. This highlights the tunnel’s signature south portal wall after the tunnel closes each evening.


Construction at the north entrance was also undertaken during the fall of 2017. The ramp, which exits the gorge area, has been re-graded to a constant rise meeting OADA standards, Curbs have been added along with light standards up the pathway. Paving of the ramp will be completed in the spring of 2018.


The tunnel will be available for special events or guided tours, at a fee, even during the winter months as the tunnel does not freeze and stays at 55 degrees Fahrenheit/12 Celsius. If any organization wishes to host a special event while the tunnel is open or during the winter months, they can contact the Railway Tunnel Committee at


The tunnel committee remains active with short term activities including some signage and longer term Phase II planning for the old railway lands beside the north gorge. In addition work is progressing to see a tour train operate from the Tunnel’s south portal to transport visitors around town and to other interesting Brockville facilities and sites.


The Railway Tunnel Committee’s web site contains additional information.


Or please contact:

David LeSueur

Councillor – City of Brockville

Chair, City of Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee

613-803-5501 -

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PUBLIC OPEN HOUSE – Monday, June 12, 2017

Brockville Railway Tunnel Park Development Project – Phase 2 Community Hall at the Memorial Centre 100 Magedoma Blvd


Please join us on Monday, June 12 at the Community Hall, Memorial Centre for displays and a presentation of three concept options for the new Brockville Railway Tunnel Park Development Project – Phase 2. Doors open at 5:30 pm with a presentation and interactive workshop starting at 7:00 pm. Come see our proposed concept ideas for the redevelopment of the former CN/Grand Trunk Railway property adjacent to Canada’s First Railway Tunnel, as we move forward in making this wonderful historic landmark, a true resident and visitor destination, adding to Brockville’s many attractions. 

For more information, please contact:

Conal Cosgrove, P.Eng.
Director of Operations
City of Brockville
613-342-8772 ext. 3205

Suzanne Valiquet 
Public Consultation Facilitator
Momentum Planning & Communications


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$250,000 Ontario150 grant announced for restoration of Canada’s First Railway

Brockville, Ontario –– The City of Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee has received a grant of $250,000 from the Ontario150 Community Capital Program to support the restoration of Canada’s First Railway Tunnel. On Friday, local MPP Steve Clark met with representatives and friends of the Tunnel Committee, as well as with City Councillor David LeSueur, who’s also the Chair of the Committee, to officially congratulate them on receiving the grant.

“Brockville’s historic Tunnel is a wonderful asset to preserve for the recreational use and enjoyment of local residents and visitors alike. As a former Brockville Mayor, I am pleased to see something so special happening with our Tunnel and I congratulate Tunnel Committee members for their vision and perseverance in making this project happen this year,” said Steve Clark, MPP for Leeds-Grenville.

Administered by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Ontario150 Community Capital Program grants will help with the costs of installing a new paved concrete floor to enable pedestrians, cyclists, and people in wheelchairs to travel north through the Tunnel to connect to a planned new section of the Brock Trail under the CN railway corridor. It will also help with the costs of new lighting to highlight the Tunnel’s architecture and geology, as well as safety, security, drainage and ventilation systems.

Originally completed in 1860 for the Brockville and Ottawa Railway, and later owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway until 1983, the newly-restored Tunnel - phase one of Brockville’s new Railway Tunnel Park - is on schedule to open on Saturday, August 12, 2017 during Brockville’s Canada 150 celebrations.

“We are most grateful for this generous vote of support from the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Trillium Foundation. It appears that everyone wants to see our Tunnel open and so we welcome all to visit Brockville for our official opening on August 12, to share in our accomplishment as we celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday,” said David LeSueur.

To learn more about the Brockville Railway Tunnel, please visit:

Administered by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, which is an agency of the Government of Ontario, this onetime, Ontario150 grant has been designed to help honour the province’s past, showcase the present and inspire future generations. For more information on the Ontario Trillium Foundation, please visit:

Download Press Release

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Committee Announces more than $3.2 million

Tunnel Thermometer

Tunnel Committee announces more than $3.2 million raised for restoration of Canada’s First Railway Tunnel and Brockville’s new Railway Tunnel Park

Committee to present revised phase one budget to Council on November 8

Brockville, Ontario – November 4, 2016 – The City of Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee announced tonight that its fundraising campaign has raised more than $3.2 million so far toward the restoration of Canada’s First Railway Tunnel and creation of Brockville’s new Railway Tunnel Park. The Committee also announced that restoration work is now underway and well “on track” toward the Tunnel’s official opening planned for August 2017, during Brockville’s Canada 150 celebrations.

“For more than forty years, people have talked about what to do with our historic Tunnel. Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of our early donors, we can all look forward to exploring our Tunnel and our new Railway Tunnel Park next year as the new central hub of our city’s beautiful Brock Trail”, said Brockville Councillor David LeSueur, who is chair of the Tunnel Committee.

Said LeSueur, “We are very grateful to all of our donors to date who have helped us raise more than $2.8 million to complete phase one of our project, and $400,000 to help us plan phase two. We invite the whole community to get involved in promoting our tunnel as a new attraction for tourists in 2017”.

Canada’s First Railway Tunnel was completed in 1860 for the Brockville and Ottawa Railway and later owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway until being acquired by the City of Brockville in 1983. Brockville’s Tunnel is a remarkable example of Canada’s pre-Confederation industrial heritage that this restoration project will repurpose for recreation, tourism and economic development.

Phase one of the project includes restoration of the Tunnel and landscaping of the former Canadian Pacific Railway property immediately north of the Tunnel (commonly known as “The Gorge”). Key features of the Tunnel restoration include installation of a new paved concrete floor and drainage system and lighting systems for safety and to highlight the Tunnel’s architectural and geological features. Together, the Tunnel and Gorge will become the newest section of the city’s Brock Trail recreational pathway.

Phase two proposes redevelopment of the former Grand Trunk Railway lands west of the Tunnel, south of the CN corridor, with a proposed new Roundhouse-style visitors centre and tour bus parking area, and various improvements proposed for Armagh Sifton Price Park, south of the Tunnel. 

Restoration of the Tunnel formally commenced in August, beginning with masonry repair. Other work is being tendered this fall in order to complete phase one in time for Brockville’s Canada 150 celebrations now being planned for August 2017. Interim financing for the project is being provided by Infrastructure Ontario and is being secured by donations pledged to date.

The Tunnel Committee’s campaign announcement was made at a special concert of railway-themed music at the Brockville Arts Centre tonight in celebration of Brockville’s historic Tunnel, featuring well-known musicians A.J. Benoit and his Spike Drivers – John Jodoin and Mike Anderson, and local music hall of famers Tom Wilson and Mary Ross-Comstock.

Hosted by local radio personality Bruce Wylie, the evening’s free concert was open to the public and was also attended by local MP Gord Brown, Brockville Mayor David Henderson and representatives of Brockville council and other local governments, and by early donors to the project.

Fundraising for the Tunnel and Railway Tunnel Park began in the Spring of 2015 following a commitment of $300,000 from the City of Brockville. The Tunnel Committee expressed its appreciation to the following early donors:

Senior Benefactors ($500,000 and above)

  • Carolyn Sifton Foundation

Benefactors ($50,000-$499,999)

  • Beatty Family Charitable Foundation, Canarm Limited, and David and Anne Beatty
  • BMO – Bank of Montreal
  • Ford Electric and the Bouwers family
  • City of Brockville
  • Canadian National Railway
  • Government of Canada – Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program
  • The Joyce family
  • Rotary Clubs of Brockville
  • Armagh L. Sifton Foundation
  • Thousands Island Community Development Corporation
  • VIA Rail

The Tunnel Committee will present a revised budget for phase one at Council’s next Budget Committee meeting on November 8 that will include significant enhancements to the electrical infrastructure, lighting, sound, and safety systems planned for the Tunnel and the Gorge. A consortium of local electrical contractors and suppliers have proposed a substantial in-kind donation toward phase one and Council will hear the details on November 8, including recommendations for sourcing state-of-the-art programmable energy efficient LED lighting systems that will make Brockville’s Tunnel a world-class tourist attraction. The Tunnel Committee is working to secure an additional $1.2 million in cash donations to complete phase one with these enhancements.

A formal budget and fundraising goal have not yet been finalized for the project’s second phase. The Tunnel Committee recently initiated a tendering process to hire an architectural development consultant to oversee planning and stakeholder consultations for phase two to support future recommendations to Council.

Those interested in learning more about the project and in donating to the Tunnel Committee’s campaign are encouraged to visit its website at or visit the Railway Tunnel Park Information centre at 66 King Street West, Brockville, from Tuesday through Saturday, between noon and 4 pm.

CLICK to download a PDF of the Official Press Release

Councillor David LeSueur
Chair, City of Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee - 613-803-5501


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Full Steam Ahead – A Tunnel celebration on November 4th!

Free Concert November 4th to celebrate Canada’s First Railway Tunnel, and the opening of Brockville’s Railway Tunnel Park for Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017.

Concert Poster

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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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Brockville City Council Approves Tunnel Project

On April 12 2016 a presentation and motion was made to Brockville City Council asking to approve a two phase project to restore the tunnel and surrounding property for public use.

The highlights of the revised and approved motion before Council was as follows:

Brockville Railway Tunnel Project Authorization

  1. THAT Council approve the vision, plans and budget of the City of Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee for restoration of Canada’s First Railway Tunnel, development of the vacant railway properties adjacent to the Tunnel, and improvements to Armagh S. Price Park in order to create Brockville’s new Railway Tunnel Park;
  2. THAT this project be undertaken by the City in the following two phases:
    Phase I
    Restoration of the Brockville Railway Tunnel and north gorge including masonry repairs, rock stabilization, drainage system, concrete travel surface, lighting, ventilation, safety and security features, slope stabilization, access ramp and landscaping features.
    Phase II
    Development of the vacant former railway lands north of the intersection of Tunnel Avenue and Brock Street, including a tour bus and visitor parking area, a Roundhouse Visitors Centre community multi-purpose building with public restrooms, snack bar, and attractions ticket kiosk, and acquisition of one or more antique railway cars for tour train office and historical displays. THAT all elements of Phase II must come before Council for approval.
    Full details of the motion are available at the City of Brockville meeting information site;
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City Approves Tunnel Application for Canada’s 150 Infrastructure Fund

The Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee is grateful that our tunnel restoration project has been selected by city council as Brockville’s application to the federal government’s Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program. We also express our sincere appreciation for the endorsements we have received from the Brock Trail, Cycling, and Rotary Park Committees, and from many other organizations and individuals recognizing the central role that restoration of our tunnel will play in the future of Brockville’s downtown.

Brockville’s tunnel is Canada’s first railway tunnel and a symbol of our pre-Confederation industrial history. The tunnel and the tunnel’s north portal gorge at Pearl and Victoria Streets are unused and unappreciated Canadian heritage assets that our project will open for recreation, tourism, and economic development. As a new part of the Brock Trail, the tunnel and gorge will provide an extended pathway for citizens and visitors alike to enjoy walking, jogging, cycling, and other outdoor activities, as well as heritage exploration, shopping, dining, and entertainment at several sites downtown, including our new Aquatarium.

Our committee’s immediate goal is to secure funding to restore the tunnel and gorge in order to open these to the public in time for Canada’s 150th birthday, July 1, 2017.

Activities to be funded include masonry repairs, rock and slope stabilization, drainage, a travel surface, lighting, ventilation, safety/security, landscaping, and accessibility features.

Fundraising planning was initiated by our committee in April 2015. We are currently focused on securing major grants and leadership gifts from key individuals and local businesses, national corporations, charitable foundations, and organizations as well as from federal and provincial government grant programs, and these activities will continue through 2015. A public phase of community-wide fundraising and awareness activities is expected to be launched later in 2016.

Based on the latest estimates, the cost to restore and open the tunnel and gorge will be about $2.4 million, of which we are now seeking $275,000 from the Canada 150 fund. The City of Brockville has already committed $300,000 toward the project.

Again, we are grateful for the encouragement and support we are receiving from the community for this project.

For more information about how to get involved, please contact:

Dave LeSueur
Chair, Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee

Linda Eyre
Vice-Chair, Fundraising
Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee

Follow our project on Facebook 

For Canada150 information, visit:


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Artistic Renderings of Tunnel Project Released

The Tunnel Committee presented artistic renderings of tunnel project to Brockville City Council on January 20th.

The creative illustrations were done by Margo Davies Leclair, of Visual Sense Illustrations, after consultations with the committee.

We would like to emphasize the fact that these are concepts of what we believe the tunnel and the areas at each end could look like, assuming the appropriate funding is secured, and assuming private or public interest enables the buildings to be constructed and managed.

We are excited to present a vision for the future of the tunnel and the land at it’s entrances. Check out our 19 page PDF below:

Brockville Railway Tunnel Approved Concept Presentation (PDF)

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Market Study Indicates Positive Economic Impact

A 2013-2014 Market Study Assessment performed by TCI Management Consultants indicates a potential economic impact of 1.1 million annually for the Brockville area.

Market Assessment cover In August 2013, following a public tendering process, TCI Management Consultants was retained to undertake a market assessment study for the Brockville Tunnel, Canada’s first railway tunnel and a key historical asset of the City of Brockville. The assignment was to undertake a market assessment review of the tunnel as an attraction and determine the broad financial implications of use of the facility by the target markets identified.

The first phase of the analysis demonstrated that the tunnel attraction could be a worthwhile community asset, and generate economic benefit to the community, but that there would be a need for some on-going subsidy and operating funding if the ‘tunnel project’ was seen just as an end in itself. However, if the tunnel is seen as a catalyst for the development of the property around its north end, then the entire project could generate net benefit to the municipality. Specifically the additional tax benefits generated by development at the north end would largely offset the operating deficit of the tunnel attraction. Phase 2 of the project was devoted in part to exploring this possibility in greater detail.

View the 38 page report here: Brockville Tunnel Market Assessment Report (pdf)

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Spring Clean-up Included North Entrance

spring clean up

April 27, 2014

We did it! About 25 bags of garbage were collected from the north end area of the Railway Tunnel! Cheers to our great clean up crew (L to R); Lorraine Strong, Dave LeSueur, Raul Cirne, Pete VanderVelde, Keith Hare, Chris Hansen, Brian Porter, Maggie Wheeler, Doug Grant (missing from photo; Doug Smith).

Dale Elliott, EON News, created a great video report of the Annual Brockville Community Wide Cleanup. Visit EON News here

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Tunnel Project Gets $300K

Brockville Railway Tunnel Plaque

The Brockville Railway Tunnel Plaque

When it comes to the historic railway tunnel revitalization project, city council is almost all aboard – at least for the first stop.

Council voted Tuesday night in favour of contributing $300,000 toward the project, over a four-year period, and including it on its list of capital priorities.

The money will go toward the repair and renovation of what is deemed Canada’s oldest railway tunnel, which runs under city hall from a point three blocks north of the building to Armagh S. Price Park. Councillor David LeSueur, chairman of the railway tunnel advisory committee, said after the vote the historic tunnel could put the city on the tourism map the same way the Magnetic Hill did for Moncton. “This will improve the economy. This will bring people,” said LeSueur.

Tuesday’s vote came after another pitch from tunnel committee members Brian Porter and Doug Grant. Porter acknowledged the project won’t be profitable as a tourist attraction on its own, but only as part of a “campus approach” with other venues such as the Aquatarium.

Grant said the tunnel is not meant only as a tourism attraction, but also as a “resource” for local residents to use for riding bikes or getting downtown.

“A tunnel is nothing if you can’t go into it,” said Grant.

Councillor David Beatty likened the group’s work to the success in the past decade of community efforts such as Project Encore, which led to the renovation of the Brockville Arts Centre, and the Thousand Islands Secondary School track project.

He expressed confidence in the advisory committee’s ability to raise the majority of the estimated $1.5 million needed for the project. “I think we’re going to be nicely surprised as well,” said Beatty. “It complements many of the tourism assets that we have in the community.” The community group needs financial support from the city before it can leverage other dollars from the community, added Councillor Leigh Bursey. Councillor Jeff Earle, meanwhile, reiterated skepticism about the project he expressed at last week’s finance committee meeting. While he likes the tunnel project, Earle said, he does not have enough information to back the motion. “Essentially, I’m buying a pig in a blanket. I just don’t want it to turn out to be a porcupine,” he said.

Councillors Mary Jean McFall and Tom Blanchard expressed similar skepticism. The latter, however, was swayed to support by Grant’s assertion the tunnel will be a community resource.

Councillors Jason Baker and Mike Kalivas were willing to support the motion, but warned they will not likely back any further outlay of city funds toward it.

“I will be disappointed if this project ends up escalating,” said Baker.

Mayor David Henderson also acknowledged some hesitation, but said his concern is to get the tunnel open.

Considering the project has languished for decades, the mayor believes supporting the process is the only way to ensure the tunnel will be repaired for public use.

Earle cast the lone dissenting vote and McFall abstained.

The motion city council approved Tuesday commits $75,000 a year to a railway tunnel reserve, for four years starting in 2014. The motion also places the project on the city’s 10-year capital priority list. Early estimates peg the cost of turning the tunnel into a tourist attraction at $1.5 million.

Republished from the Recorder and Times
By Ronald Zajac, Tuesday, March 26, 2013

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Canada 150

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