By Doug Hallett
The local couple who put their tourist train up for sale after complaining they hadn’t received enough support for their business venture from city hall finally waved farewell to their five heritage railcars on Friday.
John and Rita Carroll, who also run Destiny Tours International, have sold the Guelph Junction Express railcars to the York-Durham Heritage Railway, which is based in Stouffville, just north of Toronto. It operates excursion trains over a 20-kilometre route between the towns of Stouffville, Goodwood and Uxbridge, using a diesel locomotive built in the 1950s and heritage railcars.
The good news, John Carroll said Friday, is that the railcars will be only a 1 ½-hour drive from Guelph at their new home.
“That’s the one thing I feel good about,” he said, noting it had previously seemed the Guelph Junction Express railcars would likely be sold to buyers in either Calgary or Boston.
“As a courtesy,” he said, the York-Durham Heritage Railway will offer former Guelph Junction Express customers “first dibs” on the Santa Train that it will run near Christmas. Destiny Tours plans to offer Santa Train bus packages.
The climate-control and other features of the Guelph Junction Express railcars, including accessible washrooms, will let the York-Durham Heritage Railway take its operation to a whole new level, Carroll said. It currently serves its local market, but now it will be able to pursue the corporate charter market and the bus tour charter market, because the Guelph Junction Express railcars have air conditioning and other things needed for those markets, he said.
As well, the Guelph Junction Express railcars “will allow them to run year-round, which we wanted to do here,” he said.
“They were blown away by our business model, so we are giving them all the ideas we had here,” Carroll said.
After buying a fleet of rare, stainless-steel railcars from the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the Carrolls refurbished three of them, adding features for dining, and kept two in reserve for future expansion. They launched the Guelph Junction Express in 2008, running on the Guelph Junction Railway line from Guelph south to Campbellville.
In March 2011, though, the Carrolls announced they were pulling the plug on their tourist train, after unsuccessfully seeking certain things from the city to help their operation.
Carroll wouldn’t say Friday how much money they got for the five railcars, but said he’s “pleased with the price. It’s okay. I mean, given what we’ve been through the last couple of years, it’s okay.”
The new owner took the railcars Friday from where they were being stored on a rail siding in Arkell and moved them by rail to their new home in Stouffville.