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May 26, 2000

South River station gets 2nd life

The South River Railway Station in its prime.

This week’s column looks at the restoration of the South River railway station, and the new history book on South River’s neighbour Machar Township

The South River railway station is one of 30 of the original 100 CNR railway stations left, and the only one railside. The station has been in  mothballs since it closed in 1986. The Ontario Northland’s Northlander will still pickup and drop-off passengers there.

In 1998 a group of interested citizens formed a committee to save the station. This was done in partnership with the South River and Machar Township councils who supported the initiative in principle.  

The committee got a 75% grant from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, with the remainder coming from the two councils, to carry out a feasibility study.  A public meeting was held for public input to the planners doing the study.  The support was enthusiastic as long as the initiative did not impact financially on the local ratepayers. The CNR, the Library Board, and the province were also supportive. The CNR would make the property available to South River for a token amount.

Draft report

The draft report of the planners was presented in March 2000 with input sought from all stakeholders.  

It appears that the project will go ahead and that the South River-Machar Union Public Library will relocate there.  

The library rental and utility costs could be transferred to the new site.  The heritage aspect of the project would be the restored building and grounds, and an enhanced local history presence, depending on space available.  The addition of a basement might allow for a small museum.  

The final decision will be made this week by the South River Council with input from Machar Township.

The timing is ideal for this initiative since MPP Ernie Eves announced in his recent budget that funding for the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund has been doubled from 30 to 60 million dollars a year.  The money will be available for several things the station would provide—improved infrastructure, tourism, telecommunications, and community foundations.

Also the Ontario Heritage Foundation, as reported last week, has extensive new funding available for restoration and for maintenance of historical sites.  With these sources, and corporate and private support the success of the project should be assured.

With amalgamation in the wind, an anticipated increase in tourism, and things like the pending centennial of South River’s incorporation (2007) the station can be a positive factor on these and other fronts.

Machar Township History Book

Machar Township (population 800—double in the summer) abutting South River has a fine new history book called Journey Through Whispering Pines—A History of the Township of Machar, 1875-2000. 

Marion Morris, whose father Ed Sohm was the Reeve of Machar for two terms in the mid-1960s, has coordinated the  volunteer team of 4 women that produced the book.  Over 80 submissions from various sources have been included. Jeananne Brooks, Helen Fenner, and councillor Edna Coughlin are the other members of the committee. 

Readable and valuable

They have produced a very readable and valuable publication with many photographs and interesting stories.

A thousand copies of the book will be available, and it appears that it will be in short supply once the summer residents arrive.  

The cost of the books is $25. It is, or will be, available at the public library in South River (386-0222), the Machar Municipal Office (386-7741) or from members of the committee. 

Receipts from early sales of the book will go to Machar Township to  cover the cost of printing. Additional sales will go directly to the South River–Machar Union Public Library.

In the light of the possible library relocation mentioned above, this money will be helpful to the library as it makes its plans for the future.

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