By Eric Berger
Ontario’s York-Durham Heritage Railway announced in December that they would be leaving their long-time home in Uxbridge, after the local city council did not renew the railroad’s lease on the town-owned railroad station and yard.
A statement from the YDHR CEO John Graham Perks said, “This is not a decision we made lightly, however, the last few months the Township of Uxbridge Council have shown us they believe with a whole heart we have overstayed our welcome and made it very clear their insurmountable pressure will continue until we leave.”
The township quickly issued its own statement which read in part, “The decision to deny a lease extension resulted after multiple attempts to resolve outstanding issues and timelines for compliance were not met.” Among the issues cited were failure to obtain certain local permits and comply with codes, insufficient notice of road closures, and a demand that the railroad remove four long out-of-service coaches. Those coaches were indeed scrapped in late 2023.
In the days that followed the announcement, both the railroad and the city engaged in a public back-and-forth placing the blame for the lease termination squarely on the other. The tit-for-tat exchange eventually veered into more personal attacks.
Both sides have reportedly obtained counsel. Neither the city nor the railroad responded to requests for comment from Railfan & Railroad.
The railroad has operated since 1996, on 12 miles of track first laid by the Toronto & Nipissing Railway in the 1800s. Like many tourist railroads, it was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and then suffered damage in a tornado in May 2022.
The railroad’s primary motive power is an Alco RS-11 built in 1956 as Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific 3612, retaining that number through subsequent service on Central Vermont and Lamoille Valley railroads as well as YDHR. Two MLW-built RS-3s round out the roster, ex-Ontario Northern 1310 and ex-Roberval & Saguenay 22.
It was unclear where the tourist railroad was going to move following the lease termination. The railroad has until May 31, to leave the city-owned property. In recent weeks, it has begun to find new homes for some of its non-operating equipment, including a boxcar.