Celebrating 25 years of bringing history to life

It all began twenty five years ago with a dream to restore Essex Terminal Railway Alco 0-6-0 Switcher Number 9 to active steam. The Southern Ontario Locomotive Restoration Society (SOLRS) is the parent organization of the Waterloo Central Railway.

A real 500-piece puzzle

In December 1993, steam locomotive No. 9 arrived on three flatbed trucks, in over 500 pieces some broken or missing, with few instructions. Number 9 returned to steam in 1997 and operated as the flagship locomotive of the St. Thomas Central Railway.

The St. Thomas Central Railway (STCR) was the first operations division of SOLRS. It was launched as a fundraising effort to support ongoing railway restoration work for the Society. The STCR operated in St. Thomas, Ontario from the former CASO subdivision shops.

From 1997 to 2007, SOLRS operated several steam tours around Ontario and visited several lines that had not seen operating railway passenger equipment for many decades.  The 2003 steam tour included a weeklong run in Waterloo Region.

Move to Waterloo Region inspires a name change

SOLRS announced in 2007 that it intended to shift operations to Waterloo Region while continuing to restore equipment in St. Thomas. Waterloo Region was an attractive prospect to operate a heritage train operation. The rail spur was owned by the local municipality. Another bonus was that there were already several tourist draws to Waterloo, including the farm country north of the city. SOLRS is grateful for the ongoing relationship with our many community partners. To mark the move, the St. Thomas Central Railway was renamed the Waterloo Central Railway in 2007.

St. Jacobs Restoration Shop

St. Jacobs Shopmates

St. Jacobs Shopmates

In 2009 it became clear the SOLRS would need to shift its restoration operations from St. Thomas. SOLRS was awarded a federal grant to build a restoration shop in St. Jacobs. This shop opened in 2010. It allows light and heavy duty railway equipment restoration. More information can be found on our restoration shop page.

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