That other train has left the station

There's a wealth of material I couldn't include in today's story about the railway tunnel project, for reasons of economy, including an interesting quote from Councillor Jeff Earle.

The veteran councillor is fond of reminding his colleagues they ran on promises to bring jobs to Brockville. During the debate on setting aside $300,000 of city money for the rail tunnel upgrade, Earle added those campaign promises were about industrial jobs, "not the tram driver."

He was referring to the future, so-far-only-dreamed-of private operator of a mini-train that would take tourists through a refurbished tunnel and perhaps to other attractions, including the Aquatarium.

Before we even think of getting there, we have to spend at least $1.5 million to get the tunnel ready for trams to ride through it. Earle was wondering whether there is any real business plan for that kind of spending, and whether it's worth it to bring a few tram-driver jobs here as opposed to, say, another Northern Cables or Newterra.

One wonders, however, if the two are mutually exclusive. No one is talking about abandoning the search for industrial jobs. The same list of capital priorities includes buying more land to convert to industrial use.

And if anyone is thinking of luring a large manufacturer here, well, that train has already left the station, ridden all the way to the coast and unloaded its contents on the first boat to China. Lately, whenever people talk of Brockville "missing the boat" on luring employers, they are referring to that Target facility in Cornwall: not a manufacturer at all, but a distribution centre.

If we're to get new manufacturing jobs in Brockville, they will be of the smaller, innovation-driven kind.

While we're pursuing that, there is no harm in trying to refurbish one of our more interesting historical features. Lots of people play with trains, after all, and travel great distances to satisfy their passion for all things rail. And for Brockville, the tourism train may not have left the station just yet.