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Here Comes the Train! The Ottawa Valley Railway Story

Musical brings Ottawa Valley Steam Era railway history to life

Trains and railways are frequently a setting for historical drama and literature, but they are rarely the subject. Stone Fence Theatre's new musical Here Comes the Train! The Ottawa Valley Railway Story, by Ish Theilheimer, goes behind the scenes to look at the lives of railway people in the Steam Era, the impact railways had on their communities and the impact of their loss.

The show is based on the first-hand experiences of some of the last of the Ottawa Valley railway workers from that era.

"It's a good thing we started talking to people about this subject a couple of years ago because there aren't many left," says Theilheimer. "The railways did very little hiring in the 1950s, so most people with steam experience are in their 80s. The story is based on their experiences and told, as much as possible, in their words."

Here Comes the Train! includes 15 new songs, many in bluegrass style. "It just seemed to fit the subject," says Theilheimer and features background projections of railway history photos and videos compiled by Graeme Roy of Smiths Falls, who grew up in a railway station in which his father was station agent.

Roy and Theilheimer met at the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario, which was instrumental in helping find railway veterans from that era to supply their first-hand recollections. The show's final two performances will be at the Station Theatre, housed in a converted CP Rail station, in Smiths Falls.

The show's cast features a core group of skilled, veteran performers who have been in previous Stone Fence Theatre productions. Chantal Elie-Sernoskie returns as director, choreographer, and actor. Others in the cast include Peter Brown (keys), Tim Faught (banjo), Peter Frolander (bass), Phil Hoffman, Ambrose Mullin, Fran Pinkerton, Lesley Sneddon, Colin Wylie (guitar), and Theilheimer (mandolin, fiddle).

Here Comes the Train!