Plank Road building being repaired

While the workers on site were secretive about the renovation, I was able to get inside the Plank Road building on Tuesday for a brief look around.

It looks rough. And good. And it looks like it’s getting better.

According to the workers, the building has been empty for 60 years and has suffered many fires. Still, while some of the wood is charred inside, the space is undeniably beautiful and the building’s bones are strong.

I wasn’t able to take pictures, but the building has three floors with a central staircase and two large rooms on the main floor. The workers are replacing at least the joists and the interior walls; they said they are “basically cleaning up, fixing walls and stuff”. Some of the old framing remains, though, and the space looks like it will be open and inviting.

The workers had no idea when the building would be done, and it will certainly be a while. There is a lot of work left to do.

They said, though, that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the building; it just suffers from “old age”. That can’t be a surprise: the Plank Road building is one of the oldest buildings in Ontario. In fact, it is older than Canada; it was built a quarter-century before Confederation.

According to the workers, the building’s owner will be putting the space up for rent when renovations are complete.

Plank building

Clean Train Coalition launching new campaign

The Clean Train Coalition is launching a new campaign to pressure politicians into taking a stand on the electrification of GO Transit.

The coalition has been very successful in the past. Pressure from it and other community groups forced GO Transit to make many expensive concessions along the planned Georgetown expansion. The Coalition is co-chaired by the NDP candidate for York-South Weston, Mike Sullivan.

The new campaign will ask local politicians from all levels to take a pledge to “call on Premier Dalton McGuinty to direct Metrolinx to electrify the Georgetown Corridor”.

This pledge campaign coincides with a vulnerable time for many politicians: the provincial and civic elections will both be this autumn. Politicians who refuse to take the pledge will look rather foolish when more expensive and expansive promises are falling like so many leaves from the trees.

The coalition says, though, and rather implausibly, that the pledge is meant to coincide with a City Council meeting on Tuesday.

Metrolinx and GO explain possible trains

GO Transit has posted the slides from the May 27 community update. The slides may alleviate concerns community members had.

As most Weston residents know, GO Transit is studying whether it should electrify the trains that run through our community. Community activists and citizens are quite convinced of the benefits of electrification: quieter, cleaner, faster trains. GO Transit is less convinced that electrifying the train system makes sense.

The slides from the recent meeting show the many different possibilities that GO is considering. They are:

  • Diesel
  • Electric
  • Biodiesel
  • Natural Gas
  • Hydrogen
  • Combination fuels
  • Maglevs
GO locomotive
GO locomotive

Community residents found the proliferation of alternate fuels in the study baffling. GO had said it would study and discuss electrification—not futuristic maglevs.

The slides make clear, though, that most of the possibilities are non-starters. Natural gas, biodiesel, hybrids, and maglevs are not “commercially viable” or proven technologies, according to GO.

Yet while that leaves only two kinds of fuel (electric and diesel) there remain several kinds of engine to consider. Locomotive-hauled carriages (LHCs) are the trains Westonians will be familiar with: massive, noisy engines pull passenger cars. This is not the most modern design, though, and GO is considering the other possibility.

Instead of having a single, huge engine at the front of the train, most modern trains (called “multiple unit” or MU trains) have engines spread throughout the cars, directly the under the passenger compartments. The TTC subways are like this, of course; they have no large engine in front of the train. Multiple-unit trains are more elegant, cause less wear on tracks, and scale to demand well.

There are, then, four likely kinds of train for GO:

  1. Electric locomotive hauling carriages (Electric LHC)
  2. Electric multiple unit (EMU)
  3. Diesel locomotive hauling carriages (Diesel LHC)
  4. Diesel multiple unit (DMU)
Multiple unit (MU) train
Multiple unit (MU) train

However, only the electric and diesel LHCs are compatible with the passenger cars that GO has now. Thus, GO would likely choose only between locomotives, and would forgo the multiple-unit trains.

One intriguing possibility remains. On page 27 of the presentation, GO says that dual-mode locomotives are in development. Dual-mode trains would be able to travel through both electrified and non-electrified sections of track by switching between diesel and electric motors.

Weston Memorial Fun Fair a success

Heavy rain stopped just in time for the Weston Memorial Fun Fair last night. Hundreds of people came out to play games, bounce in the air castles, and support their local school.

Libby Sestito, the school’s office administrator, said that the fair was “really great. It was very well attended, even though we thought we were going to get poured on. It was really unbelievable.”

According to Ms Sestito, the parents’ council estimates that they raised around $5000. The money will likely go toward computers for the computer lab.

Kids and adults had a great time racing in the potato sack race, and watching the staff and teachers race as well. The hotdogs were popular, and the animal encounter was a hidden gem. Kids (and their chaperones!) could get up close and pat snakes, rabbits, and exotic animals like the bearded lizard, chinchilla, and skinny pig. The animal keepers were wonderful with the delighted crowd of little ones.

Finally, your correspondent can attest that the cupcakes were a steal at 50¢.  Delicious!

Weston murder suspect has been arrested

The Durham Regional Police have arrested Patrick Kirk Barrett, the suspect in the murder of Weston-area woman Lucita Charles.

Barrett had not fled to Montreal, as suspected. reports that he turned himself in after calling police from a phone booth in Oshawa. He was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

Charles was stabbed to death on Monday; she leaves a 7-year-old son.

Alan Tonks may have been tired and emotional

In a heated session on June 2, Parliament debated the costs of the G8 and G20 summit being held in Toronto. Alan Tonks asked a rather strange question of the PC defenseman Phil McColeman.

McColeman had given his justification of the costs of the summits. He said, in short, that the costs were the price of being on the world stage and within the realm of reason.

After a preamble, Tonks asked the following:

I know it is difficult to ask a question based on intelligence, but could the member share any intelligence that would be of the proportion that he has described with respect to nuclear threats, and so on, such that Canadians could say, God bless the government, that it is taking the appropriate initiative in keeping with that degree of possibility?

It is not at all clear what Tonks meant.

Tonks may have been asking whether the G8 and G20 summits are threatened by nuclear attack, and whether the $1B expense is to protect us against rogue nukes. At no point in the debate, though, had anyone else mentioned such a horrible possibility.

McColeman had said that the G8 would discussing how to reduce the chance of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons. Sensibly, he did not mention the possibility that the G8 would be the target for such an attack—doing so would inspire panic. Perhaps, then, Tonks meant to ask: Is Canada ensuring that terrorists don’t ever get nuclear weapons? That would match McColeman’s passing remark but not the rest of the discussion (why the G8 is costing so much). Interpreted thus, Tonks would be would be both wildly off topic and asking odd, slow-pitch questions. Would McColeman really answer “Nope. We’re not worried at all about nuclear-armed terrorists!”?

It is hard to see what Tonks could have been getting at. If he wanted to know whether the $1B was being spent on preventing nuclear attacks at the G8, he could have asked directly—if irresponsibly. The answer, however, is obvious: of course (some of ) it is. If he was interested in knowing whether the government worries about nuclear attacks on Canada, he should seen that such a question hardly suits his role in the official opposition. The question implies that Liberals are either unconcerned about nuclear annihilation or hopelessly naive about the duties of government.

McColeman had no idea what Tonks was talking about either. In what seems like a pointed rejoinder, he said:

Mr. Speaker, I believe the member’s question is what are the comparable costs. The one example that I would point out to the hon. member is, in Japan, when it hosted the G8, the costs were $1.7 billion just to hold the G8 in Japan.

Normally, avoiding the question is unbecoming. In this case, it was quite decent of McColeman to leave Tonks’ dignity intact.