Rotary Club of Orillia’s Minature “Steam” Train
“The Mariposa Railway”
Orillia business man, Gord Smith, originally owned and operated a miniature “steam” train calling it “The Mariposa Railway” located behind “pav” (corner of Jarvis and Maple) opposite Couchiching Beach Park.
Built in 1854 by Armitage Hershell at their North Tonawanda, NY, facility. Originally operated on Toronto’s Centre Island and later at LaSalle Park in Hamilton, and Brittania Park, Ottawa. Restored several times over the years and boiler replaced to meet safety standards of the day. Failure to reach an agreement with the City of Orillia for a new extended route through Couchiching and Centennial Parks, the railway was offered for sale. Rather than see the train leave the city, the local Rotary club became involved in 1980 after the Parks Commission suggested a service club might be the only operator likely to be considered. Following an appeal from local Chamber of Commerce, the Park’s commission and the City approved the operation of a steam train on a one quarter mile figure eight track in Centennial Park.
The Rotary Club of Orillia, purchased the train for $30,000. An additional $10,000 was required for repairs and installation. Hailed as the city’s most popular tourist attraction – 26,508 passengers rode the train during its first summer (1981) of operation.
Relocated – due to a waterfront revitalization project (1984) interfering with the layout, the city donated $9,000 to help move the tracks to west side of Couchiching Park (present location and original site requested).
The train coaches were rebuilt March of 1985. Architect Andy Goode designed a “way Freight” a combined freight and passenger car, built courtesy of Rotarian Milt Dale. Machining, overhaul and conversion of the engine to wood burning, from coal was contributed by Allan Byers Equipment Ltd.
July 26, 1981 marks the Rotary Trains inaugural ride. Kyle Norman Dobbie became the 125,000 rider July 07, 1988; Amanda Howell the 150,000 rider July 25, 1989. Both were presented with a one-year free pass. The “little train” carried its 200,000th rider earlier part of the 1994 season. The quarter million mark was reached during the club’s 50th anniversary year – 1995.
Goodbye Steam (2001)
The continued high expense of steam maintenance (annual boiler testing, repairs, insurance) not to mention finding someone certified as a steam engineer to operate the train, forced the issue of looking into alternate means of propulsion. Research brought about the unhappy decision of having to replace the little train with a more modern, diesel driven, version. The original builders (Armitage Hershell, North Tonawanda, NY), heard about our dilemma and offered to buy the train.  Subsequently refurbished and placed in their museum. The sale, along with a provincial Trillium grant and fundraising efforts helped towards a major portion of the entire project.
The replacement train (diesel), built by Cummings Locomotive of Fredericton NB at a cost of approximately $109,000. In addition to the cost of the locomotive and cars, the entire track had to be recalibrated and changed from 16 to 24 gauge. Storage shed, combination tunnel, modified (extended) to house the larger train and cars.
The cost of the entire transition from steam to diesel – a little under $200,000.
Train Station
Located opposite Rotary club’s Aqua Theatre, Couchiching Beach Park (North East corner), the station (replica of the Atherley Junction Stationhouse), a Canadian Pacific station on the east side of the Narrows lost to a fire in 1930.
The original station’s steep-pitched roof, board and batten siding, cedar-shingle roof and gingerbread trim have all been reproduced in the attractive replica. Painted yellow and reddish brown, the colours C.P. traditionally used for its stations. Local architect Rod Young, supplied a design free of charge.
Under the guidance of Rotary’s train committee, the “Skills Canada” class of Orillia District Collegiate and Vocational Institute  began building the structure’s pre-fabrication sections in the school workshop. The students, under the guidance of teacher Ray Kerry, Rotarian Lawrence Shaw (local builder), assembled the station on site.
Official opening Saturday, July 08, 1995. Rides, balloons, hot-dogs and juice were all given away at the opening ceremonies.