It’s not every day a train goes up for sale, but a look-a-like steam engine with a special connection to Nova Scotia could be yours for $80,000.
The train, which took Upper Clements Park visitors throughout the amusement park, is one that many Nova Scotians remember fondly, but perhaps none more so than Chad R. MacDonald.
MacDonald grew up in Nova Scotia and spent his junior high and high school years in the Annapolis Valley. At 19 years old and in the early Spring of 1989, he auditioned for a job at the amusement park, which was set to open that summer.
“They told me I got the part and I almost didn’t take it because I had also just accepted a job at a clothing store at Randy River in Scotia Square, but I had another friend who I was in a play with and he said, ‘What are you doing? You can’t give this up, this is what you want to do. Do that.’”
So he did. For the first three seasons that Upper Clements Park was in operation, MacDonald was Clyde D. Pratfall, conductor of the park’s train. The train, named the Evangeline, was built by Severn Lamb specifically for the amusement park and was a replica of the real-life locomotive that took passengers back and forth from Yarmouth to Halifax from 1956 to 1990. Looking back, MacDonald described those three years as an “excellent time” in his life.
“I’m just so appreciative of that time, and I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have a job like that where I can just play all day,” he told Global News from his home in New York City.
In a job where you get to “play all day,” MacDonald said there were plenty of highlights. One of those was meeting the then-premier of the province, John Buchanan, at the park’s grand opening.
“They had given every other entertainer improv classes, taught them how to juggle, I had gotten maybe two or three. And now here comes the premier to the train with what looked like every TV camera in the world coming to the train and now I had to make something up. It was an interesting experience for a 19-year-old kid to welcome the premier and the entire media of Nova Scotia,” he said.
In 2019, MacDonald said he went back to his old stomping grounds — this time, with his train-loving son Liam — not realizing it would be its last year in operation.
“It had fallen into some disrepair: crowds weren’t there, it hadn’t been updated in a long time,” MacDonald said.
“It just never got the support that it should have had — but my son got to see it.”
He said that he was heartbroken when he learned the park had closed its doors for good, adding that it was unfortunate it had been a “political football” for years.
Piece of park saved
So when the former park employee learned the beloved train had been salvaged by Trevor MacDonald, the owner of Dimensions Entertainment, he said he was “relieved.”
The business owner bought many of the amusement park’s assets following the park’s closure, including the bumper cars and laser tag equipment.
“The train was just sitting there and it was a last-minute decision to try and save it,” he told Global News.
“There were a lot of reasons behind it, but we wanted to save it, we wanted to bring it back to Halifax, and we want to help find it a new home.”
It’s now up for sale for $80,000. MacDonald said he got it appraised, and had it been built today, it would cost nine times that amount at $700,000, he said.
“It looks like a steam engine, but it’s really a diesel engine and hydraulics,” he said.
“It’s made by a company that’s pretty much the best in the business in the world — they build this stuff for everybody, Disney, major amusement parks. It’s a very nice piece.”
There’s been interest from folks far and wide, said MacDonald, but he’d love to see it stay in Nova Scotia.
“That was the centrepiece of that park, and if they can still have another chance to ride it again, that would be really good,” he said.
“I’m certain we’ll find a home at some point, I just hope it’ll be closer. I’d like to take my kids to go see the train again, I mean it’s just such a cool piece.”
Now in his 50s, MacDonald said he looks back on that time in his life fondly, and even has old relics, including Clyde’s conductor’s hat.
“Clyde still lives, and interestingly enough, after the park, Clyde actually got a second life here as a private entertainer. I used to be sent out to do magic shows and make balloon sculptures and stuff like that, and the character was just Clyde again, just in a different outfit. So Clyde lived on,” he said.
“I’m just happy that somebody bought it and there’s a chance for it to have a second life.”
He said he would also like to see the train stay in the province, particularly in the valley.
“It’s not just an amusement park ride. It actually is reflective of the history of Nova Scotia, especially the Annapolis Valley,” he said.
“If the Evangeline were to get a second life, I’d absolutely come see her again. I’d have to.”