The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading

NUMBER FIFTEEN

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March 13, 2002 

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AMES in a tight spot

by Lawrence Howard
 

Approximately 9 years ago, I was responsible for the official founding of the Algoma Model Engineering Society (AMES) in Sault Ste Marie, Ont., Canada. My idea was to bring those of similar interests together to share and enjoy this fascinating hobby known as model engineering and, if possible, to promote same to as many as we could reach. The group that was formed participates in many different forms of engineering technology, including miniature trains. We are an active group meeting monthly at member homes with a small club track on private property. Two or three times a year we set up a 400 ft. loop of portable track (7 1/2" gauge), that I built, at local community events to assist in their fund raising activities and at the same time, fulfill our civic duty.

 

In Ontario, the Ontario provincial government over the last couple of years has been in the process of downloading services to the private sector. One of those services included the formation of a not for profit private corporation called the Technical Services and Safety Authority (TSSA), who became responsible for interpreting and ensuring compliance to a number of government regulations under an act known as the Technical Safety Act. One of the regulations that is under that mandate is the Amusement Devices Regulation. The TSSA does not receive any government funding and must find its own resources.

 

An inspector from TSSA arrived unannounced inquiring about a permit.

 

Last June, AMES, was set up at the local Bushplane Museum during Bushplane Days, which we had done on a number of occasions in previous years. An inspector from TSSA arrived unannounced inquiring about a permit. As we were unable to produce an Amusement Device permit, he proceeded to issue a shut-down order. All this was done without warning, or to our knowledge, without even seeing the operation as all the equipment was still covered and not operating at the time. He also included in that shut-down order our private installation and our private equipment which he had never seen . That meant that not only could we not run on the portable track, on our private club track,  nor could we transport our engines to another jurisdiction and run as guests. The inspector determined that we were an amusement device putting us in the same category as roller coasters, ferris wheels, etc., and as such could not operate. No amount of pleading to the inspector or to the head office in Toronto could convince them to allow the running of the trains for the couple of days to fulfill our obligation. I even asked if they could return on Sunday afternoon at which time we were willing to take the medicine, but to no avail. We were shut down completely, here and at home. The members of the group were at a loss, and you can imagine the disappointment of the Bushplane organization and the public when no rides were available.

 

Over the course of the summer months a considerable amount of work was done by me to clarify with TSSA when and how we could operate and what constituted "the public". I was able to achieve a partial lifting of the order as it applied to our private equipment and private tracks, as it was determined that the government did not have jurisdiction in "one's backyard" if the facilities were not open to the public. This enabled us in August to resume operations at our private facility.  Due to the rulings that I procured in writing from TSSA, clubs or private individuals in Ontario may carry members, family, friends, relatives, invited guests, or prospective members irrespective of where the operation is located. We may not carry the general public.

 

The application of the Amusement Devices Regulation as it is currently written applies to all miniature railroads in the province of Ontario at the current time. A device that entertains by moving the public, is considered to be an amusement device. In order to carry the "public", one must apply for an amusement devices permit - an onerous and costly proposition. One is required to hire an engineer who is approved for amusement devices, submit dossiers, have inspections and acquire permits.  These permits and inspections are required on a yearly basis.

 

In response, OMROG, (Ontario Miniature Railroad Operator Group) a coalition of miniature railroad clubs in Ontario, was formed last fall and is now actively pursuing an exemption request for miniature railroads from the Amusement Devices Regulation from the government minister in charge. We have been involved in extensive negotiations, developing guidelines in
cooperation with TSSA to satisfy their requirements. Although an exemption allowing us to carry the public is still a ways off, we believe that we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Lots of other paperwork has been produced and, if possible, we hope to submit the "request" to the minister by April 1 at the latest.

 

One area that has not yet been addressed is that of accident statistics. If the government minister is to eventually grant an exemption, we have to prove that the hobby is safe, as we certainly wouldn't want to put his political career in jeopardy. We will have to compile safety/accident statistics to show that the hobby is relatively safe for the public to ride.

 

 

Many Thanks,

 

Lawrence Howard
AMES rep to OMROG

 

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