Charitable Choices: Pat Ressa of the Toronto Railway Museum

Step into the captivating world of the Toronto Railway Museum and meet Pat Ressa, the Board Chair of the Toronto Railway Historical Association. In our interview with Pat, we delve into the fascinating realm of rail history in Toronto and the tireless efforts of the museum to preserve and showcase the city’s rich heritage. Discover the challenges faced by this remarkable institution, the impact of their dedicated volunteers, and their ambitious plans for the future. Join us as we unravel the untold stories of Toronto’s railway past and gain insight into the passion that drives Pat and the entire team at the Toronto Railway Museum.

Toronto Railway Museum

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

The Toronto Railway Museum is the repository of the City’s vibrant railway history. Our mission is simple: to connect people to the secret history of rail in Toronto and tell the story of those who propelled the city from sleepy town into our nation’s economic engine. We maintain the large railway artifacts in the park from a large Steam Engine to a handcar. There are many volunteers that keep the Museum going. Primarily, we have a restoration crew of about 20 folks who maintain the railway cars and engines in the park. We also have numerous other volunteers who help keep the enterprise going from Finance and Fundraising, and everything in between. It takes a lot of people to keep the Park in operation.

What problem does it aim to solve?

We are the keeper of the Railway artefacts that reside at the Heritage Roundhouse in the heart of the entertainment district. We are mostly self-funded through our Mini Train Ride during the summer and Museum visitors (indoors). With that said, we sorely need funds to support the maintenance of the grounds and restoration of the artefacts that the public uses for free.

When did you start/join it?

I joined as a director in 2022 to help guide the Association over the next few years as many of our founders are retiring from service.

What made you want to get involved?

I have a passion for Railways that began when I was a child. I figured out what better way to volunteer my time at a Railway Museum and give back to the community at the same time. Our Association is not always at the top of the giving list, so it is also a challenge to try and make a difference in the Museum presence Downtown.

What was the situation like when you started?

A number of key volunteers had taken ill and the Museum Manager decided to move to New Zealand. Keeping a long story short – we needed people who could contribute and money to pay for restoration. We have 4 paid staff and they are inundated with work – we are very grateful for that, but it needs to change.

How has it changed since?

There is now a dedicated Board of Directors who are active in many areas where we need help. Our Strategy has been narrowed down to focus and align the team on what the right things are to do. As such we have reorganized to align with Strategy.

Toronto Railway Museum

What more needs to be done?

We need to hire more staff to address the long list of activities to maintain and operate the museum and we need funds to jumpstart the restoration needs after the pandemic. A longer-term need is to rebuild the inside of the Museum to make it more conducive to a modern museum with protected artefacts and facilities for school programming and exhibits.

How can our readers help?

First and foremost if any of your readers are great at fundraising and grant development we would love to have help us raise money! Additionally, our volunteer needs list is long and includes an IT Person, a safety and security person, recruitment specialists, Finance staff, communications specialist, project managers, meeting organizers and restoration staff. Of course: money always helps!!

Do you have any events coming up?

The next events are:

– December Online Lecture: Roger Sarty will present a lecture on the topic of the Halifax Explosion with railway tie-ins on December 14.

– Christmas at TRM: Planning is underway for an onsite holiday event at TRM on Saturday, December 16 from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm (earlier time to get the most daylight possible; Stall 17 will remain open until 5:00 pm as usual).

Where can we follow you?

Website | Facebook | LinkedIn

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

Habitat for Humanity. It was always a joy to help build places for people to live. It is especially relevant in these times of housing shortages.


About Joel Levy 2585 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography