Everything old is new

June 2023

Planes, trains and automobiles. Oh yes, don’t forget streetcars, icebreakers and Hawker Hurricanes. The history of Thunder Bay is filled with amazing industry, and perhaps none more impressive than our transportation sector. At the head of the Great Lakes, the city has always bridged water, land, sky and rail in a way that no other Canadian city has, and the newly-minted Transportation Museum of Thunder Bay (TMTB, formerly the Lakehead Transportation Museum Society) is poised to celebrate that.

“The mandate of TMTB is the preservation, display, and education about Thunder Bay’s rich transportation history,” says amateur historian and tour guide Connor Kilgour. “The museum has been open every summer since July 18, 2018, which was the 60th anniversary of the launch of the Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker and Buoy Tender CCGS Alexander Henry.”

Built right here in Thunder Bay, the Alexander Henry is the cornerstone of the TMTB, with in-depth tours that run spring-fall, and the ship’s maintenance and restoration taking place all year long. Alongside the Alexander Henry has grown a fascinating collection of rail, wheeled vehicles and air artifacts which represent the manufacturing ingenuity and transportation heritage that was crucial to the growth of the city and surrounding region. But the TMTB isn’t solely focused on looking to the past. They have a firm grasp on where the future is taking them, with a new board, new mandate, and new branding.

“Our rebranding journey has been one of introspection, collaboration, and purposeful decision-making,” says board member Anthony Foglia. “And our rebranding efforts have been a strategic initiative aimed at reflecting our evolving vision, values, and aspirations.”

Through extensive research, conversations, and market analysis, the TMTB has taken a well-rounded, collaborative approach to ensure that their new brand resonates with their audience and reflects the spirit of the organization.

“In my opinion, it has been both a challenging and enlightening experience,” says Kilgour. “We’ve learned a lot about modern advertising as well as really got a feel for what we, as a museum, are all about.”

The organization was just getting its feet under it when the pandemic began, but since re-opening last year, they’ve seen steady growth. With the addition of the Haunted Harbour event last fall, and the arrival of the cruise ships at the same Pool 6 landing, they’ve seen recovery in terms of visitors on site, and have extensive plans to grow both the site and the organization.

“Right now, finishing this rebranding is priority,” says Kilgour, “However, in the future, our goals are to improve our displays and add more attractions onto the site. We are looking at the ViaRail train at Kam River Park, and we’d be happy to work with the city towards finding a solution to the James Whalen. It’s an invaluable piece of our city’s maritime history that is currently in crisis.”

A rail caboose is hopefully being moved to the site this summer, and the TMTB is currently hunting for a Hawker Hurricane (or replica) to honour the airplanes that were built in the city during World War II. The organization is also partnering with the Port Arthur BIA to host pop-up dockside markets when the cruise ships come to town. And with the proposed construction of the Thunder Bay Art Gallery and Science North in the same vicinity, a permanent museum building at the Pool 6 Landing is also one of the organization’s goals.

“We’re a forward-thinking history group,” says Foglia. “As the world around us continues to change, organizations must adapt and transform to remain relevant and impactful. Connecting younger people to the excitement of who we are and what we’ve built, means getting us out there into the world wide web in a way that makes a strong impression and makes them want to come and see the incredible museum we’re building. We are proud to present our refreshed brand identity—an embodiment of our renewed commitment to excellence, innovation, and positive change.”

The Transportation Museum of Thunder Bay is excited by its new public name, goals, and logo, opening a new chapter in the growth and success of the museum. By honouring the past, they look forward to helping make the Pool 6 site, and the Waterfront of Thunder Bay, a premiere destination for citizens and tourists alike.

For more information on the Transportation Museum of Thunder Bay or volunteering with the organization, contact them at info@tmtb.ca, or on Facebook.

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

Visit her website at www.hleightondickson.com

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