An outing, and a chance to be a little bit nosey

Set for Saturday, Doors Open Waterloo Region allows for some behind-the-scenes visiting of local sites

Last updated on Sep 14, 23

Posted on Sep 14, 23

3 min read

Twenty different historic and modern locations across Waterloo Region are getting set for Doors Open this Saturday as the event makes its post-pandemic return.

With the sites being open for free of charge tours, the goal is to facilitate community engagement, said coordinator Kelly Spencer.

“The best way to get people engaged in their community is to ensure they have the opportunity to learn lots about it in fascinating ways,” she said.

“It’s a symptom of how busy our lives are that we very rarely explore the treasures in our own community. When we go away or go on vacation,  we’ve carved out time to do that sort of exploring activity – you’re taking time to explore other communities, but because it’s your own backyard, you almost need an excuse to explore the things that are local,” Spencer said.

Among the sites that will be participating are Waterloo Central Railway (WCR) in St. Jacobs and Schnurr’s Store and Town Hall in Linwood.

What makes the railway unique among the sites is not the building itself, but what goes on there, Spencer added.

“People aren’t going to see the building. They’re going to see what happens inside the building.”

There is also an interactive element to it, with people having the opportunity to ride trains with a donation to the railway.

“It’ll be a chance for people to see moving exhibits, and not simply just walk through a space but also be a part of history and to go for a ride on a couple of different pieces of equipment,” said WCR operating manager Bob Fallowfield.

Visitors can also see how the restoration of a historic locomotive works as the progress of the rebuild of the railway’s Number 9 steam locomotive firebox. There will also be two diesel locomotives on display, and visitors can enter the cabin.

WCR sees the day as an opportunity to share their story, Fallowfield said. He is also hoping that more people will be interested in volunteering for the railway or even having a kid that visits get interested in a career in the trades.

“Part of our mission is to educate the public on Canadian heritage railway equipment, and, quite frankly, we’re proud of our efforts and we want to show them off and help educate the public at large,” said Fallowfield.

At the Schnurr’s store in Linwood, it is the second floor that will be the subject of the tour. That was the former town hall. The building was constructed in 1910, and the upper floor was used as the town hall until 1960.

“The Schnurr family has actually been providing services to that community for 165 years – it’s the oldest family-run grocery in Canada,” Spencer explained, noting that a lot of effort has been put into maintaining the building.

“They have a huge collection of items that the family has collected over the years, literally dating back to 165 years ago, which they put a lot of them on display in the town hall,” Spencer said.

The room acts as a time capsule to that period in history, says Julie Schnurr.

“When you look back at the events that were held there, decade by decade, you can see the larger world represented. The introduction of movies and the use of the room as a Red Cross room during World War Two. The rentals that were there sort of reflect the time in the world around it,” she said, adding that this is the fourth year they have participated in Doors Open.

The second floor also hosted musical shows and a circuit court and still has its original stage, theatrical sets, walls, floor and ceiling.

While there are many sites participating across the region, Don Schnurr notes the historic interest of their location to visitors.

“They get a bit of a taste of a small town general store and town hall. Maybe they grew up in a small town and would like to relive some of those memories. This would be a good place to stop by and do that.”

The Doors Open event runs September 16, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. More information can be found online at

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