A merry gift: Via Rail renames section of tracks after local train enthusiast

Chelsea Cadieux visited this train station in Brockville, Ont., almost daily for the past 12 years, greeting staff and train engineers as they pass by. On Dec. 21, 2022, she received a gift in return: the section of the tracks previously called Stewart Siding has been renamed in her honour. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)
Chelsea Cadieux visited this train station in Brockville, Ont., almost daily for the past 12 years, greeting staff and train engineers as they pass by. On Dec. 21, 2022, she received a gift in return: the section of the tracks previously called Stewart Siding has been renamed in her honour. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)

Nearly every day for the past 12 years, Chelsea Cadieux has stood on the platform near the train station in Brockville, Ont., waving and greeting engineers as they passed by.

The section of the tracks closest to the Brockville Station was called Stewart Siding, named after the street it parallels.

Earlier this December, in Chelsea's honour, Via Rail officials unveiled a new sign.

It reads "Via Chelsea" — a tribute to their dedicated friend who holds up each of their favourite playing cards as engineers drive by. The new moniker was an idea put on pause because of the pandemic.

Francis Ferland/CBC
Francis Ferland/CBC

"Oh it means the world to me showing all those cards and everything. I really started something like that, and it puts a big smile on everybody's face to see me every day," said Chelsea, standing by the tracks on Dec. 21 at the inauguration of the new name.

Chelsea was all smiles as the new sign was unveiled — a perfect present, just in time for Christmas.

"Thank you," she said quietly, almost a whisper, overwhelmed by emotions.

WATCH | An early Christmas gift for a faithful train enthusiast: 

Chelsea has Sturge-Weber syndrome, a rare neurological condition that affects the development of blood vessels and can affect the brain, skin and eyes.

Her family lives nearby, and her father Denis Cadieux has been joining Chelsea's routine visits to the station.

"It takes a community to raise a child. Well in Chelsea's case, it took a community and about 75 engineers," said Denis Cadieux, chuckling.

Francis Ferland/CBC
Francis Ferland/CBC

He recalled his daughter's first major brain surgery 28 years ago, and how she struggled for a number of years. But she overcame it, he said.

"Slowly but surely she improved, went to school, excelled in many ways. She's just a fantastic girl."

Denis doesn't remember when his daughter started loving trains, but says her fascination may have started young.

"When she was a baby we used to travel back and forth to Toronto for medical reasons, and it all started from there," he said.

Francis Ferland/CBC
Francis Ferland/CBC

'How rare this is,' says engineer

Via Rail calls Chelsea "a bit of a celebrity who is adored by our staff."

Engineer Mike Oliphant acknowledged her impact on him over the past seven years, and the impact on his peers.

"I've been a railroader for a long time, and I know how rare this is, so hat's off to Via Rail for doing something like this," said Oliphant.

"It's the highlight of my trip to see you coming and standing on the platform," Oliphant said to Cadieux. "I'll be thinking of you every time I come down here now. There's no escaping it."

Francis Ferland/CBC
Francis Ferland/CBC

Neighbours, train engineers and Cadieux all agree the new name is win.

"She's always happy, she's full of positive energy, and frankly, I think the world needs more Chelsea," said Oliphant.