Visiting Sugarbowl Park at Fort Erie, Ontario: remembering aviation heritage
Former Royal Canadian Air Force 'Red Knight' T-33 on display
It is to be expected that many Canadian and American visitors to Fort Erie will soon be continuing their journeys, either along the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) or across the Peace Bridge to the United States. But, if the traveller has the opportunity, it is well worthwhile stopping at 400 Central Avenue, to view an historic airframe. At Fort Erie's Sugarbowl Park , aviation heritage is remembered in the display of a T-33 Shooting Star, in the colours of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Over 6000 of the Lockheed T-33 aircraft type was built in large numbers between 1948 and 1959, designed by Kelly Johnson .
At the time of writing (2011) some examples of the T-33 are still in service, whether by military or civilian operators, tribute to the durability of the type's design and manufacture. However, it is known to have been phased out by North American military users.
Manufacture and service in Canada
Under licence, over 600 were built in Canada by Canadair, and were known as Silver Stars. This aircraft type saw service in Canada with the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Navy, and subsequently with the Canadian Forces. It was also used by Canada's National Research Council.
The particular airframe on display is in the colours of a Red Knight demonstrator, which operated between 1958 and 1969.
On the plaque at the airframe on display, the following dedication is given:
'This Aircraft is proudly dedicated to our Veterans, Military and the Aviation Industry of Fort Erie.'
The airframe on display was purchased and painstakingly restored by members of the Royal Canadian Air Force Association and others, and dedicated in 2001.
Poem by Gillespie Magee (quoted by President Ronald Reagan)
Interestingly, also displayed is a poem, High Flight , by Pilot Office Gillespie (John) Magee Jr., of the Royal Canadian Air Force, killed on December 10th, 1941:
'Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered Wings; Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung My eager craft through footless halls of air. Up, up the long delirious, burning blue, I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace, where never Lark or even Eagle flew. And while with silent lifting mind I've trod the high-untrespassed sanctity of Space, Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.'
In 1986, President Reagan, assisted by speechwriter Peggy Noonan , as part of a tribute to the crew of the ill-fated Challenger Space Shuttle, quoted part of this poem; to be precise, from the beginning and the end of these lines.
Also worth seeing
Fort Erie Railroad Museum is adjacent to Sugarbowl Park, Fort Erie, where a former 1948 CNR locomotive is on display, together with other interesting railroad exhibits.
Old Fort Erie , Fort Erie, Ontario (distance: 7 kilometres); this stone fort has many memories of the War of 1812.
Downtown Buffalo , New York (distance 6.8 kilometres) has many buildings of considerable architectural merit; these include: the 1931 Art Deco City Hall by Dietel, Wade & Jones; the 1896 Ellicott Square Building by Charles Atwood; James A. Johnson's 1912 Electric Tower Beaux-Arts Classical Revival skyscraper. The historic Delaware Road area contains many structures of note, including the Ansley Wilcox Mansion , designated the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site .
Beaver Island State Park , Grand Island, New York (distance: 23.5 kilometres); in the park's 950 acres, as well good recreational facilities, there is River Lea house, built by William Cleveland Allen (cousin to U.S. President Grover Cleveland ) and museum, home of the Grand Island Historical Society.
Bergholz , Wheatfield , New York, (distance: 38.1 kilometres); this village is an historic German Lutheran Settlement. A noted featue is the Das Haus German Heritage Museum, sponsored by the Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York.
Niagara Falls , Ontario (distance: 36.5 kilometres); at Table Rock Point, is the best spot to view closely the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.
How to get there: The QEW links Fort Erie, ON with Hamilton and Toronto. The nearest large airport to Fort Erie is Buffalo Niagara International Airport (distance from Fort Erie: 27.1 kilometres). Continental Airlines flies from New York Newark to Buffalo Niagara International Airport, where car rental is available. Buffalo, NY is linked with Albany, NY via the I-290 and I-90. Fort Erie, Ontario is accessible from the United States via the Peace Bridge, at Buffalo, NY. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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