Discussion of Canadian Passenger Rail Services such as AMT (Montreal), Go Transit (Toronto), VIA Rail, and other Canadian Railways and Transit

Moderator: Ken V

  by labaienordique
Hyer Re-introduces Motion to Restore Passenger Rail to North Shore & Thunder Bay

MP’s Commission to be launched to investigate feasibility

THUNDER BAY – Local MP Bruce Hyer is determined to see passenger rail return to Thunder Bay-Superior North, and has re-introduced a motion in the House of Commons to help restore service. First introduced in the last Parliament, his motion died along with all other bills and motions when the 2011 federal election was called.

“Returning passenger rail to one of the most spectacular routes in the country - through Marathon, Terrace Bay, Schreiber, Nipigon, and Thunder Bay - will be a huge boost to those communities and to rail tourism alike.” said Hyer, who is past President of the North of Superior Tourism Association (NOSTA) and has served on the board of directors of Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters Association (NOTO). “Now that gas prices have jumped because of the HST, it is more important than ever to give residents and tourists alike more transport options in our region. This will also help diversify the local economy by showcasing one of the most beautiful rail journeys in Canada.”

The text of the motion reads:

Mr. Hyer (Thunder Bay-Superior North) That in the opinion of the House, the government should commit to re-establishing passenger rail service to Thunder Bay and the North Shore of Lake Superior, and should report back to the House within six months on its progress.

Hyer, the Associate Small Business and Tourism Critic for the federal New Democrats, also announced his intention to launch an MP’s Commission on Passenger Rail North at Superior. The MP said “There is huge support for reviving passenger rail here – nearly 10,000 petition signatures in the last two years make that abundantly clear. Now that we’ve demonstrated there’s the will, we’ll find the way. I’m launching a Commission that will look into the feasibility of local passenger rail. It will be made up of people from around the riding that can help build our case. My office will be making an announcement on this later, but people can find out more now and sign the petition at http://www.ReviveSuperiorRail.ca

A Facebook group called VIA Rail through Thunder Bay and North Shore of Lake Superior – We Vote Yes! now has over 4,300 members.

http://www.brucehyer.ca/?Media_Room:Pre ... hunder_Bay
  by Tom6921
I wonder if they will extend the Sudbury-White River run, add another train, or replace the Sudbury-White River run with a new train?
  by labaienordique
My guess, they would likely extend the Sudbury-White River run. I think they would likely have to operate with three coaches (two for passengers + one for transporting goods) instead of the current two. Though I've ridden the 185/186 train and I found the seating to be a bit too close together (little leg room unlike other passenger trains I've traveled on).

I think the more pertinent question is whether they would re-adjust the current schedule:

185 Train (Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday)
09:00 Sudbury
09:45 Cartier (15 minute break)
11:30 Biscotasing
13:15 Chapleau (1 hour break)
16:30 Franz
17:45 White River

186 Train (Wednesday/Friday/Sunday)
09:00 White River
10:20 Franz
12:15 Chapleau (1 hour break)
15:15 Biscotasing
17:05 Cartier (5 minute break)
18:30 Sudbury

You need to add probably another 5 hours to the trip all the way to Thunder Bay in each direction. So, if you kept the same current schedule, the 185 would arrive in Thunder Bay sometime around 23:00 and the 186 would have to depart sometime around 4:00 in order to maintain this schedule.
  by marquisofmississauga
That would be typical of VIA in northern Ontario: running through the most beautiful scenery in the dark. Fortunately the Canadian, on its absurd four-night schedule to Vancouver, goes through the best scenery by daylight west of Winnipeg. But the Toronto-Winnipeg portion runs through Muskoka and the Sioux Lookout regions in the dark. I understand from VIA management that it was CN's insistence that the Canadian go to the four-night run which, strangely, is slower than the steam-hauled "Continental" was in the 1940s.
  by labaienordique
I agree that having Le Canadien operate in the Muskokas operate completely in darkness stinks. The fact that to catch the train in Sudbury is at such an odd hour (2:20 & 5:13 am) is silly in my opinion. Fortunately here in North Bay, the ONR had the foresight to operate the Northlander operates at a reasonable hour (13:35 towards Toronto & 14:05 towards Cochrane).

Anyway, off topic. Should Bruce Hyer & those involved with the return of Via Rail service to Thunder Bay be successful, a realignment of the 185/186 train schedule is a must. I think this would be a fair / approximate schedule for the extension. Also to consider, Thunder Bay is still in the eastern time zone despite being west of Chicago, thus the sun sets much later in the night.

Train #185 (Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday)
07:00 Sudbury
07:45 Cartier (15 minute break)
08:00 Cartier
09:30 Biscotasing
11:15 Chapleau (30 minute break)
11:45 Chapleau
14:00 Franz
15:15 White River (30 minute break)
15:45 White River
17:15 Marathon
18:15 Terrace Bay (30 minute break)
18:45 Terrace Bay
19:00 Schreiber
20:15 Nipigon
21:45 Thunder Bay


Train #186 (Wednesday/Friday/Sunday)
07:00 Thunder Bay
08:30 Nipigon
09:45 Schreiber
10:00 Terrace Bay (30 minutes)
10:30 Terrace Bay
11:30 Marathon
13:00 White River (30 minutes)
13:30 White River
14:50 Franz
16:45 Chapleau (30 minutes)
17:15 Chapleau
19:15 Biscotasing
21:05 Cartier (5 minutes)
21:10 Cartier
22:30 Sudbury
Does it really make sense to extend the existing Sudbury > White River service to Thunder Bay? East of White River the train provides a service accessing areas with no other means of transportation. West of there the CPR route parallels the Trans Canada Highway......Greyhound serves this route and has recently cut-back the number of runs due to lack of ridership. Will the lost ridership now return to the rails in sufficient numbers to make the service financially viable? I think not. Sure the residents of say Franz would now have the option of going to Thunder Bay for appointments, shopping etc but it’s going to take a lot of those people to make the service worthwhile.

Here, I would love to see the Halifax-Truro-Sydney service restored but it ain’t gona happen! Prior to the cutbacks in January 1990, this was a well used 2 & 3 car RDC service. In the meantime, the four-lane Trans Canada has been extended further east each year and the track has deteriorated from lack of use due to industries closing. The train would now take twice as long as it does to drive.

You’re not going to get people out of their cars, even with gas prices increasing unless you provide fast, multiple frequencies. People want to travel on their schedule. Sudbury-Thunder Bay, same as Halifax-Sydney does not have the population density for this.

As much as everyone would like to see passenger service restored to a lot of the routes lost over the years, VIA’s budget is limited. Spend the money where it makes sense by increasing service in the corridor.

Tourist Trains on scenic portions of the CPR route along Lake Superior may have some potential. Same as restoring a part of VIA’s “Bras d’Or” route in Cape Breton for the numerous cruise ship passengers now stopping over in Sydney. But it would probably have to be an out & back in one day type of service......like the Agawa Canyon Train.
  by labaienordique
The situation / reality in Northern Ontario is particularly unique in lower/mid Canada compared to the rest of the country. Contrary to other parts of Canada, most sections of the Trans-Canada highway are two-lane sections through the Cambrian shield (rock, swamp & forest). Of the 2020 kilometres of highway between Ottawa & the Manitoba border, 149 km (or about 7%) of the highway has four lane sections:

- 64 kilometres between Ottawa & Arnprior is four-lane roadway (of which none of is located in Northern Ontario)
- 7 kilometres on the bypass in North Bay
- a 2 kilometre section South of Sudbury
- another 22 kilometre section in the Southwest section of Sudbury (Lively)
- 50 kilometres between the Saint-Joseph Island turn off & Sault Sainte Marie
- 4 kilometres on the bypass in Thunder Bay

That highway is also renowned for its road closures due to the severe winter storms of Lake Superior (between Sault Sainte Marie & Thunder Bay). This kind of weather wouldn't typically affect the train. Also to note, travel by train from Sudbury to Thunder Bay is much more direct than by vehicle given the layout of the highway system in Northern Ontario compared to the route the Canadian Pacific line runs (the main line I might add that connects the country).

I believe at some point, Via Rail will need to begin to service the mid-sized communities in rural Canada. Via's service seems to cater to opposite extremes in the spectrum:

- They service really densely populated areas of Canada (l'axe Québec-Windsor);
- They service sparsely populated remote summer camps/tiny villages in Canada (Northern Manitoba, Montréal-Senneterre, Sudbury-White River, parts of the Canadien...).

Yet there is no way (at least in Northern Ontario) to connect by train to & from any of the five major cities. I'm surprised there is no connecting service between Calgary & Edmonton, Saskatoon & Regina, etc.

Via Rail has a habit of halting train service just short of a major city in favour of a tiny community. I've discussed numerous times about White River compared to Thunder Bay (granted it is still a considerable distance). For example, I don't understand why the Montréal-Senneterre train does not extend to at least Val-d'Or (a mere 65km Southwest of Senneterre). Val-d'Or is a city of about 30000 people and has a CN rail line that passes through the community. Given that the train is already servicing remote areas along the MTL-Senneterre route, what's an extra 65 kms to Val-d'Or? It is worth noting that getting to Senneterre is very impractical as well...
West of there the CPR route parallels the Trans Canada Highway......Greyhound serves this route and has recently cut-back the number of runs due to lack of ridership.
Greyhound has since restored service that was previously cut back. But to be honest, traveling by bus is nowhere near the same experience as by train. For starters, it's uncomfortable for anyone who is tall (such as myself) traveling long distances. It's crowded at times. The train is a much more luxurious way to travel long distances in my opinion.

I could argue that the Sudbury-Cartier section of the 185/186 train runs parallel to highway 144, but it would make little sense to start the run of a train in Cartier (55 kms north of the largest city in Northern Ontario). At some point, it needs to be practical for people to use the service. This train would increase its ridership if it connected to Thunder Bay rather than stop short in White River.
  by jp1822
It's too bad that this train has no chance in connecting with the Canadian in say Capreol. That not only adds more trackage, but an even more difficult schedule to try and compose But frankly, VIA has done a pretty good at "breaking" the existing connections it had among certain trains over the past 20 years alone:

- no more convenient same day connection between the Canadian and train to Hudson Bay
- no more same day connection what so ever between the Canadian and train to Prince Rupert

I like the concept of a "day train," that could attract tourists between Sudbury and Thunder Bay. However, shoud VIA look at trying to connect this train into Toronto in anyway? I realize that would come at the cost of sleeping car and an augmented meal service of some sort though..... But it would seem that connecting the North Shore communities and also connecting them to Toronto - in some way (i.e. via the Canaidan with a connection) - would probably have the greatest impact of all!
  by briann
OK, now that we're into the realm of daydreaming, here's one way of connecting Thunder Bay - Sudbury to Toronto: via North Bay. With a slight variation on the suggested times above, it would be possible to run overnight between Sudbury and Toronto without the hassle of trying to connect with the Canadian. (Mon/Wed/Fri) Toronto d. 2300; North Bay d. 0530 to Sudbury d. 0800 to TBay a. 2245. (Wed/Fri/Sun) TBay d. 0700 etc. to Sudbury d. 2300; North Bay d. 0130; Toronto a. 0700. Assuming that I've got the times right, I realize that this is not a very efficient unit utilization unless the frequency is upped from 3 round trips per week.

As I said - daydreaming; now back to reality...
  by mtuandrew
I'm not sure* why Thunder Bay's MP doesn't advocate for a full train between Toronto, Thunder Bay and Winnipeg. It seems that ridership would be much more impressive through the more populated areas along Lake Superior, compared to The Canadian over the same stretch. Anyway, The Canadian only serves Winnipeg 3x/weekly, and Winnipeg is a large enough city that it probably deserves 6x/weekly service to Toronto and the Corridor. To save the expense of building or reopening many more stations, it seems that VIA could route the train over CN to near Sudbury, CP from there to Thunder Bay, and over the CN Superior line to Sioux Lookout and on to Winnipeg.

Besides, how else will you get all those Jets fans to the Leafs and Canadiens games? :grin: (Still wishing for a train to help us Wild fans restart our Winnipeg rivalry, and another to bring Detroit, Toronto and Montreal fans together, but that's another story.)

* Ok, there are good reasons - a stub Thunder Bay - Sudbury train is a much smaller demand than a full two-overnight train. Once that service starts, it becomes easier to extend it to Toronto opposite The Canadian, and then work with Winnipeg's MP to bring it west. After that, Calgary's and Vancouver's MPs get to advocate for The Canadian to be restored to its original tracks, with The Super Continental opposite.
  by labaienordique
Your suggestion to re-route the Canadien through Downtown Sudbury to Thunder Bay and then up to Sioux Lookout onto Winnipeg is a brilliant idea. The Budd Car could be relocated to service from Capréol, Gogama, Hornepayne, Longlac & terminate at Sioux Lookout. For one, it would provide service to the Thunder Bay on a much, much more scenic landscape (Lake Superior) as opposed to the muskeg & forest along the CN line.
  by mtuandrew
labaienordique wrote:Your suggestion to re-route the Canadien through Downtown Sudbury to Thunder Bay and then up to Sioux Lookout onto Winnipeg is a brilliant idea. The Budd Car could be relocated to service from Capréol, Gogama, Hornepayne, Longlac & terminate at Sioux Lookout. For one, it would provide service to the Thunder Bay on a much, much more scenic landscape (Lake Superior) as opposed to the muskeg & forest along the CN line.
Erm. :grin: I had meant that The Canadian would remain on CN with a parallel train from Toronto to Winnipeg over CP, but... sure! :wink:

In all seriousness, simply rerouting le Canadien over the CP to Thunder Bay, then the CN Graham Subdivision to Sioux Lookout would have been a good idea. But... CN abandoned its Sioux Lookout-Thunder Bay line close to 20 years ago. Whoops. Shame, too, since it would have been a very neat solution to Thunder Bay's lack of passenger rail.

Still, your proposal has merit. In another thread, you've suggested sending VIA north over CP tracks out of Toronto anyway, and this would be a natural next step. You'd also hit the moderately large towns of Kenora and Dryden on CP, which appear to be larger than Sioux Lookout. As for the CN line, a 1700+ km ride between Capreol and Winnipeg would be ludicrous on a Budd car (though it would be a world record!) Instead, VIA can use the Budds from Winnipeg to connect to Sioux Lookout, and they can consider funding Ontario Northland service from the other direction through North Bay, Capreol and Longlac. Otherwise, VIA may as well just run a companion Toronto-Winnipeg train on the CN line.
  by Ken V
You can forget any ideas of joining up with the present day Canadian route west of Thunder Bay. The only tracks that CN had going north out of Thunder Bay had been torn up years ago and all that's left on CN cuts across the northern portion of Minnesota. These days, any thought of a passenger train that crossed the Canada/US border twice would be more trouble than it's worth. If a train between Sudbury and Thunder Bay were to continue on to Winnipeg, it would have to be CPR all the way.

Connecting to Toronto could be accomplished in a number of ways, as mentioned: the original CP route, connecting to CN near Parry Sound, or the Ottawa Valley line to North Bay and Northlander's route from there.

In VIA's early days, a number of different configurations had been tried. Among these were a daily Canadian on the original route between Sudbury and Winnipeg and a three-times-a-week nameless train between Capreol and Winnipeg on CN. The VIA Rail tri-weekly Sudbury - White River Budd RDC run has always been there since CPR gave up running its own passenger trains, even when the Canadian traveled the same route.
  by labaienordique
LOL, Thanks for the clarification mtuandrew.

Too bad about the line between Winnipeg & Thunder Bay (via Rainy River & the State of Minnesota). I checked the travel time where the rail line passes through and it's less than an hour between Sprague MB & Rainy River ON. What were they thinking when they drew up the lines for the border (ie. Northwest Angle).

Having it connect at North Bay would be advantageous for everyone. A) it would provide passenger rail service between North Bay, West Nipissing & Sudbury. B) The Northlander operates at a convenient hour of the day and operates 6 days a week.

It will be interesting to see what comes up from both Thunder Bay (Bruce Hyer) & Sault Sainte Marie (C.A.P.T.).