Sault Ste. Marie’s newest tourist draw received the ribbon-cutting treatment on Tuesday, bringing together the Agawa Canyon Tour Train, a microbrewery, restaurant and a space for Indigenous teachings.
When the Agawa Canyon Tour Train renews operating on Sept. 15, tourists and travellers will board at the newly-constructed train station in the Canal District, close to the Machine Shop.
“We started in 2019 but the pandemic stopped the work a couple of times,” said owner Tony Porco. “It took us a good year to do it all in work time.”
The building was constructed with local brick which was distressed to give it a vintage look and feel.
“It sort of fits in with the rest of the buildings,” said Porco.
The station adds to the tourism element at the Canal District, which currently has community attractions like The Rink and The Machine Shop, said Porco.
“It’s tourism and community at the same time,” he said.
The building contains a number of separate elements, including a ticket counter to be operated by CN Rail for the tour train in the front, the Blockhouse Brew Pub restaurant in the rear of the building, as well as the new home of Outspoken Brewery.
Sandwiched in between those spaces is a community space with an arresting floor mural by artist Tom Sinclair, which spans the entire width of the building. A wall mural by artist John Laford looks over an Indigenous teaching lodge that was built by elders from Batchewana First Nation.
“This is such a beautiful spot and beautiful destination centre for our community to really harness the power of our tourism sector and really be able to showcase the beauty of what we have here,” said MPP Ross Romano during the ceremony.
The provincial government contributed $5 million to projects in the Canal District, which included covering part of the costs for the new station.
Tickets are on sale for the upcoming fall season of the tour train and the restaurant is expected to be open to the public by opening day on Sept. 15.
“The restaurant will help support the train and we can offer them something to eat before they get on the train and after they get off," said Porco.
Romano said prior to the pandemic the tour train was bringing in about 30,000 tourists to the area every year, down from the 100,000 people who would take the train in the late '80s.
“I think when we look at the opportunities that have been created for this incredible facility we will be able to see those numbers again,” said Romano.