The Civic Holiday Monday was the kick-off to the 2022 Agawa Canyon Tour Train season out of Sault Ste. Marie.
Watco, the new operators of the service, made the announcement Aug. 1 on social media of the company’s “first-ever passenger train” which made its inaugural trek through the wilderness of northeastern Ontario for the one-day scenic rail excursion.
The tour train season runs through Oct. 10.
The train departed Monday morning from the new passenger depot at 99 Huron Street for the 114-mile, four-hour excursion to Agawa Canyon Park. It’s a 90-minute stop at the park followed by a 4.5-hour return trip to the Sault. The new depot is the former grounds of the St. Marys Paper mill.
Long-considered one of North America’s most popular train tours, the excursion ran a shortened two-weeks, half-capacity season last fall after the 2020 season was wiped out due to the pandemic.
CN sold the former Algoma Central Railway (ACR) line to Watco, a Pittsburg, KS-headquartered short-line freight rail carrier in the spring of 2021. The company committed to maintain the passenger excursion service, which was of a great relief to Sault tourism officials.
Improvements have been made over the years with new coaches, locomotive power and on-board amenities such as GPS-trigger commentary on points of interest along the trip.
Commentary is available in English French, German, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin via wireless headsets. Locomotive-mounted cameras provide the engineer’s eye-view on flat-screen monitors in the coach. The tour train’s webpage said Wi-Fi is not available on the train at this time.
Small purses or bags are allowed onboard. Luggage are prohibited. No pets are allowed on board except certified service animals.
Established in 1983, Watco operates 44 short lines over 7,500 miles of track across the U.S., offering industrial switching services, material handling, warehousing and rail car repair services.
The former ACR track, also known as the Soo Subdivision, is Watco’s only Canadian asset. Their line terminates at Mile 245 at a main junction with Canadian National at Oba. The rest of the track, some 50 miles beyond, north to Hearst, remains in CN hands.