Algoma Central Railway
View riding the Snow Train northbound. Five photos: 1/19/1991 Greg Borgward
Two views from the Snow Train southbound crossing Montreal River.
Extra 202 North passing Snow Train in siding.
Tail end of Extra 202 North.
No.4_1756_1751_1754_1755_1753 hauling through the autumn
1756_1751_1754_1755_1753 off Number 4 Agawa Canyon tour train.
1751_1754 nose-to-nose. Note how M.U. cables connect.
Southbound "Snow Train" passing northbound
104, 164, 103 and SG car with tour train leaving the Soo in this June 1979 scene. Rob Kitchen
Early passenger service was like that of any other railway developing a wilderness, a mixed freight and passenger train operating on a schedule and frequency sufficient to serve the small population and utilizing second-hand equipment. In 1904 a mere 2 combines, 5 coaches, and a business car, were rostered, all second-hand. The first passenger train to leave The Soo for Hearst departed on October 13, 1914.
In 1923 service consisted of two mixed trains, one from the Soo to Franz, with a 15 minute stop enroute at Frater (mile 102), where passengers could detrain to eat while the engine was coaled up and had its fire cleaned; and another one, the following day, from Franz to Hearst. Service between the Soo and Franz operated three days a week while between Franz and Hearts it was just one day a week.
There was a mere 12 pieces of passenger equipment consisting
of: 8 coaches, 1 combine, 2 baggage cars and 1 buffet car.
As late as 1960, in an area of few or no roads, only 3,019 passengers were carried. Change began when tourists began to discover the beauty of the area through which the Algoma Central operated. This is concentrated mostly in the area between the Soo and Hawk Junction and especially the Agawa Canyon. It is here that Algoma Central developed a strictly tourist stopover at mile 113.
By the 1970's it was common to see trains of 20-24 cars hauled by 4 or 5 GP7's. In the heaviest travel season a separate train is operated for the Agawa Canyon Tour. This began in 1971 when traffic had increased 59% to over 62,000 passengers with nearly 1,800 some days! The Fall colours attract sell-out loads, so many passengers that a second tour schedule operates by adding more cars to the regular daily train to Hearst which follows the tour train from the Soo, arriving at Canyon just as the return southbound train is ready to leave the Canyon. The regular train sets off the extra cars and continues north. Its southbound counterpart arrives at Canyon and lifts the extra cars returning the tourists to the Soo.
The following year 77,000 passengers toured Agawa Canyon, and in 1973 it was 105,000! In 1975 passengers dropped from 110,000 the previous year, to 96,000. By 1979 it had returned to 103,400.
1976 passenger carryings totalled 207,000 trips, 4% less than 1975 and 20% less than 1974. In 1977 it increased to 216,000 and in 1978 a total of 249,000.
Under the Railway Act, subsidy payments of 80% of losses paid ACR $861,000 in 1979 against $429,000 in 1978.
Above two scenes of Tour Train showing different
seasons are from 8 1/2" x 11" picture cards.
A winter Saturday tour was started on ten weekends in early 1972, carrying
1, 200 passengers. It later was expanded to Saturdays and Sundays. By
1979 a record 10,700 passengers rode the Snow
Winter scene from a souvenir set of 5 slides sold in station gift shop in the Soo. Old Time Trains Collection
The vast majority (c. 85%) of tourists are Americans, since a large population in the US is closer to Sault Ste. Marie than is Southern Ontario's population, which is about an 8-hour drive away. Lack of good rail service from Toronto to the Soo also works against it.