Goodbye, Agawa Canyon Snow Train

Fewer and fewer people have been up for the 9-hour trip that has run for more than 40 years
The Agawa Canyon Snow Train passes over the Montreal Trestle on the 114 journey between Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. and Agawa Canyon. In winter, the journey is a humbling one as it passes forests, valleys and ancient bedrock. (Ellen Creager/Detroit Free Press/MCT)MCT

After more than 40 years, changing times and changing tastes have finally caught up with the quietly chugging train that traveled all too slowly for the modern world.

The Agawa Canyon Snow Train is no more.

Citing economic losses, Canada's CN Railway has axed the famed daylong train ride up and back through the snowy countryside between Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and Agawa Canyon, Ontario.

Normally, it operates six Saturday trips between January and March. There will be none in 2014.

The nine-hour journey up and back went through 114 miles of scenic country and attracted train lovers from the United States and Canada, but unlike summer and fall tours, winter passengers could not disembark at any point.

Despite rehabbed train cars and upgraded service since 2012, its ridership has remained "stagnant," CN spokesman Mark Hallman said, with about 1,500 riders per year.

"We are a freight railroad, and we had to look at this in terms of the cost. It was a difficult decision, but it made economic sense," he said.

Efforts by Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, economic development officials this month to get the train line to reconsider its decision failed.

CN's move does not affect summer and fall Agawa Canyon tours, which still will run every day in season, June 24-Oct. 13. On those tours, passengers can get off the train in Agawa Canyon for about 90 minutes.

It also does not affect regular passenger service on the Algoma Railway train line between the Soo and Hearst, Ontario, including cargo service for transporting snowmobiles. That service has Canadian federal funding, at least for now, Hallman said.

Still, it is the passing of an era. There has been an Agawa Canyon tour train since 1972. The quiet of northwest Ontario will be even quieter this winter.

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