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Ontario Northland and the End of the Northlander

Bordercollie

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And you may be correct - certainly about Huntsville (the station is still there). As for Bracebridge, perhaps it did. I couldn't find a definitive date, but the historic station, built in the 1880s was knocked down after "CN" service was cancelled. There was some indication it was in the 1970s, although I have no recollection of it from when I lived up there in the same era (apparently it came down in "one day" - before it fell down). The only reference I could find for location was Taylor Rd., which would put it roughly where the current 'station' is. The current unused structure is a kiosk. I don't have any recollection of it back then either but it's a pretty unremarkable structure.

I tried to find old timetables - but the only one I came across was from 1976 which is apparently the year the Northlander started and it showed no stations south of North Bay. I don't know if it even ran south of North Bay at that time.

The photo in the link appears to be Huntsville.
For both Bracebridge and Huntsville the tracks go right through town.

All you need is a paved platform and a heated shelter with Kiosks for tickets. If you want to setup a portable with a window for tickets you could do that. In the beginning that's all you need.
A washroom would be nice.
It doesn't have to be at the "station" or whatever structure that identified as the station, because maybe that was part of the problem. There should also be access to transit or walking distance from downtown. If they could offer commuter parking for free or a small fee that would be ideal.
Hire Hammond or a local company to offer pickup service within a 5km radius like a on demand shuttle. For $5.00 extra the shuttle will pick you up at your house or at a designated location and take you to the train. You don't need a full size bus, a Ford Transit would be sufficient.
If they could pickup 12 people per run with 4 trains a day you could make that work.
 

christine

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And you may be correct - certainly about Huntsville (the station is still there). As for Bracebridge, perhaps it did. I couldn't find a definitive date, but the historic station, built in the 1880s was knocked down after "CN" service was cancelled. There was some indication it was in the 1970s, although I have no recollection of it from when I lived up there in the same era (apparently it came down in "one day" - before it fell down). The only reference I could find for location was Taylor Rd., which would put it roughly where the current 'station' is. The current unused structure is a kiosk. I don't have any recollection of it back then either but it's a pretty unremarkable structure.

I tried to find old timetables - but the only one I came across was from 1976 which is apparently the year the Northlander started and it showed no stations south of North Bay. I don't know if it even ran south of North Bay at that time.

The photo in the link appears to be Huntsville.

From the 2004 Ontario Northland Annual Report:
Bracebridge was re-introduced as a regular stop on the Northlander route. In a remarkable community effort, enthusiastic volunteers constructed a state-of-the-art shelter to validate their commitment to the future of passenger rail service in the town
 

Urban Sky

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Even though this discussion continues to be dragged into the "VIA Rail" thread, it seems to be much more pertinent to this thread:

I was not suggesting overkill, but one has to ask what the "right" level of investment might be. Current population of Northern Ontario is just under 800,000 people. That's enough to command some political voice. They are not all located on one rail line, certainly, but the population of greater SSM, Sudbury, Timmins, North Bay plus smaller towns along those two routes is roughly 400,000. That's enough to justify good transportation. As a market base, that would certainly represent some meaningful demand and some meaningful ridership adding to whatever VIA builds as its Southern Ontario backbone.... more than Windsor-Chatham which is a little over 300,000. As incremental ridership changing at Toronto for other destinations served by VIA, it's not trivial.

I don't have a crystal ball, and I don't have a clue what will happen post-pandemic. Anyone who says they know for sure probably isn't worth listening to. One does hear about some losing interest in a crowded, dense urban lifestyle. Somebody (maybe not VIA) needs to consider whether places other than T-O-M might support ridership. There may be a rebound.... as there was after WW II. Linking that second tier of communities might reach a threshold of viability. I'm not saying that it will, I'm saying it's worth looking objectively at what the thresholds might be.

- Paul
You're comparing 400k over 500+km to 300k over 83 km, of which 80% is in Windsor, across from a metro of 5 million.

You're right that they deserve better public transport. But the case for rail service is incredibly poor. The only case I can see is some kind of regular rail service to North Bay, maybe supporting a bus hub there.
I agree that Toronto to North Bay seems to be the only viable corridor for daily passenger rail service in Northern Ontario and North Bay already forms a hub for Ontario Northland's bus service, meaning that a daily train leaving Toronto in the morning and arriving in North Bay just after midday and returning back to Toronto in the afternoon could connect with bus service to the Ottawa valley, Timmins, Sudbury (and connections towards further places like Rouyn-Noranda, Cochrane and Kapuskasing. Conveniently, Ontario Northland's bus hub is already located at its (now disused) rail station, which underlines why this service should be operated by Ontario Northland and not VIA...
 

dowlingm

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I agree that Toronto to North Bay seems to be the only viable corridor for daily passenger rail service in Northern Ontario and North Bay already forms a hub for Ontario Northland's bus service, meaning that a daily train leaving Toronto in the morning and arriving in North Bay just after midday and returning back to Toronto in the afternoon could connect with bus service to the Ottawa valley, Timmins, Sudbury (and connections towards further places like Rouyn-Noranda, Cochrane and Kapuskasing. Conveniently, Ontario Northland's bus hub is already located at its (now disused) rail station, which underlines why this service should be operated by Ontario Northland and not VIA...
Counterpoint: ONR returning to passenger on CN Bala requires recreating relationships with CN, Metrolinx further south, and regaining access to USRC/Union. VIA already traverses the same route mileage (Canadian) and travellers can book onward travel via GO and VIA's GTA/southern/eastern Ontario routings. All that is then need for further synergy is for MTO to require ONTC to negotiate with VIA the same bus-train ticketing arrangements as Robert Q and Maritime Bus.
 

Urban Sky

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Counterpoint: ONR returning to passenger on CN Bala requires recreating relationships with CN, Metrolinx further south, and regaining access to USRC/Union. VIA already traverses the same route mileage (Canadian) and travellers can book onward travel via GO and VIA's GTA/southern/eastern Ontario routings. All that is then need for further synergy is for MTO to require ONTC to negotiate with VIA the same bus-train ticketing arrangements as Robert Q and Maritime Bus.
If VIA was to operate a train which connects with Ontario Northland buses in North Bay (and vice versa), will Ontario Northland guarantee to its passengers that their buses will hold for trains, even if that causes multi-hour delays or will passengers have to wait until the next departure (often one day later), in which case the question is whether Ontario Northland or VIA would provide alternative transportation or hotel arrangements? To the best of my knowledge, no such agreements are in place between VIA and Robert Q or Maritime Express, but would be the pre-requisite for making such an intermodal connection competitive against driving or a bus-only connection. In any case, such coordination is much easier if bus and train are operated by the same company or at least two crown corporations of the same jurisdiction:

As it happens, GO Transit already owns the access into Union Station, operates daily commuter train on various CN corridors (including part of the Bala Sub) and even has a history of operating excursion trains the Bala Sub up to Washago and then to the Casino Rama. Most importantly, a successful partnership already exists between GO Transit and Ontario Northland, with the summer-only Toronto-to-North Bay service with intermodal transfer (GO Train / ON Bus) in Barrie:

 

dowlingm

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@Urban Sky I just struggle to understand why we would consider intraprovincial rail between Sarnia and Toronto or Windsor and Toronto or Kingston and Toronto a federal responsibility, but not North Bay and Toronto.
 

Urban Sky

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@Urban Sky I just struggle to understand why we would consider intraprovincial rail between Sarnia and Toronto or Windsor and Toronto or Kingston and Toronto a federal responsibility, but not North Bay and Toronto.
Because whether a service crosses an interprovincial border or not is thankfully irrelevant to VIA’s mandate, which historically comprised five different categories:
  1. Corridor services
  2. Transcontinental services
  3. Regional services
  4. Remote services
  5. Tourism services

Refer to this categorization of VIA’s services in 1988:

Source: Canadian Railroad Historical Association (1989, p.206)

Toronto-North Bay unfortunately falls into the third category, which the federal government has eliminated (together with the fifth category) from VIA’s mandate and network during the chainsaw massacre of January 15, 1990...
 
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Urban Sky

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The Northland train, which was along the same route as the Northlander was run by Via.
This is correct and in no way a contradiction to what I just said: the Toronto-Kapuskasing overnight service was (with the exception of the North Bay-Cochrane segment, which was always operated by Ontario Northland) part of VIA’s mandate and network - until the federal government made the regretful decision to eliminate it from both on January 15, 1990.
 

christine

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Toronto-North Bay unfortunately falls into the third category, which the federal government has eliminated (together with the fifth category) from VIA’s mandate and network during the chainsaw massacre of January 15, 1990...
Service was still mandated for the Toronto-North Bay Corridor even after the 1990 cuts (see CTA 1993-R-272, #121 and #122 is Northlander) which ONR was running. In fact, the feds were providing the ONTC with an annual subsidy (which was renegotiated several times) specifically for providing service along this section. Once the Northlander stopped in 2012, so did the subsidy.
 

ShonTron

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I don't think that sort of remark is necessary. Those of us in employment all compromise our presence on the internet in some way. In US' case we get a ton of information that the company does not provide otherwise.

Especially when you don't know that it's "toe the line" not "tow the line." Anyway, he's got a long weekend from UT to give it some thought.
 

Urban Sky

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Service was still mandated for the Toronto-North Bay Corridor even after the 1990 cuts (see CTA 1993-R-272, #121 and #122 is Northlander) which ONR was running. In fact, the feds were providing the ONTC with an annual subsidy (which was renegotiated several times) specifically for providing service along this section. Once the Northlander stopped in 2012, so did the subsidy.
Thank you, I didn’t know that, but it complies with the logic that services over what once was or still is CN/CP tracks fall under federal and those over all other tracks fall under provincial jurisdiction and makes it yet another anomaly of the January 1990 cuts as one of three “Regional service” which survived into the 21 century (together with Vancouver Island and Gaspé)...
 

dowlingm

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When the population of Canada has grown by half again between 1986 and the present day, and Alberta in particular almost doubled, it seems sheer madness to be bound by definitions of routes and services from that era, and of the 1990s cuts, especially since there is seeming willingness to reopen a service like the Havelock Route at gigantic cost.

Incidentally, the financial breakdown above is interesting in how Cochrane-Kapuskasing's 1986 cost recovery stacked up against Toronto-North Bay. I suspect the comparative numbers weren't that different when Ontario cut the unified Toronto-North Bay-Cochrane routing, and of course the Ont Liberals would not publish any numbers at all bar an unsupported statement of subsidy per passenger for the service as a whole.
 

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