Groups Seek AC Passenger Service Resumption

A Canadian First Nation group hopes to work with short line operator Watco on restoring rail passenger service to the former Algoma Central in Ontario.

The Missanbie Cree First Nation wants to see the service restored over 296 miles between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst.

Scheduled passenger service on that route ended in 2015 after then owner Canadian National was unable to find a suitable contractor to operate the service.

Another passenger operation on a 114-mile portion of the route, the seasonal Agawa Canyon tourist train, did continue operating on the former Algoma Central, but was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is unclear if Watco will allow that train to continue and tourism officials in Sault Ste. Marie are hoping to meet with Watco officials about the matter next month.

The chief of the Missanabie Cree, Jason Gauthier, also hopes to meet with Watco officials about restoration of passenger service to Hearst.

He noted that when Watco announced in 2021 that it would acquire the former Algoma Central from CN that the Missanbie Cree signed a memorandum of understanding about its desire to restore passenger service to Hearst from Sault Ste. Marie.

Watco acquired the former Algoma Central as part of a transaction that included picking up former Wisconsin Central lines in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Gauthier wants the Canadian government to spend C$2 million on underwriting the Hearst service. He said other groups also are also pushing for the federal funding.

“We are known for doing things in the long haul, so these delays are not surprising to us. I know we will get through it,” he Gauthier told the Sault Star.

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