Mourning the Northlander


The above, sadly, is the only way to ride the rails in North Bay, these days. This is a fun miniature railway on North Bay’s waterfront.

My father-in-law Wendell is visiting for a week, and we decided a brief run to cottage country would be a nice way to spend a weekend. Using AirBNB, we were able to find an inexpensive place, but Erin kind of underestimated how far north she’d arranged. No matter, though: North Bay is an interesting town, with great beaches on Lake Nippissing, and the kids are having a good time.

I had to spend some time in Toronto on Friday, and so I arranged to take an Ontario Northland coach from Yorkdale to North Bay that afternoon. And I have to say that it made me miss the Northlander train more. Not that it could have helped me (it only travels northbound in the mornings, and not on Saturday), but the coach was full, ran into serious traffic on Highway 400, and kind of lacking in legroom.

The Northlander train may not have been profitable, but the province missed several opportunities to make better use of this service. There was no marketing of the tourism opportunities available in the north. There was no stop at Langstaff GO station which could have given northern visitors access to a wider swath of the GTA through GO Transit without backtracking.

I would love it if the province of Ontario were to restore the service, possibly by offering VIA Rail enough subsidy to make it happen (VIA probably has surplus equipment following the federal government’s funding cuts). Sadly, the political will doesn’t seem to be there.

Which is a shame, because we are missing out in some truly great gems of the north.

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