A Festive Journey: Canadian Pacific Holiday Train Stops in Dubreuilville

Photo credit from CP Rail.

Join representatives from the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains (CAPT) and Missanabie Cree First Nation (MCFN) on November 30th at 6:30pm at Mile 77.98 Park Road, Dubreuilville CP rail stop for a festive holiday celebration organized by CP and the Municipality of Dubreuilville. The CP Holiday Train program spreads holiday cheer across Canada and the U.S.A, inviting attendees to give non-perishable goods or monetary donations to help ease the stress on those who are less fortunate in our communities around the holiday season. There is no fee to attend the event, and there is live music by Colin James and Emma-Lea, with hot beverages provided by Dubreuilville businesses. Pat Dubreuil, owner of the Magpie Relay Resort, is offering those attending the event a discounted room rate. For the discount, call to book at 705-626-0666 and mention that you will be at the holiday train event. More information on this event and the full schedule can be found at the CP website.

The Holiday Train stop happens yearly at the connection in Dubreuilville Franz area between CP Rail and CN Rail, highlighting possible future tourism and events that could happen at Franz as well as in the surrounding area, which would further boost the regional economy. Additionally, since Franz is within the traditional territory of MCFN, who have taken on leadership in the initiative to restore passenger rail service on the CN line from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst, this opens up a number of possibilities for future Indigenous and cross-cultural teaching and tourism. Representatives from CAPT and we from MCFN are taking this opportunity to support rail in our region as well as engaging and communicating with important municipalities along the rail line, Wawa and Dubreuilville, who are valued supporters of the project to reinstate the Algoma Passenger Train as the Bear Train (Mask-wa Oo-ta-ban). We encourage all of our rail supporters to try and make it out to this event, as it is for a great cause, and all donated proceeds stay local.

This CP Holiday Train and food drive program began in 1999, and every year, it visits a span of 171 communities. The program accepts both cash and food donations. CP Rail provides a much needed service for Northern Ontario, primarily for employment purposes between White River and Chapleau, and we can only hope that the Bear Train is once able to offer the same opportunities!

If you have any questions about joining us, or want to see how you can help to renew, restore, and improve rail service in Ontario please visit www.captrains.ca or contact Howie Wilcox at 705-942-9990 wwilcox@shaw.ca, Dorothy Macnaughton 705-759-0733 rmacnaug@bell.net or Linda Savory-Gordon at 705-943-0971 at Linda.Savory-Gordon@algomau.ca. If you have questions specifically regarding the Missanabie Cree’s initiative to run the Bear Train on the CN line from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst, please contact Riley Smith at 705-257-8782 or Riley@BearTrain.ca.

For more background information on CP rail’s Holiday train, check out Rails Western, where you can also find a short documentary.

To check out the accommodations at the Magpie Resort online, click here.

When Art History Takes to the Rails


(Photo credit from Group of Seven)

This article was written in conjunction with the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Train (CAPT)’s Linda Savory-Gordon, who has been a huge advocate of passenger rail service in the Algoma region and supporter of the Missanabie Cree-led initiative to renew the train. We are sharing it with you all to remind you of the diverse collection of tourist opportunities that serve economic, cultural, and personal needs, both for locals of the Algoma region and those travelling from abroad.

Every September from 2007 until 2014, the popular Group of Seven & Glenn Gould Train Event, sponsored by the CAPT, took to the rails. Sold out every year, the Train Event has answered a need and takes those who love the spectacular colours of an Algoma Highlands autumn to the same sites that inspired artists from the Group of Seven and Canada’s iconic pianist, Glenn Gould. Not only did this event satisfy art history lovers, but it also gave participants the opportunity to really connect with nature as well. Since the train service was cancelled in 2015, many people have asked to have their names put on a waiting list to take part in this event when the passenger service resumes.
 
The Group of Seven and Glenn Gould Train Event is an opportunity to partake in presentations, lecture-demonstrations, live music, food, a coach trip along Lake Superior’s storied eastern coast and, of course, a train ride through the magnificence of the Algoma Highlands. Travelers from far and wide want to participate in this event due to the historical significance of the Algoma rail corridor to the Group of Seven’s development. It was when Group of Seven artists stayed in a box car and tourist cabins along the ACR from 1918 to 1923 that they first bonded as a group, painted some of their most significant works and decided to become the Group of Seven.
 
The annual Group of Seven and Glenn Gould Train Event kicks off on Friday evening with a reception and presentation on that year’s featured artist, at the Art Gallery of Algoma.  On the Saturday and Sunday, participants enjoy the best of the Algoma Highlands. This includes the train trip on Saturday between Sault Ste. Marie and Hawk Junction aboard the Algoma passenger train, travelling on the same rails that took members of the Group of Seven to their various painting sites along the ACR. The tour is conducted by Michael Burtch, art historian and researcher. Also included is the coach drive on Sunday along the magnificent eastern coastline of Lake Superior – a drive that has been called one of Canada’s finest road trips. Stops are made along the coast to visit lookouts and points of interest including Lake Superior Provincial Park and its comprehensive Visitors’ Centre.
 
Wawa marks the Glenn Gould portion of the trip. Here, participants trace Gould’s footsteps around the beautiful waterfalls and shorelines in the Wawa environs that were frequented by the pianist. On Saturday evening there is a dinner, then a presentation by musicologist, Dale Innes, on the role that the north played in the music of Glenn Gould. Gould was a regular visitor to Wawa and the areas around Michipicoten so, fittingly, the evening is centered at the Wawa Motor Inn, Glenn Gould’s former lodging. 
 
On Sunday morning participants have the opportunity to participate in a lecture-demonstration art session, “Art and Landscape: Bring your Sketchbook and Camera” or a coach tour of Wawa. It was – and we have hopes that it will again be – a great opportunity to learn and be inspired! A delicious lunch is served on Lake Superior at the beautiful Rock Island Lodge.
 
(CAPT) sponsors the Train Event as a means to get passengers on board to have an enjoyable experience, and hopefully gain appreciation for the historical significance of the Algoma Central Railway and the Algoma Highlands through which the train travels. CAPT and the Mask-wa Oo-ta-ban initiative, as led by the Missanabie Cree First Nation, have been working closely together to check out the various marketing opportunities and means to renew this experience once the train runs again! Whether you are missing this event as a devout train rider, or are eager to take part in this art history experience amongst the Northern beauty, just know that we are working hard to bring it back to you an deserve this unique and distinguishing element of Algoma’s history.

For more information on CAPT and the Group of Seven Events of the past, click here.

For more information on Michael Burtch, click here.

The Heartbreaking – and Uplifting – History of Passenger Rail in the North


(Photo credit from Lauren Doxtater's First Nations Relationship to Development of Rail

In 1914, just over 100 years ago, passenger train service was completed from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst for the very first time, after over twenty years of building. It became a staple mode of transportation for residents and tourists alike – who utilized the train for a plethora of reasons, including social visits to communities, cultural visits to First Nation traditional territories, to reach employment and education institutions, to access regional healthcare and trap-lines, and to view the spectacular landscapes of the boreal forest and scenery that inspired work done by the Group of Seven artists, as well as Indigenous artists for 1000s of years before them (BDO, 2014, p. 10-11).

In the early 1900s, regional tourism was being heavily promoted in the Algoma region, primarily as a result of the influx of European settlers. Fishing, hunting, and camping became daringly attractive, and train was the only way to gain passage to the remote locations where this was possible. This created a huge boom in the northern economy, and the development of many small communities along the rail corridor, many of which still exist today – and are just as remote and beautiful as they were 100 years ago. This boom continued well into the latter half of the century, especially with the tourist stopover at the Agawa Canyon, and the subsequent development of the Snow Train (Malone, Given, Parson LTD., 6). In addition to those successful tours, the Algoma Central Railway also marketed a ‘Tour of the Line,’ which was a round-trip from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst, ‘Tracks to Trails,’ which was a snowmobile excursion experience, ‘Wilderness by Rail,’ which consisted of partnerships with adventure travel and tour operators, and accommodation in the “Camp Car” at the Agawa Canyon (Malone, Given, Parson LTD., p. 7).

While many people enjoyed the touristic elements of the train, for many remote communities north of Sault Ste. Marie, rail was the only means of getting in and out of town. This was the case in Wawa (until the Trans-Canada highway reached it in 1960), and residents relied entirely on rail service in order to access any regional needs (CAPT, 2013). Today, with no passenger rail service, these issues have again become concerning. Read more about that in our blog on accessibility, found here

Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the construction of the rail lines within the Algoma region attracted a huge population of European settlers, who took over the territory that First Nations people had lived on for centuries (CAPT, 2013). The Canadian government capitalized on the glory years of the railway by passing laws that allowed them to expropriate reserve land without consent or consultation of the First Nations peoples, with no compensation, in order to build infrastructure (CAPT, 2013). Not only did this create strife between European settlers and First Nations people, but it also split up many reserves.

The influence that the train had on First Nations people, primarily the Missanabie Cree, cannot be emphasized enough. Not only did they use the train to express and retain elements of their culture – such as to access trap lines and traditional hunting grounds – but there is a much darker side to the intricacies of the Algoma Passenger Train to the Missanabie Cree. Shirley Horn, member of the Missanabie Cree First Nation, recalls that as a child, she and many others would take the train from their home in Missanabie to the Shingwauk Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie (Doxtater, 2016). While this is a painful element of Canadian and First Nations’ history, it is an aspect of our collective history and past that we need to acknowledge through reconciliation (Doxtater, 2016). This, in some small way, can be achieved through government funding of Ontario’s 1st First Nation Train – Mask-wa Oo-Ta-Ban – so that the Missanabie Cree can self-govern this mode of passenger rail on their traditional territory, in a way they had never been privy to since the rail corridor land was stolen from them.

References

BDO Canda LLP. (August, 2014). Algoma Central Railway Passenger Rail Service: Economic Impact Statement. Sault Ste. Marie, On. 12-13.

Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains (CAPT) and Paat, B. Ed. (2013). 100th Anniversary Guidebook. All Aboard Algoma: Over 100 Years of Passenger Service, Sault Ste. Marie Museum Exhibit.

Doxtater, L. (January 2016). First Nations Relationship to Development of Rail: A Literature Review. Retrieved from the NORDIK Institute.

Malone, Given, Parsons LTD. (September, 2007). Algoma Central Railway: Wilderness Tourism by Rail Opportunity Study. 6-7.

The Importance of Geographic and Financial Accessibility


(Photo from MENAE Entrepreneur)

As discussed in our blog on accessibility, there are a number of elements that come into play when defining something as ‘accessible,’ – as it is an extremely complex and layered topic. Key aspects of the argument for accessible travel are financial and geographical considerations.

Passenger trains, like the Mask-Wa Oo-Ta-Ban, are meant to be a service in the sense that they are not providing people with a luxury; but a basic necessity of life, the right to travel, to move safely from point A to point B. For such reason, rail ticket prices are nowhere nearly expensive as the astronomical cost of flying, especially on a regular basis. For example, flights from the Sault to Hearst are extremely expensive. With layovers, it can sometimes take up to 30 hours to reach Hearst from the Sault after considering layovers, and after that, you would still have an hour drive from the nearest airport in Kapuskasing to Hearst. To make matters worse, in late May, it was announced that Kapuskasing Airport will no longer provide passenger flights through Bearskin Airlines, but will only be servicing cargo from now on. To learn more about that, click here

The average monthly payment for a new vehicle in Canada, as reported in 2015, is $570 a month, for between 48 and 60 total months, equaling a range of $27,360 and $47,880 (Cato, 2015). For people with a limited income, this is not a feasible or desirable option. For students, this is almost entirely impossible. Local educational institutions, like Sault College and Algoma University, would benefit from more financially-accessible travel options in order to attract more students from remote communities, especially since they are essentially the nearest post-secondary institutions in the area.

In addition to that fact, there are no flights, or transportation, other than driving a car, from the Sault to Hawk-Junction, Dubreuilville, Missanabie, or Wawa. In terms of accessing northern communities via bus, Greyhound bus services has one bus a day that departs from the Sault to Wawa, at 12:15am, and one bus a day from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst, at 7:30pm. The ride from the Sault to Hearst, would take one day, 7 hours, and 35 minutes to reach its destination, making it entirely inaccessible for anyone looking to make a weekend or urgent trip. Not to mention, while transport out of the Sault works local Saultites, for anyone coming out of a remote community, like Missanabie or Oba, accessibility is still an issue (NEORN, 2016). For more information on Greyhound routes and fares, click here

Ultimately, renewing rail service would help to make education more available in the north, while also serving the interests of the people, not just major corporations who naturally are motivated exclusively by increasing profits through transporting freight.

In conclusion, we can see how renewed rail service in the North is the only way to actually accommodate people from all walks of life in terms of transportation. Regardless of whether you can’t afford to drive, can’t afford to fly, or simply can’t justify the purchase of a car or excessive flight fees for individuals or entire families to move from place to place, your social, travel, and work life are suffering as a result of it. To find out more on how you can help us to renew rail service in the North, contact us at riley@beartrian.ca.

References

Cato, J. (April, 2015). How Much Canadian Pay on Average to Drive a New Car. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/news/industry-news/how-much-canadians-pay-on-average-to-drive-a-new-car/article24003473/

Northern & Eastern Ontario Rail Network. (July, 2016). Comments on Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy. North Bay, Ontario.