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Armchair Brakeman

Hearst Ontario (Algoma Central Railroad)


My wife’s sister Marilyn and her husband Alvin moved up north to Sault Ste Marie, Michigan a number of years ago and we try to visit them at least once a year. We usually drive up and we never tire of the scenery on the way to this northern-most part of Michigan. However, I don’t always like what Alvin and the girls do for enjoyment while we are visiting. Bingo, the casino, and garage sales are not for me.

I started taking side trips to various towns around the area and decided to take the train from Sault Ste Marie, Ontario (adjacent to Sault Ste Marie, Michigan) to Hearst Ontario. Since then, I have taken this train trip almost every time we traveled “up north” as we say in Michigan. The Algoma Central Railroad calls this trip “The Tour of the Line.” Phone: toll free 1-800-242-9287. The train station is located at 129 Bay Street, Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada.

You can buy train tickets at the station before your trip, but you must have motel reservations in Hearst before they will sell you tickets. (Hotels fill up quickly because Hearst is on the Trans Canada Highway and many truckers stop here, also a night outdoors without a hotel room will freeze you solid.) The train to Hearst does not have food service so bring whatever you want for the duration of the trip (almost nine hours one-way). There are restaurants close to the train station for stocking up on sandwiches and snacks.

The train starts its journey near downtown Sault Ste Marie and soon passes through the siding of the St Marys Paper Mill, if you look to the left you will see the International Bridge that links Canada to the USA. Passing the Algoma Steel Corporation on the outskirts of the city, we are on our way. Hearst Ontario is about three hundred miles north of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario and the train route passes through some of Canada’s rugged boreal forests of the Canadian Shield, and through many canyons, which includes the beautiful Agawa Canyon. Many lakes and rivers follow the path of the train, which makes for a scenic view. The tracks weave and turn following the easiest path to the north.

This train will regularly stop and pick up passengers that stand by the tracks and wave to stop the train (I recommend you board at the station, however). During the moose hunting season, many hunters ride the train to their hunting cabins which are situated close to the tracks.

The route is marked along the way with mile markers – at mile 19 is the 810-foot Bellevue trestle. At mile 50, the Chippewa River meets and follows the tracks for about six miles. At mile 92 is the trestle over the Montreal river (130’x1550’), at mile 195, you cross the transcontintal lines of Canadian Pacific Railway at Franz after which there are very few roads till Hearst. The train starts at Sault Ste Marie at 600 feet above sea level and climbs to 1600 feet above sea level at mile 97. After an up and down ride the train reaches Hawk Junction, Ontario at mile 165 at 1030 feet above sea level. The train arrives at Hearst  (827 feet above sea level) at about 6:40 P.M. (winter schedule) and I normally stay at the Companion Hotel/Motel a half a block from the train station. (
Phone: 1-888-468-9888. One person $74.72 Canadian

Hearst is a French Canadian town with French spoken exclusively almost everywhere, but with my French language phrase book I have very little trouble. The restaurant connected to the hotel is French-Canadian and I often see the train crew eating there before the trip back. The food is quite tasty and the perfect start to a long trip back on the same train that brought me up the day before. See schedule below for train departures and arrivals.

Take a look at my Hearst adventure.

Schedules and Fares
Algoma Central Railway trips

The train has different fares for different services. The services are: The Tour of the Line, a Canyon Combo Coach, the Snow Train, and the Agawa Canyon Tour. Call 800.242.9287 for information or check out:

The Tour of the Line

2007/2008 Winter Schedule     October 31,2007 to May 5, 2008

North bound                             Wed./Fri./Sun                                       EST Departure                                 Sault Ste Marie                               9:00 am
Arrival                                       Hearst                                             6:40 pm

South Bound                            Thurs./Sat./Mon.                                  EST
Departure                                 Hearst                                            8:00 am
Arrival                                       Sault Ste Marie                               5:40 pm       

2008 Summer Schedule   May 6 2008 to November 3, 2008   

North bound                             Wed./Fri./Sun                                       EST
Departure                                 Sault Ste Marie                           9:20 a.m.
Arrival                                     Hearst                                          7:00 p.m.

South bound                             Thurs./Sat./Mon.                                EST
Departure                                 Hearst                                        8:30 am
Arrival                                      Sault Ste Marie                           6:10 pm                                                                      

2008                Tour of the Line fares                                        CND

Adults and Seniors (19+)                                                        $187.00
Child and Youth (5-18)                                                            $115.50
Children (under 5)                                                                    $71.50
Babes in arms                                                                           Free

_ ________________________________________________________
The Agawa Canyon Tour

June 10,11,12 & June 17, 18,19 (Tues., Wed., Thurs,.) and then Daily  Tuesday June 24 to Monday October 13,2008.

Departs Sault Ste Marie 8:00 a.m.        Returns Sault Ste Marie 5:30 p.m.

2008 summer fare         June 10 to September 5                    CDN                                                                
Adults (19+)                                                                             $65.00
Seniors (60+)                                                                           $56.00
Child (5-18)                                                                              $25.00
Children under 5 years                                                            $20.00
Babes in arms                                                                             Free

2008 fall fares               September 6 to October 13              CDN   

Adults (19+)                                                                             $85.00
Seniors (60+)                                                                           $85.00
Child / Youth (5-18)                                                                 $53.00
Children under 5 years                                                            $28.00
Babes in arms                                                                            Free

The Canyon Combo Coach
The Canyon Combo Coach is a combination of the Tour of the Line and the Agawa Canyon Tour. The Canyon Tour is fully narrated and has a full dining car service. On the combo you start out on the Agawa Canyon Tour train, enjoy the narration, have lunch then get off at the canyon and have approximately two hours to explore the canyon before getting on the Tour of the Line train which continues up the line.  

2008 Summer Season     June 10 to September 6                   CND

Adults (19+)                                                                             $219.50
Seniors (60+)                                                                           $215.00
Child and Youth (5 –18)                                                           $128.00
Children (under 5)                                                                    $81.50
Babes in Arms                                                                          Free

2008 Fall Season          September 6 to October 13               CDN

Adult/Senior (19+)                                                                   $272.00
Child / Youth (5 –18)                                                               $168.50
Children (under 5)                                                                    $99.50
Babes in Arms                                                                          Free

The Agawa Canyon Snow Train

Saturdays: January 26 th to March 8 th, 2008  

2008 fares                                                                            CDN
Adults (19+)                                                                         $65.00
Senior (60+)                                                                         $56.00
Child / Youth (5-18)                                                              $35.00
Children under 5 years                                                         $20.00
Babes in arms                                                                         Free


Updated 3/27/2008







Hawk Junction
Hawk Junction Station

Hawk Junction station
Hawk Junction tracks

Hearst trestle bridge
Trestle bridge Agawa Canyon

Downtown Hearst
Downtown Hearst

Out the rear, Agawa Canyon Snow Train

Over a bridge, Agawa Canyon Snow Train
Across a bridge, Agawa Canyon Snow Train

Back door, Snow Train, Agawa Canyon
Rear door. Agawa Canyon Snow Train