Agawa Canyon Snow Train cancelled

The following two press releases were issued the week of Nov. 19, 2013 about the cancellation of the Agawa Canyon Snow Train in Ontario:

CN announces cancelation of Agawa Canyon Snow Train

Snow1-TrainCN – today announced that it is terminating operation of the Agawa Canyon Snow Train because the seasonal excursion service is incurring rising operating losses as a result of stagnating passenger demand.

CN said it will focus its attention now on continued operation of its successful summer and fall Agawa Canyon excursion trains.

The Snow Train typically operated six Saturday excursions each winter north of Sault Ste. Marie Ontario to the Agawa Canyon.

Despite CN’s efforts to promote the service, passenger counts have failed to grow, remaining at approximately 1,500 per season.

John Orr, CN vice-president, Eastern Region, said: “Since 2011 when we launched our new train, we have actively promoted the Snow Train and its newly refurbished equipment. Unfortunately, ridership has stagnated and the service is not economically sustainable. CN remains committed to Sault tourism and will focus its resources on promoting and growing ridership on the summer and fall tours where we have seen success.”

In the summer and fall, passengers can disembark from the train and tour the Agawa Canyon for about 90 minutes before it returns to The Sault.

This service operates seven days a week over a 17 to 18 week-long season.

The canyon tour, along with the newly- refurbished train cars offering a higher level of enjoyment and passenger satisfaction, has attracted an increasing number of passengers. In the last two years, ridership on the summer and fall excursions has increased by more than 10 percent.

“CN is very pleased by the success of the summer and fall excursion trains,” said Orr. “Working with our partner Tourism Sault Ste Marie, we will continue to invest in the promotion and delivery of this featured excursion train service”.


Tourism Sault Ste. Marie disappointed in loss of snow train

Tourism Sault Ste. Marie and its industry partners are very disappointed at the announcement by CN Rail that it will cancel the Snow Train.

This key attraction has been attracting visitors from across Ontario and the U.S. for decades and by not running it will have a significant economic impact on the city and region.

On average 1,500 visitors take the Snow Train each winter, with the majority staying two nights and spending money in restaurants, bars and retail outlets in the community. Not having these visitors will mean a decrease in spending of almost a half million dollars.

Tourism Sault Ste. Marie has invested significant marketing dollars to help promote both the Snow Train and the Agawa Canyon Tour train over the years.
TSSM was also instrumental in working with the CN Rail, the Provincial and Federal Governments to secure the $11.2 million for the purchase of upgraded coach equipment and the onboard audio/video technology.

Since the re-launch of the upgraded tour train, the rider levels have increased at a steady rate, including increased passengers on the Snow Train.

“That is why it is so disappointing to hear of the cancellation”, said Tourism Sault Ste. Marie Executive Director Ian McMillan. “It just seemed we were making inroads in growing the passenger levels, and thought collectively we were in for the long haul, in restoring these tour trains to the historic levels of passengers they experienced as recently as 2002”.

Kevin Wyer, Chairman of Tourism Sault Ste. Marie and the General Manager of the Delta Waterfront Hotel and Convention Centre echoed the sentiments, saying “the Sault Ste. Marie accommodation sector experienced a very challenging year in 2013, and the cancellation of the Snow Train is going to hit us hard when we don’t have those visitor levels on the weekends for the balance of the winter”.

While TSSM looks as this as a definite set back, the organization is determined to work with CN Rail to look at alternatives to operating a winter train, so that consideration will be given to bringing the Snow Train back in 2015.

There is also going to be a strong push by the tourism industry to have CN Rail look at extending the operating season of the summer/fall Agawa Canyon Tour, as well as looking into possibilities of utilizing additional coach equipment to maximize rider levels in the peak fall season.

Says TSSM Executive Director McMillan, “The tourism industry is an incredibly resilient group. These private sector operators have been hit with a number of challenges over the past several years, but have banded together to develop new products that have attracted new visitors to our city and region, and we will continue to do so moving forward.