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Agawa train travelling through the bring Algoma hills in autumn.


Passenger Trains Service is Needed in Algoma

We are the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains

The Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains (CAPT) is a grassroots advocacy group which is concerned with the lack of transportation options in the Algoma District.  We are committed to reinstating the passenger train service on the Algoma Central Rail line and are also exploring the potential for a passenger train service on the Huron Central line between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.

We need passenger rail services in a multi-modal transportation system throughout the Algoma region. This will allow for essential connections to the rest of Ontario.

Passenger Train Services Are Essential

Missanabie Cree First Nation and other First Nations communities along the Algoma Central rail line are unable to access their traditional territories without a passenger train. Ceremonies and various cultural events take place on these lands and are an important part of First Nations culture.

Chief Gauthier smiling and holding a copy of the Bear Train business case booklet.

The cancellation of the Algoma passenger train took away the only transportation into significant parts of Indigenous traditional territories, including some areas that are very important spiritually and culturally.  The restoration of passenger train service by the Missanabie Cree-run Bear Train would allow regional First nations to follow through on plans to create Indigenous tourism economic development initiatives in the rail corridor.

Jason Gauthier
Chief, Missanabie Cree First Nation

People living in many smaller communities along the Agawa Canyon Rail line and near the line need access to larger communities with critical health care services, post-secondary institutions, for shopping and to visit family and friends.

Forrest Hinich holding a pack of outdoor supplies.

“My name is Forrest Hinich. I am 30 years old and grew up in Wabos Ontario, a community located on the ACR railway. Up until the passenger train service was halted in 2015, my friends, family and I would travel on the passenger train from Searchmont to our camp at Achigan Lake. We utilized the train year-round as it was the best way to access the remote area. We would enjoy trips to the Agawa Canyon to canoe and hike, and sometimes trips to Hearst to experience the life and culture of our northern communities. Once the passenger service shut down, the communities, camps and businesses settled on the rail line became inaccessible, including access to the Sand River and other canoe routes. The loss of the passenger train greatly impacted tourism in the area. Myself and many others eagerly await the return of the passenger train service!”

– Forrest Hinich

The passenger train service has always provided great access to wilderness areas, camps and lodges where tourists and locals alike can take part in outdoor recreational activities. These range from fishing and hunting, rock and ice climbing or hiking, to canoeing and kayaking.

James Smedley sitting in a boat holding a fish.

It has long been known that the Algoma Central Railway cuts through a wilderness landscape that is arguably one of the most beautiful in the world. At a time when more and more people are searching for all manner of outdoor recreation the need for passenger rail service has never been greater. Whether we are paddlers, campers, hikers, anglers, artists, hunters or photographers, the absence of a dynamic passenger rail service along this established route is a real waste of potential.”

James Smedley

Tourists from Ontario, from across Canada and from overseas are looking for more unique destinations to visit. The ACR Corridor is such a place with not only Indigenous territories, vast forests and interesting wildlife, but also many fascinating sites where the Group of Seven painters chose to create some of their most famous paintings. Without a passenger train, many of these sites are not accessible. It is a great loss to our region’s economy, especially considering the level of interest in heritage sites throughout the world.

Hiker in the woods leaning against a rock and drinking from a canteen.

Within four years of the completion of the Algoma Central Railway from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst, members of Canada’s iconic Group of Seven began a series of annual painting trips along the rail corridor. Their paintings of Algoma proved to be a watershed moment in the evolution of Canadian art, leaving an enduring legacy to future generations. That legacy, and the landscape that was so germane to it, has such rich educational and tourist potential, but that potential can only be realized if the unique access provided by the passenger train is restored to its rightful place in Canadian history.”

Michael Burtch
Artist, Art Historian, retired Director/Curator of the Art Gallery of Algoma

CAPT is working to get passenger train service for you

June 19, 2023

Group Photo after a meeting.
CAPT Board members and volunteers celebrate after Sault Ste Marie City Council unanimously passed the resolution in support of the Bear Train. Photo by David Pepper

Capt members attended resolution meeting

CAPT Board members and volunteers celebrate after Sault Ste Marie City Council.

Councillor Lisa Vezeau-Allen pointed out that Linda Savory-Gordon has been involved in CAPT for many years, and is working hard to restore passenger rail service in our region.  Mayor Matthew Shoemaker praised the work of CAPT Board Chair Dorothy Macnaughton and all volunteers who have continued the work to bring back passenger train travel to Algoma.

Since its inception, CAPT has connected with politicians at the local, provincial and federal level.  We have held in person meetings, sent postcards, petitions and letters to encourage governments, particularly the federal government to fund passenger rail service in the Algoma Region.  CAPT has also held Town Halls in communities along the ACR and Huron Central lines.

CAPT will continue to do whatever it takes to advocate efficiently and effectively to the appropriate levels of government for funding.  We will also continue to advocate locally in this region for support for passenger rail transportation for everyone.

CAPT has many supporters in the region and beyond.  We value and appreciate their support over the years and look forward to their continued support as we move forward.

CAPT is working closely with the Missanabie Cree First Nation and Mask-wa Transportation Inc. to assist with advocacy for the Bear Train funding.

We will confirm the support of local communities along the ACR line and work with them to achieve success.

As we have more information about the Huron Central line with regards to passenger rail service, we will determine how best to advocate for passenger rail service along that line.

Bear Train Logo.

Mask-wa Oo-ta-ban, the “Bear Train,” is an initiative of the Missanabie Cree First Nation, Mask-wa Transportation Association Inc., and communities along the Algoma passenger train rail corridor to resume essential passenger rail service. CAPT advocates for support of the Mask-wa-Oo-ta-ban initiative.

 CAPT continues to reach out to potential partners, even during the summer.  We are making contacts and evaluating support so that these individuals and organizations can be called upon once it is time to find the funding to get the Bear Train operating.  One contact which I made with Mayor Shoemaker in May resulted in the City of Sault Ste. Marie approving a Bear Train Resolution unanimously.  Their support is critical moving forward.

 Bear Train Resolution

Sault Ste. Marie City Council meeting

June 19, 2023

Unfinished Business, Notice of Motions and Resolutions Placed on Agenda by Members of Council

9.1 Bear Train

Mover Councillor L. Vezeau-Allen

Seconder Councillor M. Scott

Whereas the Algoma Central Railway passenger train service between Sault  Ste. Marie and Hearst was discontinued in 2014 when the federal government determined it no longer qualified under the Remote Passenger Rail Program; and

Whereas this essential service supported significant economic, employment and tax generation; and

Whereas as a result of the cessation of this service eight years ago (in July 2015), access has been denied to, and caused substantial hardships for many First Nations people, municipalities, businesses, trappers, forestry workers, miners, and residents; and

Whereas passenger train service is necessary for First Nations people to access remote regions of their traditional territories, including spiritually significant locations; and

Whereas Missanabie Cree First Nation, under the leadership of Chief Jason Gauthier, has worked diligently to ensure the passenger train service known as the Bear Train along the ACR line will be reinstated, and this will demonstrate efforts towards reconciliation and provide employment and economic opportunities for Indigenous people and others; and

Whereas Mask-wa Transportation Association Inc., a provincial corporation initiated by Missanabie Cree First Nation has prepared a comprehensive business case to take to funders, which will soon be updated with current financial data; and

Whereas 75% of properties in proximity to the rail line are inaccessible except by passenger train service, and the passenger train has been the only safe, legal, all-season, affordable access into the Algoma wilderness rail corridor for over 108 years; and

Whereas a study completed in 2014 by BDO Canada concluded that the Algoma passenger train is in the public interest in that it supported:

• $38-$48 million in annual economic impact

• 170-220 jobs

• $5.12-$6.45 million in annual tax generation.

Now Therefore Be It Resolved that Sault Ste. Marie City Council supports the Missanabie Cree First Nation and the Mask-wa Transportation Association Inc. in the development of the Mask-wa Oo-ta-ban (the Bear Train) and are committed to working closely with Missanabie Cree First Nation on this initiative, a much-needed transportation alternative for Sault Ste. Marie, a major northern transportation hub; and

Further Be It Resolved that City Council recognizes that Sault Ste. Marie is missing out on significant tourism and related business opportunities without a passenger train service along the ACR line and that major efforts will need to be made by all levels of government to bring back and enhance this major tourist attraction; and

Further Be It Resolved that Sault Ste. Marie City Council will approach the Governments of Canada and Ontario to request subsidization of the ongoing operation of the Mask-wa Oo-ta-ban (Bear Train); and

Further Be It Resolved that Sault Ste. Marie City Council supports Mask-wa Transportation Association Inc.’s request that both the federal and provincial governments formally recognize the passenger rail service and the rail access corridor it serves as a unique and valuable cultural, historic, recreational, environmental and economic asset; and

Further Be It Resolved that a copy of this resolution motion be distributed to:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,

Minister of Transport Omar Alghaba,

Minister of Indigenous Services Patti Hajdu, Premier Doug Ford,

Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg


MP Terry Sheehan,

MP Carole Hughes,

MPP Ross Romano, and

MPP Michael Mantha

CAPT has revised our brochure and we are in the process of creating business cards.

 We continue to sell CAPT T-shirts and hope to have some locations where you will be able to purchase them beginning in August.

– Dorothy Macnaughton, Chair of the CAPT Board

Do you want to see passenger rail service in Algoma?

Become a Supporter

As CAPT continues to advocate for passenger train service in the Algoma region, we need many supporters to help highlight the need for this service as a viable, important transportation option. We will be keeping you posted as to how and when you can help, so keep watching our messages from the Board and our social media posts. We will let you know specific ways in which you can take meaningful action.