Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Off to the Agawa Canyon

Courtesy of the Algoma Central Ry. Click on the map for larger version.
In a few days I'm driving the 5 1/2 hours across the Upper Peninsula from Ontonagon to the Soo to ride a train -- the Agawa Canyon Tour Train of the Algoma Central Railway.

The train runs 114 winding miles northward from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., through the thickly forested Canadian Shield to Agawa Canyon, said to be one of the most spectacular rubbernecking sites in Ontario. It's an all-day trip, leaving at 8 a.m. and returning about 6 p.m. The train stops at the waterfall-bedecked canyon for 1 1/2 hours so that passengers can debark to hike and lollygag, then heads back to the Soo.

I'm making the trip wearing my field reporter's cap for Trainweb.org, and will be an on-board guest of Canadian National Railways, owner of the Algoma Central.

Past reviews of the journey on TripAdvisor.com have been all over the map. Some people hated it, some loved it, and many were indifferent. The two 2011 reviews so far posted on TripAdvisor, however, are four- and five-star, leading me to think that the winter refurbishment of the train has been a success. Many of the coaches have been replaced by rebuilt cars from the recently defunct Rio Grande Ski Train, which once carried skiers from Denver to Winter Park.

One of the new attractions of the train is a GPS-driven on-board narration (in five languages) of the tour that tells you exactly what you're seeing as you see it. Out of curiosity I asked the CN marketing people if they provided a printed script of the narration for the deaf and hearing-impaired -- and they do. They emailed me a link to the script for printing out, and I'll be carrying it on the train.

Full report to come.


  1. If you haven't done the winter trip Henry,
    be sure to book a mid-January ride.
    So much better than either summer or fall
    color tour.

  2. Frank, my man, I've never met a train I wouldn't ride. But in January I'm in Evanston, and that would mean a 500-mile, 10-hour (including pee stops) drive round the bottom of Lake Michigan and up to the Soo. And with the winter weather you Yoopers revel in, well, I dunno.

  3. I wouldn't drive around the bottom of the lake but around the top. Don't have to mess with Chicago traffic and can hug the lake (more or less) with interstate / 4 lane much of the way. Across the top - eastern UP - might be easier. And there are several opportunities to hit the well known (to Yoopers) M28 which isn't a bad ride if you tire of US2.

  4. Funny, the Internet mapping services all say driving around Chicago is the way to go. Probably it's a wash. But anyone who is willing to make that long trip in January either has a plow on the front of his pickup or . . .

  5. Did the winter trip from Three Rivers MI
    (only 80 miles from Chi-town) twice. Don't
    be a wimp. Spend the night at Canadian Soo
    & enjoy the frozen waterfalls & sparkling snow.

  6. I think you will enjoy this ride. We've done it on a couple of occassions. If you do it during the winter (and you should) I would also recommend traveling up the west side of Lake Michigan to avoid potential lake effect snows on the other side. The southern UP and Sault areas don't get as much snow as Ontonagon and environs along the south shore of Lake Superior either. So just do it!