I'm off to the Soo today to check another item off my railroad bucket list: Algoma Central's train from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, 296 miles north to Hearst deep in the province.
The marketing department at Canadian National Railway, owner of the historic Algoma Central, bills the round trip as a "Tour of the Line." But this is no ordinary tourist train for Yankee rubberneckers, like the same railroad's Agawa Canyon Tour Train. It's a workaday local that stops everywhere a passenger flags it down. It could be called one of the last "milk trains" on the continent.
The Algoma Central line drives deep into the Ontario wilderness, serving hamlets and resorts and fishing camps inaccessible by road. Rather than trunks and suitcases, the two baggage cars on the train carry provender and other supplies, canoes and kayaks, and, in the winter, snowmobiles.
There is no dining car, requiring the hardy traveler to pack his own provisions over the 10-hour run to Hearst.
A few weeks ago the Lady Friend and I drove around Lake Superior, partly as tourists and partly as researchers into a future mystery novel in which Sheriff Steve Martinez tails a suspect who is presumably looking for good places to stash bodies. Maybe there's a way to work the Tour of the Line into the plot.
Further details ahead.