One Last Northlander…

Having been unable to see the very last Northlanders on September 28th, I really wanted to see the return trip of the very last Toronto bound Northlander.  I asked on the Railfanning The Ontario Northland Facebook group and “inside man” James Hoffman let me know that it would be heading out in the morning of the 29th.  I took my daughter with me and off we went to Ravenshoe Road, where I shot the Northlander the last time before she was born.

I setup where I did that previous time and kept my scanner on and I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  After about 45 minutes and after checking Facebook, I saw that they had hit Doncaster at 9:42am, when there was an expected departure from Union at 9:30am, so I thought that I was too late.  The scanner helped me here, sort of, having told me that they would be going into the siding at Pefferlaw, to the north, to wait for a southbound freight.  They sounded clear and close, so I figured they had gone by, slowly, just before I got to Ravenshoe Road.  In something of a panic, I took off north to try and catch them in the siding before I missed my chance forever.

Naturally, it was as I took off up Park Road that I heard the detector a few miles south go off, reporting a train going by at 66 MPH – the speed of a passenger train.  I cursed myself for being so impatient, but continued on at a rocket pace to try and get to a crossing at Old Homestead Road.  The distance was farther than I thought, but I finally made it.  Here’s the map:


As I hit the crossing, I looked to the south and saw the consist slowly coming up the tracks.  I pulled off to the side of the road and leapt out of the car with my camera.



It was going at a nice slow pace by the time it reached the crossing.  My car (and sleeping daughter) sit shadowed in the foreground.


A wave from the engineer as they rolled by.  I think he probably noticed my Ontario Northland t-shirt.


A quick shot of 1800, not as well framed.


And the going-away shot of the engines and the cafe car.


It looks like they wyed the engines, but not the cars, as the APU brought up the tail.


And disappearing around the corner…


Then it was gone and I was left to shoot the crossbuck…


The south-west view of the Bala sub, green signal for the southbound freight that the ONR crew would encounter before continuing their journey onto the Newmarket sub and home.


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4 Responses to One Last Northlander…

  1. Eric Gagnon says:


  2. Eric Gagnon says:

    Nice photos and good timing, Adam, also the ONR Northlander header. There are certainly shades of earlier VIA cuts in the coverage of the demise of the Northlander. We seem to have a deep connection to these trains, whether we’ve ridden them or not.

    Having previously visited Cochrane twice in 1979, I was able to see some of the varied ONR passenger equipment as well as locomotives and some freight switching, and I’ll be posting these to Trackside Treasure.

    The Northlander had the original attraction of travelling from Canada’s largest city deep into the northern Ontario hinterlands. I remember riding it into Englehart and noticing the change in topography and land use. Really a train of contrasts.

    Thanks for sharing, and I hope your daughter imprinted the experience too!
    (Sorry about the test comment – coudln’t submit in previous attempts)

    • Adam Walker says:

      Thanks for your comments, Eric. I think I got lucky on my timing; it isn’t the first time I’ve missed or almost missed a shot because I’ve gotten too impatient.

      I believe rail travel between Toronto and northern cities (North Bay, Timmins, Thunder Bay) will return. I have to believe in that.


  3. David Lawson says:

    I too missed the last regular trip Northbound of the Northlander on the 28’th of September as well, but caught the southbound trip later that day. I also missed the return trip north of the Northlander equipment on the Saturday. Good timing and luck was needed to see the empty Northlander go north.
    Nice timing and excelent photo’s, as these are the only ones I have seen of the empty Northlander going north posted any where. Good work and timing.
    Thanks for posting the excelent photos Adam.

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