Polar Bear Express
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|Polar Bear Express|
|System||Ontario Northland Railway|
|Stations||6 scheduled, + flag stops|
|Operator(s)||Ontario Northland Railway|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
The Polar Bear Express is a Canadian passenger train operated by the Ontario Northland Railway in Northern Ontario. Service was introduced in 1964. While designated as a passenger train, the Polar Bear Express also carries specialized equipment including boxcars for canoes, snowmobiles and all terrain vehicles, chain cars (flat cars with tie downs) for carrying cars and light trucks (there are no roads to Moosonee so vehicles come in and out by train) and baggage and express cars. In the past a special car for canoes was included but these are now carried in boxcars.
It operates 5 days per week year-round and connects Cochrane with Moosonee. During the summer months there is an additional train on Sundays and the train often includes a full length dome car. Prior to 2012, the train carried a full dining car during the summer.
|↓↓↓↓||CITY / TOWN||↑↑↑↑||NOTES|
|06:30||DP||Timmins||AR||23:30||Shuttle service to & from Cochrane|
|10:10||Island Falls||21:10||Flagged Stop|
|11:35||Otter Rapids||19:45||Flagged Stop|
|11:40||Coral Rapids||19:35||Flagged Stop|
|13:00||Moose River||18:20||Flagged Stop|
The Polar Bear Express service was expanded on June 5, 2007 after increased funding from the Government of Ontario to ONR was announced in March 2007. It resulted in the discontinuation of the Little Bear mixed freight-passenger service which had operated 3 days per week, year-round, resulting in dedicated separate freight and passenger rail service to Moosonee.
In summer 2008, track conditions resulted the train running very late much of the time (2.5 hours by railway announcement). By late 2008, running times had improved somewhat and timings of five and a half to six hours for the 186 mile (300 kilometre - all distances are shown in miles along the tracks) trip were becoming typical. Service deteriorated significantly in 2009 mainly due to bad track conditions and mechanical failures—on one occasion the train, scheduled to arrive in Cochrane at 9:42 in the evening did not arrive until 4:00 in the morning.
Before the 2007 service expansion, the Polar Bear Express operated 6 days per week during the summer months. It left Cochrane in the morning, stayed for a few hours in Moosonee, and returned to Cochrane in the evening. It was primarily used by tourists, although it was used by an increasing number of local residents.
The name of the train is misleading—polar bears are rarely seen anywhere near Moosonee. The Polar Bear Express today mostly services the residents of Moosonee and Moose Factory when they travel south from their communities that lack road connections to the rest of Ontario. During the winter, many passengers are from communities further north who travel to Moosonee by winter road before taking the train.
Prior to 2012 the summer train included special programs for children and an entertainment car.
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