Polar Bear Express

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Polar Bear Express
Type Inter-city rail
System Ontario Northland Railway
Status operating
Locale Ontario, Canada
Termini Cochrane
Stations 6 scheduled, + flag stops
Opened 1964
Operator(s) Ontario Northland Railway
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Route map
4:50 Moosonee
3:35 Moose River
2:25 Coral Rapids
1:45 Fraserdale
0:15 Clute
0:00 Cochrane

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 five 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
08:00 AR Cochrane DP 22:20
09:00 DP Cochrane AR 22:20
09:20 Clute 22:00 Flagged Stop
09:45 Wurtele 21:35 Flagged Stop
10:10 Island Falls 21:10 Flagged Stop
10:30 Brownrigg 20:50 Flagged Stop
10:50 Fraserdale 20:25 Flagged Stop
11:35 Otter Rapids 19:45 Flagged Stop
11:40 Coral Rapids 19:35 Flagged Stop
12:10 Ranoke 19:10 Flagged Stop
12:35 Onakawana 18:45 Flagged Stop
13:00 Moose River 18:20 Flagged Stop
13:30 Renison 17:50 Flagged Stop
13:55 Galeton 17:25 Flagged Stop
14:20 AR Moosonee DP 17:00

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 three 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 six 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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