Ontario Wilderness Rail
Stay tuned to this page for photos and trip details as we travel!
Part 1 - Home to
Toronto on Amtrak
This August. we are planning another cross-country rail adventure. We'll be following Rail Travel Center's "Ontario Wilderness Trains" tour, that will take us on several interesting trains in the lightly populated areas of Northern Ontario. We'll ride the Ontario Northland Railway's "Polar Bear Express" as far North as Moosonee on James Bay, and we'll travel through the Agawa Canyon on the Algoma Central Railway. We'll also visit Mackinac Island and the locks at Sault St. Marie. The starting point for the tour is Toronto, and to round out our vacation we'll be traveling by train to Toronto and home again, via New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. This will be our first venture into New York City, where we have tickets to see Usher take the stage in "Chicago" on Broadway. If trains are close to schedule, we'll have a little time for exploration on foot in Chicago and Washington, D.C. We're stopping near Philadelphia to meet up with a dear friend whom we met on a previous rail journey.
Click here for our travelogue from another Rail Travel Center tour, our winter trip across Canada in 2004.
Some of the rail routes we'll travel in Ontario cater specifically to tourists, while others represent lifelines of passenger transportation for the very rural areas they serve. We'll travel East and West via Amtrak's Empire Builder, Lakeshore Limited, and Capitol Limited. The Empire Builder is a perennial favorite, and generally operates very close to schedule. The Lakeshore and Capitol trains are typically several hours late, but our connections allow for that. As with last year's trip, I've been tracking the on-time performance on all of our routes for the past month or so and we have a very good idea of what to expect.
Part of the planning process for any domestic train trip is preparing for late arrivals. To get an idea of realistic expectations, I've recorded actual arrival times for each train we'll be taking using information available on Amtrak's web site. The least reliable trains on our trip are those operating over the CSX railway (Lake Shore Limited, Capitol Limited, and Maple Leaf). The star performer of the long-distance group is the Empire Builder, operating mostly on Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks, which is almost always on time or even early into Seattle and Portland. The corridor routes serving New York-Philadelphia-Washington are typically close to schedule.
In the table below, I've listed the scheduled, average, latest, and 80% confidence arrival times for each train. The "80% confidence" value is the time by which 80% of trains arrive (and consequently, 20% of trains arrive later than this time).