"All aboard!" bellowed conductor Timothy Murphy this morning as dignitaries and members of the media boarded the new state-of-the-art Agawa Canyon tour train.
Joining MPP David Orazietti for the unveiling of the new locomotive were representatives from CN Rail, City Council and the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation.
Guest passengers invited to take part in the rail tour to Agawa Canyon included international media and tourism representatives from as far away as China and Japan.
Full text of a news release issued by David Orazietti follows.
****************************** Orazietti unveils new Agawa Canyon tour train at public ceremony
Province provides $5 million to upgrade local icon and attract more tourists to Sault Ste. Marie
SAULT STE. MARIE - David Orazietti, MPP was joined today by representatives from CN Rail and the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (SSMEDC) to unveil new state-of-the-art locomotive trains and newly refurbished passenger trains for the Agawa Canyon Tour.
The $10 million investment to purchase the train was made with $5 million from the province’s Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) and $5 million from CN Rail in order to boost tourism and strengthen economic development in the Sault and Algoma region.
“The Province has provided $5 million toward the purchase of a new Agawa Canyon Tour train, to renew one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Northern Ontario and boost economic activity in Sault Ste. Marie,” said Orazietti. “Our investment will help bring more visitors to the community and significantly improve the passenger experience, while also encouraging further investment and increasing local employment opportunities.”
The province’s NOHFC provided $5 million in support in order to help the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) acquire and refurbish three Electro-Motive F-40 locomotive trains and 16 coach trains.
The newly retrofitted trains will accommodate 775 passengers and they include universally accessible facilities, such as new seating upgrades, washroom facility upgrades as well as modern audio-visual features for on-board entertainment, informational and educational purposes.
“The tour train makes an important contribution to the economic lifeline of the region,” said Jeff Liepelt, CN vice-president, Eastern Region. “As owner and operator of the train, CN is proud to be part of the success of the Northern Ontario tourist experience.”
The tour train takes passengers for a wilderness excursion 114 miles north of Sault Ste. Marie.
The day-long round trip travels through the lakes, rivers, granite rock formations and mixed forest that make up the local Canadian Shield that served as inspiration for many famous Group of Seven paintings.
The tour train is the biggest local tourist attraction and it creates $25 million in economic activity for the city and region every year.
"We are very excited about the re-launch of our major attraction,” said Debbie Amaroso, Sault Ste. Marie’s mayor. “The Agawa Canyon Tour Train should now help to increase tourism visitation to our community and once again establish Sault Ste. Marie as a true vacation destination."
"This revitalization of the tour train has been an exciting and ambitious project,” said Ian McMillan, executive director of Tourism Sault Ste. Marie. “All levels of government and CN should be commended for pulling together to make this work. By upgrading this iconic tourist attraction, it will give the tourism industry the shot in the arm it has been anxiously anticipating."
Since 2003, the province has also approved $46.6 million for over 381 NOHFC projects in Sault Ste. Marie.
These investments have resulted in new jobs in our community and allowed for over $107 million in infrastructure and business projects to be completed.
The province has increased the NOHFC’s budget by a further $10 million per year from $60 million in 2007 to 100 million in 2011 to assist in creating more jobs and better positioning the northern economy for growth.
Some of the key NOHFC investments in Sault Ste. Marie include:
- $5 million Agawa Canyon Tour Train
- $2.5 million Heliene solar panel manufacturing plant
- $2.1 million Flakeboard Ltd. expansion
- $2 million Ellsin Environmental Ltd. - Tire recycling plant
- $2 million Sault College - IT infrastructure, multi-media centre, wind energy training centre
- $1.6 million Hub Trail and waterfront walkway expansion (3.1 million total)
- $1.5 million West End Recreation Centre ($6.2 million total)
- $1.5 million Huron Central Rail upgrades ($16.5 million total)
- $1.0 million Essar Centre (4.7 million total)
- $1 million Algoma Public Health building - Technology ($8.3 million total)
- $1 million City - Emergency Response Centre (EMS) ($2.2 million total)