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Agawa Canyon train tour needs cash influx.

Agawa Canyon train tour needs cash influx

The Algoma Central Railway is facing trouble ahead with its Agawa Canyon train tour, the biggest tourist attraction in Northern Ontario.

As ACR president Len Savoie explains, the equipment is 40 to 50 years old. "It's beginning to fall apart."

The cars must be replaced or the tour will stop running.

ACR bought the equipment 20 years ago at scrap prices of about $5,000 per car, Savoie said. Today, it would cost about $2 million to replace the 20 cars.

Savoie noted that the total revenue on the tour wouldn't pay the interest on the expense of replacing the cars.

Currently, the company is just about breaking even on the tour.

"If the train were to be discontinued, it would be a blow to the local economy," Savoie said.

The ACR is considering buying second-hand GO trains from Toronto and refurbishing them with such items as long-distance seats. It will also be looking at obtaining cars from the down-sized VIA Rail.

However, Savoie noted that VIA equipment is of similar age to the equipment already used on the tour.

"They don't abandon the good stuff first," he said, adding that old cars may be good for scavenging. "It may be of some help."

The Agawa Canyon tour is one of North America's most spectacular train excursions.

The trip begins in Sault Ste. Marie and heads 114 miles north to the Agawa Canyon, the heart of Algoma country. A two hour stop-over provides tourists with the opportunity to photograph the many waterfalls and rocky cliffs.

"Agawa Canyon tours have been and will continue to be Northern Ontario's major tourist attraction," said Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Joe Fratesi.

The mayor noted that the tour attracts more people than Science North does in Sudbury. According to Ministry of Tourism statistics, the tour attracted more than 100,000 visitors in 1989.

It is Canada's largest and North America's fourth-largest train tour.

Fratesi pointed out that the day-long tour attracts a significant number of visitors from the Detroit and Chicago areas. "It usually means people are coming for several days."

The visitors also generate significant spin-off business for the local economy.

Suzanne Curran, managing director of Hospitality and Travel Sault Ste. Marie (HATS), said the city's tourism council is working with ACR to help keep the tour viable.

"The hope is that the province will see that it is viable," said Curran.

The tourism council is made up representatives from HATS, the chamber of commerce and the Economic Development Corporation.

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Title Annotation:Focus on Sault Ste. Marie; Algoma Central Railway not making profit on Northern Ontario's biggest tourist attraction
Author:Bickford, Paul
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:May 1, 1990
Previous Article:Record year predicted for real estate.
Next Article:HATS promotes tourism by many means.

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