HUNTSVILLE – The time has almost come.
LAST RIDE: The Ontario Northland passenger rail service, the Northlander, ended today, Sept. 28, 2012.
Lucille Frith, president of the Huntsville Train Station Society and co-chair of the Committee Promoting Muskoka Rail Travel, said plans are in the works to have community members waving goodbye to the Northlander train as the publicly funded passenger rail service rolls through Huntsville for the last time on Friday, Sept. 28.
“It is the very first public utility in Ontario established in 1902,” said Frith of the train service. “So, 110 years later we’re waving farewell.”
She said she would like to invite Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty to ride the train.
“I really would. I’d like to invite Mr. McGuinty to get on the train in Cochrane, have a look at the train stations all the way down the line and see how the community comes out to support,” she said. “Every single platform that the train stops at, I’ll bet you anything there will be community people out there.”
She implied it would be fitting for McGuinty to tour the stations along with everyone else as politicians have historic ties to the train as well.
“Years ago when politicians would go on their campaign tours they would hop on the trains and have whistle stops,” she said. “Everywhere they stopped they would have a speech and a crowd would gather.”
But instead of listening to speeches on Sept. 28, crowds will likely gather to say farewell to a Northern Ontario transportation icon called the Northlander.
“I would like to invite anyone who has a flag, or a hand they would like to wave, to come down and say goodbye,” said Frith.
However, she does not see this as the end. Instead, she and other rail enthusiasts hope to wave welcome to a new passenger rail operator if one should take over operation of the service.
The train is scheduled to arrive at the Huntsville station around 3:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon. Everyone is encouraged to attend. Gatherings are being arranged for the Bracebridge and Gravenhurst stations as well.