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Friday, November 30, 2012

#219 Update

Sadly, #219 did not receive enough votes to make it to the semi-final round of the Aviva Community Fund.  After each round of voting, there were more and more votes and that was wonderful to see.  I would like to thank everyone who voted to help with this project. 

Remember, the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum & Heritage Centre still needs help to move 219 from Cochrane to Capreol.  Visit their website if you can help.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why there will never be another Morant

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be given a copy of Nicholas Morant's Canadian Pacific as a gift.  This is an enormous book full of gorgeous photographs from Morant's personal collection and from the CP Archives.  Morant is considered the master of Canadian railway photography and it is easy to see why when you look at his work.  Despite his obvious skill, not every shot he took was perfect and the book features many images that were rejected for a variety of reasons.   It even discusses the rare occasion when an entire roll of film was ruined!

Sadly, I don't think there will ever be another Morant.  Fistly, he essentially approached CP with a proposal for his job as "Special Photographer."  True, CP was already aware of his work and they had employed him and used his shots before, but it still took a lot of chutzpah to ask CP for a tailor-made job.  Today, most railway photography is done by freelancers on tight deadlines.  Morant was often given weeks to get the best photograph possible, so it is no wonder his shots were good!  Most railway photographers have to make the most of whatever conditions present themselves.  Morant built platforms for better angles, special fittings on locomotives to get the best shot and he even had the power to stop trains at exactly the spot he wanted them for his photos.  His work took an enormous amount of planning as he often used three or four cameras on remotes to be able to get multiple exposures on different mediums while also using different angles.

Morant's work also shows us how constrained the rules of railway photography have become.  Thanks to such moderated photo sites as Railpictures.net, the definition of what is a good railway photograph has become increasingly narrow.  It's hard to find set rules in Morant's work, beyond a pleasing aesthetic of course.  The "rule of thirds" isn't always followed, not all the shots are on the sunny side of the train, some of the best photos are taken of trains going away from the camera and some of them have a noticeable degree of blur.  The fact is, Morant saw railway photography in its natural setting, never removing the train from its surroundings.  Yes, he did do roster shots, but he preferred to have the train dwarfed by its surroundings.  There is a drama in his work, mostly because the trains are part of something bigger.  You feel like you are seeing the scene as it was, not just as a train, but as a place.

Lastly, the main reason that there will never be another Morant is that the world has forgotten about still photographs.  I specialise exclusively in still images.  In fact, I deliberately bought a camera that didn't have a video mode.  But I am a dying breed.  Publicity and advertising today is full of video and moving content, not photographs.  Morant's work was powerful in an era when the still image was king.  Now, only those of us who still love the static image will truly appreciate his work and how much effort he went to for one image.

If you have a chance to look at this book, or at Morant's work in general, I would encourage you to enjoy it and learn - there are so many ideas for new photographs.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ontario Northland’s Christmas Train

It has been a bad year for Ontario Northland and 2013 could well be even worse.  Despite the doom and gloom, the staff have found the time and energy to put together their annual Christmas train, which will be stopping along the line in various communities the ONR serves.  Go have a look if you have the chance!
Ontario Northland’s Christmas Train - Ontario Northland

Plea for ONTC likely to fall on deaf ears

People don't like the planned sale of the ONTC, local governments don't like it and now industry doesn't like it.   Does anyone?
Plea for ONTC likely to fall on deaf ears | Timmins Press

Friday, November 23, 2012

One Weekend, Two Specials

Coming from Canada, seeing the number of special trains run in the UK, or even the US, is mind boggling.  Hardly a weekend goes by without some special charter.  For the most part, railways in Canada never bother to run such trains and when they do, it is often done secretly.  However, last weekend was a refreshing exception to the rule.

Last Saturday, the Grey Cup Train arrived at Exhibition GO Station in Toronto for the last stop on the 100th Anniversary Grey Cup Tour of Canada.  For those not familiar with the Grey Cup, it is the equivalent of the Superbowl, but for the Canadian Football League.  The CFL is often lauded as the only real pro-league in Canada, despite the fact that a large number of the players and coaches are American.  I have to be honest, I do not like football.  I have never managed to stand more than five minutes of a game and I cannot stand the rowdy partying that accompanies the fans.  It was inevitable that my views would cloud my impression of the Grey Cup Train.

The train, which began its journey in Vancouver, spent most of its time visiting communities in Western Canada.  In terms of the number of actual CFL fans, this move made sense, but it also helped to reinforce how segmented Canada is.  Apart from a last-minute stop in North Bay, the train passed through the entirety of northern Ontario without stopping.  Likewise, northern Quebec never got a visit.  Compared to the plethora of stops made by the CP Holiday Train each year, the Grey Cup Train seems limited.  From a photographer's perspective, the tour was also frustrating because a schedule was only released once the train reached southern Ontario, meaning that fewer people actually got to see the train itself.

I arrived in Toronto just before 10 Saturday morning to be near the front of the line.  I stood and waited as I was penned in with the other people, clearly die-hard CFL nuts, while a remarkable number of CFL staff stood guard.  We listened to countless speeches extolling the virtues of the CFL and its sponsors (please note that the Grey Cup is exclusively broadcast on the subscription-only TSN).  Finally people were allowed to visit the train - no more than eight at a time.  The line crawled forward.  All I really wanted was to be able to photograph the locomotive with the train behind it.  The way to the front of the train was blocked by staff and ropes.  When I asked about my photo idea, I was told that I would have to go through the train first.  By the point, I had been lined up and getting increasingly annoyed for about 40 minutes, so I joined the hyper fans being micromanaged by CFL staff in the train.  The train itself was made of coaches from both VIA and CP and, I must admit, the interior layout was interesting.  The displays meant absolutely nothing to me, but sports memorabilia probably wouldn't.  I weaved through past the overly excited fans and the overly smiley staff until I could see the way out.  I couldn't actually get out though, a elderly woman ahead of me had fallen off the train, it seems that the footstool on the ground was wobbly.  After another delay, I marched to the front, past the ropes and got my shot.  In all, it took about an hour for me to get the one photo I wanted.  Perhaps the tour was appreciated by the CFL and its fans, but it did not endear me to their league, their sport, or their organisation of events. 

Later in the day, I returned to Exhibition station to photograph the train from a different angle.  It was nearly sunset and the train and the Toronto skyline were bathed in a beautiful warm glow.  This made for a lovely composition and it masked the CFL nature of the train nicely.  I like trains, not football.  Different strokes for different folks.



Sunday evening and I was out again for yet another special train.  Pacific had just completed a trip to the Maritimes and was heading from Montreal back to Toronto on VIA 657.  I arrived at Oshawa not knowing exactly when the train would arrive, it was running at least 30 minutes late.  It lost little time beyond that and pulled to a stop at the new island platform.  As usual, a small crowd of passengers gathered at the back to chat to however many railfans (in this case only myself) had assembled.  I think that Pacific had in fact dropped off the radar of most people and it was only by luck that I had decided to check the website a few days before.  Last time I chatted with the people, I got a free tin of coffee (still proudly on display - it's a collectable), this time I got a lovely postcard of Pacific.  I've enjoyed following the tour.  The days of business cars being tacked on the end of trains are long gone, so it has been good to remember.  After a few minutes, the train headed off to Toronto.  According to the on-board chef, this was the last run of the year for the coach.



As far as Canadian standards go, it was one busy weekend of railway happenings.

Candidate votes to save ONTC

Gerard Kennedy is the latest Liberal leadership candidate to say he would reconsider the sale of the ONTC.  This trend presents an interesting question: exactly what percentage of the Liberal party supported the divestment of the ONTC in the first place?  Of course, calling for a rethink might also be a way to gain votes from northern delegates.  Unlike Murray or Sousa, Kennedy does now expect to retain the ONTC in it existing form.  Rather, he wants to see how it can more effectively serve the economy and passenger needs of the north.  This sounds very much like what the ONTC unions have been wanting for the better part of a decade.
Candidate votes to save ONTC | Sudbury Star

Support for Ontario Northland employees over 1000 letters strong

The port authority proposal gains support.
Support for Ontario Northland employees over 1000 letters strong

Thursday, November 22, 2012

18 northern municipalities aim to protect Ontario Northland

The headline says it all, 18 municipalities have approved identical motions to support a pause to the divestment process and for greater consultation with the people dependent on the ONTC.
18 northern municipalities aim to protect Ontario Northland

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rails of the GTA 1&2: Now at Credit Valley!


I am very excited to announce that Rails of the GTA and Rails of the GTA Volume 2 are now available for sale at the Credit Valley Railway Company in Mississauga!  Until now, the books have only been available online, but you can now buy a copy in person.

Credit Valley also stock my history of railways in Whitby: Stand Clear of the Doors

Now is your chance to buy books about modern GTA railways and support a local hobby shop at the same time!


Click here to visit Credit Valley's website: http://www.cvrco.com/index.htm


Closed London plant donates Dewdney art

The former EMD plant in London may be up for sale, but at least some of the iconic art from the facility will be preserved for the city.  Of course, the art of the plant will also live on as long as London-built locomotives continue running on railways all around the world.
Closed London plant donates Dewdney art | The London Free Press

'Pause' ONTC divestment: Murray

Another provincial Liberal leadership candidate, Glen Murray, has said that he would stop the sale of the ONTC.  However, unlike Charles Sousa, Murray also wants to set up a separate government for northern Ontario, giving the region partial autonomy.  Personally, I feel that government is diluted enough as it is and I do not believe that northern Ontario needs its own government - provided Queen's Park actually listens to the north and works with them to create a better future for all of Ontario.  Either way, something has to change.
'Pause' ONTC divestment: Murray | North Bay Nugget

Friday, November 16, 2012

GO's new, and counter-productive, service guarantee

GO Transit recently introduced its new service guarantee, promising to credit passengers if their trip is delayed (of course, there are multiple exceptions and in fact few delays will probably qualify) by more than 15 minutes.  On the surface, this sounds like a good deal for commuters and a good motivator for GO to keep their trains running on time.  Dig a little deeper and the deal starts to seem counter-productive.  Here is my take.

Delays are a fact of life.  Every form of transport, from feet to trains to planes, can suffer delays.  If we have reached a stage in our culture where an occasional delay becomes the supreme decider of success and failure, then we have little left.  I always try to arrive for anything early.  It doesn't take much effort and it is usually possible to find the time to do this.  The sort of delays that are covered by the guarantee include maintenance and equipment failure.  Maintenance is important because without it, derailments and more lengthy delays would be more frequent.  Equipment does sometimes fail, as does everything, and sometimes it can't be prevented.  The delays that aren't covered include accidents, trespassers and passenger alarms.  In my experience with GO, these are in fact the more common occurrences.  However, if you still feel it is fair to ask for a credit, there are other reasons the idea isn't wise.

Safety is paramount in rail operations.  This is purely speculative and I hope it would never happen, but on-time guarantees put undue pressure on operating crews to sometimes push the limits in order to not cost their employer money.  This is certainly seen in such time-sensitive industries as trucking and pizza deliveries.  GO Transit's crews are well-trained and experienced and I am sure they would never jeopardise passenger safety in order to meet the scheduled time, but I do believe that the guarantee will add more pressure to what is already a tough job.

My final reason to oppose the guarantee pertains to the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.  GO Transit received provincial subsidies through Metrolinx, the provincial transportation agency.  The ONTC also receives government subsidies and, as a result, has been deemed too costly to sustain by the government and will now be broken up and sold.  Not only is the government willing to continue putting money into GO, but they are now also willing to reimburse passengers for minor inconveniences.  To me, this is entirely unfair and demonstrates a clear lack of interest in northeastern Ontario.  Refunds also direct funding away from improving the GO system, something which could prevent future delays from happening.

In all, it is up to each individual person whether they will take GO's offer of compensation or not.  I will politely decline should I ever be given the option.

An open letter to all Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidates

The campaign for a new leader of the provincial Liberal party offers an excellent opportunity for the ONTC sale to be revisited.  Making sure that all the candidates are aware of the issue is an important step in coming up with a better solution.
General Chairperson's Association (GCA) | An open letter to all Ontario Liberal Party leadership candidates on behalf of stakeholders supporting the New Deal for Northern Ontario

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Whitby Maintenance Facility: A Clearer Picture

Last night, I attended an open house explaining the South Blair Street grade separation project.  I enjoyed seeing the updated plans for the new underpass and being able to discuss the project timeline with representatives from GO.

The grade separation is part of the much larger East Region Rail Maintenance Facility project which will see a large maintenance facility built for GO Transit in Whitby, allowing for maintenance east of Toronto, rather than all equipment having to deadhead to the Willowbrook Yard in Mimico.  Although the open house wasn't about the new Facility, the dates gave a clearer picture of how work will progress.

The affected area

The grade separation project will begin in late 2013 and is divided into several stages:
  1. The two-track GO sub will be temporarily routed to the north of the existing crossing.
  2. The northern section of the underpass will be built in its place.
  3. The two-track (and yard lead) CN Kingston sub will be temporarily rerouted on top of the completed northern section.
  4. The southern section of the underpass will be built in its place.
  5. The five tracks will be returned to their original routing, now on top of the underpass.
The construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.  South Blair Street between Victoria Street and Watson Street will be closed throughout the project and traffic will be rerouted on Watson Street or Water Street.

With South Blair Street reopened (now with four lanes and sidewalks), the next stage of the project is to close the Hopkins Street overpass to the Gerdau and Hanson plants and demolish the bridge as the new Maintenance Facility will swallow up Hopkins Street and the overpass approach.  Access will be provided by a new road running east from South Blair Street into the plants.

Whitby's rail infrastructure was long overdue for a major upgrade.  For railfans, this project means losing such beloved locations as the South Blair crossing next year and the very popular Hopkins Street bridge in 2015.  However, this was inevitable as the level crossing was an anomaly limiting both road traffic and rail operations and the bridge was excessive as it only served two industries.  There will be other locations, and the construction of the new Maintenance Facility will provide an interesting last chapter for trainspotting at these sites.

GO Transit has also set up a dedicated email for any questions about the project.  You can contact them directly at: ERMF@gotransit.com

Port Authority Plan Gaining Momentum

Few developments regarding the ONTC have trickled over the wires in the past week.  One might say that no news is good news, and in this case the lack of developments has allowed alternate plans, notably the idea of moving the ONTC under a port authority, to gain acceptance.

In a new release, the GCA outlines how the North Bay Council is looking to back the port authority plan along with other northern Ontario communities. 

Following Dalton McGuinty's resignation, the provincial government has been in tatters and the port authority plan offers an opportunity for the province to largely rid itself of the ONTC mess while also showing support for northern Ontario.  It seems like a win-win situation.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Time to help #219 again!

Round 3 of qualifying voting in the Aviva Community Fund begins today.  Once again, I am asking you to vote to help in the restoration of locomotive #219, recently saved from scrap by the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre.  They are looking for 10,000 votes - let's help them get there!

Click here to vote to help #219!


Thank you!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sousa: 'I want to be your jobs [and ONTC] premier'

With Dalton McGuinty stepping down, several people are now making outlandish promises in the hopes of becoming the next leader of the Liberal party.  Charles Sousa is one of these people.  He has decided to focus his platform on job creation, including boosting the economy in Northern Ontario.  He has vowed to accelerate development of the 'Ring of Fire' and reinstate the Northlander.  Of course, all this depends on him becoming leader and being able to successfully push his ideas through.  Nevertheless, he is certainly one candidate to watch.
Sousa: 'I want to be your jobs premier' | Niagara Advance

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Une Visite à Montréal - 3: Exporail

The highlight of my trip to Montreal wasn't actually in Montreal at all, but rather in the nearby town of Saint-Constant, home of Exporail: The Canadian Railway Museum.

I honestly didn't know what to expect, but their website didn't even come close to doing the museum justice.  It is a sprawling complex of both indoor and outdoor displays covering all eras of Canadian railway history.  Sadly, my trip was rushed as AMT's last train back to Montreal is at 1.30 in the afteroon, affording only a three hour visit to Exporail, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It was a spectacular day weather-wise and there were hardly any visitors, meaning that the staff were happy to chat and give me a personal tour of some of the artefacts.  I tried to see as much of the museum as possible, but it would really take several days to see the collection properly.

Here are a few highlights from my trip:

VIA 6309, an iconic F unit, once the workhorse of VIA's fleet:


Inside the Angus Pavilion (the main indoor exhibit space) was a quirky take on the hi-rail inspection vehicle:


Of course, the highlight of my trip was bound to be Ontario Northland 1400, looking a little shabby, but still gleaming in the sun:


If you haven't visited this museum, I highly recommend it as it shows that, not only does Canada have a railway history, but that there are some people working to preserve it for future generations in a world-class railway museum.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Province wants union's business plan

Perhaps a little optimism for the future of the ONTC, or at least some constructive discussion?
Province wants union's business plan | North Bay Nugget

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Happy National Railway Day!

Say what?

Canada, the country with the rapidly eroding passenger rail network, has a National Railway Day?

Well, it does.  I didn't know about it until I received an email from the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains, announcing that the Sault Ste. Marie council recently voted to recognise the day.  That the Soo is recognising how important the railway has been to Canada is appropriate.  Once the hub of the iconic (and now defunct) Algoma Central Railway, the city is now home to what is effectively a branchline on CN's network.  The Coalition is lobbying for better rail connections between the Soo and Sudbury, including passenger rail.  Given the amount of trackage being torn up in Ontario, and the provincial government's plan to sell off Ontario Northland, they certainly have an uphill battle.  That said, they have strong local support and tomorrow CAPT and Transport Action Canada will host the National Dream Renewed, a cross-Canada series of town hall meetings hoping to foster discussion about investing in and expanding passenger rail in Canada.

National Railway Day is now in its third year.  Proclaimed by Stephen Harper's government in 2010, it marks the anniversary of the driving of the last spike on the Canadian Pacific at Craigellachie, British Columbia in 1885.  There is no doubt as to the enormous impact that the railway had in the formation of Canada.  In much of the country, the railway was the first viable mode of transportation for crossing muskeg, lakes and dense forests.  In the 127 years since the completion of the transcontinental route, Canada has seen railways come and go, but rail freight continues to innovate and grow.  Sadly, the same cannot be said for passenger rail.  VIA Rail has faced repeated cuts throughout its history, recently scaling back nearly all of its services to concentrate resources on the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal triangle.  In my view, we are seeing the end of VIA Rail's national mandate.  We are seeing the consolidation of an intercity passenger rail network between the three most important cities in the eastern half of the country.  What of the rest?  It would seem that they no longer matter.  Provided one other mode of transport is available, VIA feels it can withdraw its presence from a region.

I do not blame VIA for this.  After all, the fact that they have been able to keep so much running with so little funding or public support is remarkable.  It doesn't have to be this way.  Even in the most car-loving country in the world, the United States, Amtrak's ridership figures are through the roof and billions of dollars are being invested in improving service - and not just in the Boston-Washington corridor.

Canada's National Railway Day is not the same as the American National Train Day, which is a celebration of the past, present and future of rail in the US.  Canada's new holiday is to remember only the past of railways, the official release did not mention the present or the future of rail in Canada at all.  This is probably because, unless you are a big logistics company or a bulk shipper of natural resources, the railways in this country no longer mean much to you.  Outside of three commuter rail networks and what is left of VIA, most communities in Canada aren't even served by a passenger train anymore.  To focus on the present would be depressing; the government must instead rely on a nostalgia trip.

I decided to celebrate the holiday in my own way, by photographing a train in Canada.  Here is VIA 60 rolling under Henry Street in Whitby this past lunchtime.


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

FONOM Calls on Minister Bartolucci to Stop Divestment of ONTC

A press release from the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities is calling on the Liberal government to stop, or at least pause, the divestment of the ONTC until the government stabilises and the economy is more solid.
FONOM Calls on Minister Bartolucci to Stop Divestment of ONTC

Monday, November 05, 2012

Une Visite à Montréal - 2: St-Luc & CAD

As part of my visit to Montreal, Canadian Railway Observations editor William Baird and railfan Frank Jolin invited me on a whirlwind tour of the railway sites of Montreal, culminating in a tour of CP's St-Luc diesel shop.  The St-Luc yard is a sprawling complex of marshalling yards and repairs shops. as well as loading facilities for CP's priority Expressway piggyback train.  The once-enormous roundhouse has now been demolished to the extent that only a few stalls are still standing.  Despite this, the remaining stalls and the adjacent turntable are still used daily.

Many of the locomotives around the diesel shop were former SOO Line SD60s, refurbished and painted into CP Rail colours.  Here is one of these units, CP 6241, formerly SOO 6041.


It was a great tour and merci beaucoup to my guides!

Another important railway site in Montreal is CAD Rail, a railway refurbishment company specialising in locomotive refits.  They are currently refurbishing all of VIA Rail's F40 locomotives and are also part of CP's SD60 refurbishments.  It's not possible to visit their facility, but you can get some good photos by taking an AMT train along the Candiac line and shooting out the coach window.


Frankly, it's probably a better shot than you would get from ground level anyway!

Voting for #219 now closed

As you may have noticed, voting to help fund #219 has now closed.  The project was voted for by several hundred people and received at least 800 votes!  The semi-finalists will be announced in a few days.

If you didn't vote for #219, you can still help restore this piece of northern Ontario's railway history.  Contact the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum & Heritage Centre for details.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Une Visite à Montréal - 1: AMT

Last month, I was finally able to visit Montreal thanks to a VIA Rail seat sale.  Montreal is the largest city in Quebec and the business centre for the province.  It feels like a hybrid of North America and Europe, with big cars, skyscrapers, little cafés and high fashion all in one place.  While it was a very rushed visit, I really enjoyed my time there and I will certainly be going back.

Montreal is also an important railway location in Canada.  CN's headquarters is right on top of the Gare Centrale, VIA's main offices are also in town and it is CP's eastern terminus.  It was only logical then that railways made up a large part of my trip.

With such a big and busy city, commuter rail is an excellent way for people to get around.  The Agence Métropolitaine de Transport (AMT) is Montreal's commuter train operator.  Their rolling stock is very much as GO Transit's was a generation ago: a mix of locomotives and coaches cobbled together to boost capacity.  Of particular interest is AMT's new fleet of Bombardier bi-level coaches.  Unlike the ones designed for GO, these do not have a mezzanine level.  The AMT coaches also have two sets of doors at different heights, one low set for ground-level platforms and one higher set for the European-style high platforms at stations such as Gare Centrale.  This makes for a versatile fleet that can operate on any route.

Montreal is also unique for having the only electrified rail lines in Canada.  The Deux-Montagnes route still operates using electric trains, like this one I photographed on the approach to Gare Centrale.

 
An AMT electric commuter train at Gare Centrale

AMT also has some modern diesel locomotives in its fleet, such as F59PHI #1330 seen arriving at Lucien L'allier station, the terminus for most of AMT's routes.  The station is part of the large Centre Bell, home of the Montreal Canadiens.

 
AMT 1330 at Lucien L'allier

Like many railways, AMT struggles to have enough equipment to meet demand.  As GO Transit retired most of its F59 locomotives, AMT bought or leased many of them for use in Montreal.  Here is former GO Transit #521, now renumbered RBRX 18521, with an AMT train at Lucien L'allier.  It was nice to see a familiar locomotive.

Once GO Transit, 18521 is now leased to AMT

I was also able to ride one of the AMT trains.  It was very much like riding a GO train, except that the announcements were in French and AMT no longer issue any paper tickets - even a single ride ticket is now a one-use smartcard.  Having seen AMT, I have now seen 2/3 commuter rail lines in Canada, but I doubt I will be getting to Vancouver any time soon!

Ontario court gives green light to class action over Via derailment

An update on a story from last winter: the Ontario courts have decided to allow a class-action lawsuit filed against VIA Rail and CN to proceed.  Personally, I feel it is still too soon as the report into the derailment of VIA 92 has yet to be completed.  The report would identify which party(ies), if any, were at fault.
Ontario court gives green light to class action over Via derailment - thestar.com

Thursday, November 01, 2012

A New Voice for the ONTC

A new month and a new campaign to try and save the ONTC.  The Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities has hired a professional lobbyist to bring their concerns to southern Ontario.  With so little media coverage and public awareness outside of the north, the goal of this new campaign, centred around the new website http://ourontarionorth.org/, is to educate residents about southern Ontario about the government's divestment of the ONTC and the recent decision to end overnight camping in northern provincial parks. 

The campaign is only in its early stages, but so far the results have been promising.  Based on canvassing of commuters outside Toronto's Union Station, about 80% of people are willing to act to help northern Ontario once they understand what is happening.  This is a heartening development and suggests that the north isn't as isolated as it might think - the challenge is to make people aware of what is going on.

The new website is well-designed and simple to understand.  The message is clear: it is time for the government to reconsider some of its recent decisions.

ONR sale concerns resource companies

As the divestment process continues, mostly behind closed doors, the ONR's freight customers wonder what the future will hold.  Many of them have long-standing relationships with the railway and rely on rail to ship their products.  Prolonged uncertainty will no doubt lead to companies moving elsewhere in a bid to retain secure transportation links.
ONR sale concerns resource companies - CBC News