Friday, November 6, 2015

Via Rail about to expand service in Southern Ontario

I was down in the Sarnia area for a visit over Thanksgiving and had some time to sit trackside at the Sarnia Via Rail station. I knew that the station was going to be torn up since Via Rail recently announced its intention to rehabilitate the old station, which was built in 1891. The station sees only two trains a day and is unstaffed. However, these renovations are part of a plan to expand service.

As you can read in the link above, Via Rail has already told local officials that it plans to expand its Toronto-Sarnia service to four trains a day, which means two trains in and two trains out. Not only is this good news for Sarnia, this is also good news for trains along the line who will also benefit from increased service.

The renovations will mainly take the form of structural repairs and roofing repairs. Already, the foundations around the building have been dug up and the masonry has been treated. The repairs are expected to be complete by the spring, in time for the new train schedule, the starting date of which has not been confirmed yet.

Here's a shot, below, that I took in 1992, which essentially reveals a very similar look, except that the roof was shingled by darker shingles then. The station last saw major renovations in the 1980s when the City of Sarnia undertook improvements to the building, which is a designated heritage property.

I know I've shared this photo (below) before but I always like to share this because of the three types of equipment in the shot, which shows Amtrak at its varied best. The shot below is the International Ltd. that once ran between Toronto and Chicago and was jointly operated between Amtrak and Via Rail. That train was cancelled in the mid-1990s due to ridership decline. I'm surprised there isn't more of a demand for such a train. However, even if there was demand, I would imagine that security protocol at the border would likely rule out any future train like this. So, Sarnia and much of Southern Ontario will benefit from a link to Toronto, but that appears to be the extent of the new service that Via Rail is bringing to the region.

Here's a more recent shot of the station taken in 2013. The track you see at the bottom of the image is where Via Rail's consists would be stored overnight when the last train of the day arrived from Toronto. Imagine a time when there were so few security concerns. I would draw your attention to the two doors at the end of the station.
In this photo below, taken in 1952, you can see that there once was an extension on this side of the station. You can also notice on the right side of the image where passenger cars were stored next to the station (the same track as the one in the image above).
So, more service to the Sarnia station will mean this beautiful old building will become more of a hub in the years to come, much as it has been throughout its history. It's always encouraging when Via Rail adds service. Let's hope this move will be accompanied by service additions elsewhere in Canada, especially if our new government is supportive of passenger rail. 


DaveM said...

Hi Michael,

The shot you took in 2013 of the station looks very good.


Michael said...

Thanks Dave. It was taken Dec. 23. I also treated the photo in black and white.

M said...

I'm the opposite: I am fascinated with the steam engines. Watching a steam locomotive (or other machine) is fascinating to watch. They can seem alive, belching and churning. The men that ran them became part of the machine, tending fires and managing the systems. Primitive by today's standards, but it must have been fascinating back then.

I recommend seeking out steam power shows at farm fairs or other museums. It's quite a show.

Jay Leno has a few videos on steam power...

Mr. MDP said...

Hello Michael, actually in your shot of the International at sarnia it was taken sometime in the 90's however the International ran up until 2004 when it was canceled. I should know I was on that last ever train across the border. Here is a pic. :-) Mr. Buddah ( larger image on