It appears the difficulties with the Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst passenger service on the former ACR continue, at least south of Hawk Junction.
According to an article in the Sault Star, since June 25 the service has only been operating between Hawk Junction and Hearst, with travellers from Sault Ste. Marie being shuttled up the road from Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa, but otherwise providing no service to points south of Hawk Junction.
Since RailMark has fully taken over operation of the passenger service, they only have a single crew available for running the train, and with several slow orders on the line, it can take over the 12 hours allowed for a crew to be on duty to make the entire trip from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst or vice versa. CN would make the run using two crews, but RailMark only has one crew. This is the same reason that caused the earlier service disruption that stranded people: when allegations of a violation were brought against the train crew (which they were later cleared), they could not legally operate a train while under investigation and RailMark had no other crews.
My question that comes to mind: with this crew situation, what happens if an employee gets sick or ever wants to have their own vacation? ‘Sorry, your train didn’t run today because the engineer got a cold’? I understand that at this point, the funding is a sticking point with RailMark being able to provide more crews, but now we have only half an operation running, and certain camp and lodge operators are starting to become quite vocal about their disappointment and continuing to express concern about the overall uncertainty of the whole operation, which this is not continuing to mitigate.
This leaves a whole section of the line unserved, and while there aren’t really communities along the line, the heaviest concentration of private camps and cabins on the ACR is in the first hundred miles north of Sault Ste. Marie, and there is currently absolutely no access to them and this still puts a damper on the ‘Tour of the Line’ experience and also cancels the Canyon Combo that CN used to operate, wherein you could ride the Agawa Canyon Tour Train to Canyon, experience the park and then be picked up by the regular train to continue your journey. (And we’re just finishing up the Canada Day-Independence Day combo long weekend, a typically heavy tourist weekend.)
So the struggle continues; and I guess I should only expect to catch the Agawa Canyon Tour Train through the Sault Ste. Marie-Searchmont area when I’m up there on vacation soon and not try to wait for and catch the regular train, which won’t be coming.