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Ontario Northland Railway Reporting mark: ONT

TNOR brochure
TNOR timetable / brochure, 1922

The Ontario Northland Railway (ONR) is one of the few railways to remain in public hands. Originally named the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway (TNOR), the railway was incorporated as a provincial agency in 1902 as a means of drawing industry and settlement to the northeast area of the province.

The government's timing couldn't have been better. Construction began in 1903. In 1905 the railway had reached New Liskeard, right at the height of the Cobalt silver rush. By 1906 it was up to Englehart and by 1909, it arrived in Cochrane. During the 1920s and 30s, the railway was gradually extended, finally ending at Moosonee in 1932.

The TNOR played an important role in the early development of the northeast. Over the years it provided service to the mining and timber industries, as well as the Abitibi Canyon Generating Station which was built in the 1930s. It's unlikely many of these industries would have grown to the extent they did without the presence of the TNOR.

In 1946 the railway's name was changed to the Ontario Northland Railway (ONR). The name change was due in part to longstanding confusion over its initials TNOR (which were the same as the Texas and New Orleans Railway), and also for the name to have a provincial, rather than a regional association.

Railway construction, Porcupine around 1910
Tomlinson Photo, Porcupine, ON.

The railway continued to expand as needed. During the 1950s and 60s, additional spurs were built to service mines in Temagami, Kirkland Lake and Timmins. In 1993 the railway purchased additional sections in the north from Canadian National (CN), which had once been part of the National Transcontinental Railway (NTR).

Sadly in March 2012, the provincial government announced it was putting the railway up for sale due to fiscal restraints. Presumably unable to find a buyer, the government sold off or discontinued some services and seems to be committed to continuing with others. The railway is no longer on the market.

The Northlander made its last passenger run on September 28, 2012, ending a proud tradition of 107 years. The Northlander railway service has been replaced by buses. Passenger rail service is still available in the far north.

In addition to buses, the ONR continues to offer Bus Parcel Express (BPX) bus charters, rail freight service and refurbishment services at its North Bay shops.

Full details about the ONR's various activities, along with rates, timetables, fare information and fare purchases can be found on the Agency's website.