Friday, August 17, 2007

Don't miss the train to Waterloo

To Waterloo to visit Ontario's newly-opened Waterloo Central Railway. We stop at Tim Horton's for coffee off the 401 highway, which proves unwise as we miss the 12:00 train. On arrival in Waterloo we can't find the station. We stop at the old station in the centre which turns out to be a gents outfitters, where they kindly put us right for the tourist train. Some signs please.
So instead of taking a trip from Waterloo to St. Jacobs we drive to St. Jacobs and do the trip in reverse. There is plenty of parking at both ends of the railway and we were greeted warmly by the volunteer staff on arrival. The $10 round trip ticket is a steal. The train trundles through the countryside at 15 miles-per-hour in glorious sunshine and the anxiety of missing the train soon fades away.
The train is being pulled by #506, an ALCO RS-23 1000 horsepower six-cylinder diesel nicknamed Tarbaby. The regular engine is broken down so Tarbaby is on lease from Ontario Southland Railway in Guelph. The new tourist railroad has some advantages over others as they do not own or need to maintain the track, just having rights to run over the road. Also they have inherited a splendid reproduction station in Waterloo so did not need to do any building work. The two biggest items of expenditure are diesel and insurance, the latter costing $500 per day. One of the volunteers said that the railway was attracting some 250 visitors a day. They were planning to run some winter services including longer steam excursions to Elmira for Oktoberfest.
From Waterloo the train passes the campus of the university of Waterloo and makes a stop at the Farmer's Market before terminating in the charming village of St Jacobs in Mennonite country. The outward train journey visits the bridge over the Conestogo river to the north of the town before reversing into the station. The Mennonite folk have taken to riding the train and also wave from the farm fields as the train slowly passes by. You will also see them riding the roads in their distinctive horse and buggies.
St Jacobs is proud of its new traffic roundabout and displays an intriguing mixture of old and new with its craft shops, restaurants and boutiques. The whole train tour comes highly recommended and we wish this new railway every success. For more go here.

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