Ontario Northland passenger train, Northlander, at Englehart, Ontario, 21 December 2008.

(40rev, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)



The Northlander was a passenger train operated by the provincially-owned Ontario Northland Railway in southwest and northeast Ontario, Canada. In 2012, rail service was discontinued and replaced with express bus service. Rail service will be reinstated in 2026 with an expanded route, greater frequency, new Siemens Venture train sets manufactured by Siemens Mobility Ltd., and various track and station upgrades. The new bi-directional route will run up to seven days a week from Toronto Union Station to Timmins, with an additional new rail connection from Timmins to Cochrane (where passengers can then connect directly to the Polar Bear Express at Cochrane Station) and express bus service from Matheson to Cochrane Station.

Prior to 2012, the Northlander operated six days per week year-round in both directions and connected Cochrane with Toronto. The train typically consisted of one engine, an auxiliary power unit, two coaches and a cafeteria lounge car. It ran on ONR tracks from Cochrane to North Bay and on CN tracks south of North Bay to Toronto.


Plans to resume rail service

Prior to the 2018 Ontario general election, Doug Ford promised to restore the service. Ontario Northland prepared a business plan and submitted it to the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario in late 2019, and the resumption of the service was mentioned in the province's Draft Transportation Plan for Northern Ontario published in December 2020, although no timeline was provided.

In May 2021, the provincial government announced plans for Ontario Northland and Metrolinx to resume rail operations between Toronto and northeastern Ontario with a 13-stop route to begin service by the mid-2020s. The route would provide service from Toronto to Timmins or Cochrane and would be available between four and seven days a week, based on seasonal travel demands. Two of the proposed stations, Gormley and Langstaff, are not ONR stations from the original Northlander route but they are serving GO Transit Richmond Hill line. Stations south of North Bay to Washago and south of Cochrane would need to be restored as they have either become inactive or adapted for other uses.

In April 2022, Ontario's Progressive Conservative government announced it has earmarked $75 million to restore the Northlander passenger rail service to northeastern Ontario. President and CEO of Ontario Northland Corina Moore said the money will be split over the next three years. She said it will look after passenger coaches, infrastructure and stations. The province said it continues to eye an in-service date of 2025. They said that the service will be offered on seasonal travel demands and will range from four and seven days a week between northern Ontario and Toronto.

On December 15, 2022, The Ontario Government revealed that it had purchased three trainsets from Siemens Mobility for use on the Northlander, each comprising a Charger locomotive, two Venture coaches, and a cab car operating in a push-pull configuration on trains between Toronto and Timmins.



The Northlander made scheduled stops at the following stations:

↓↓↓↓ CITY / TOWN ↑↑↑↑ NOTES
08:40 DP Toronto (Union Station) AR 19:15 Connections to Via Rail, GO Transit & Amtrak
10:25 Washago 16:30 Connections to Via Rail's The Canadian
10:50 Gravenhurst 16:10
11:05 Bracebridge 15:55
11:40 Huntsville 15:30
12:35 South River 14:40
13:50 AR North Bay DP 13:35 Connections to Ontario Northland, Greyhound Canada and other intercity bus operators.
14:05 DP North Bay AR 13:25
15:35 Temagami 11:50
16:20 Cobalt 11:05
16:35 New Liskeard 10:50 Ontario Northland bus stop until 2016
17:05 Englehart 10:20 ONR storage facility and repair shops
17:45 Swastika 09:40 Ontario Northland bus stop
18:30 Matheson 08:55 Transfer point for bus service to Timmins and South Porcupine, Ontario
18:55 Porquis Junction 08:20
19:25 AR Cochrane DP 08:00 Connections to Polar Bear Express to Moosonee, Ontario (as southern terminus)

Temagami railway station. (P199, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Cochrane railway station. (P199, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Former stations

Service to Barrie and Orillia ended in 1992 when the Northlander was rerouted to the Bala subdivision. Before the former TEE trainsets were retired, Barrie and Orillia were typically served in one direction only to avoid turning the train in Toronto; routing a giant loop around Lake Simcoe. Newer ex-GO Transit cars were bi-directional. That corresponding section of the Newmarket subdivision was abandoned, then tracks removed by the Canadian National Railway in 1996. The old line is now Oro-Medonte Rail Trail, Barrie North Shore Trail and Barrie Waterfront Heritage Trail.

Station Location Notes
old Barrie Station Located just north of Allandale Waterfront GO Station Station has been restored for non transportation reuse
Orillia station 150 Front Street South Re-purposed for commercial space.

Dream Catcher Express

The Dream Catcher Express was a seasonal passenger rail service that ran annually over a period of six days from the end of September to the beginning of October. It operated between North Bay and Temagami along the same route as the Northlander.

Train sets consisted of several single deck cars, a dining car, and a dome car.

The service was by reservation only and provided one run per day. Trains departed in the morning and returned in the early evening. The Dream Catcher Express allowed passengers to view the fall colours in Northern Ontario.

This service, along with the Northlander, ended in 2012.



Status: Discontinued
Locale: Ontario, Canada
Termini: Toronto Union Station / Cochrane
Stations: 14
Service Type: Inter-city rail
System: Ontario Northland Railway
Operator: Ontario Northland Railway
Opened: 1976
Closed: September 28, 2012
Track length: 482 miles (776 km)
Track gauge: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in) standard gauge