Ontario Northland's popular Christmas Train won't be lighting up the eyes of excited youngsters this holiday season.
"Ontario Northland is currently facing a skilled trade labour shortage in its rail division, primarily due to retirements, and as such is making the operational decision to forego its Christmas Train program in 2019," says Rebecca McGlynn, Director of Marketing. "The priority is to maintain safe and reliable rail service for customers, ensuring goods continue to move in and out of Northern Ontario."
That means the ONTC will embrace a "new community-based approach to celebrating the holiday season" in the communities that it serves across Northeastern Ontario.
In its place, Ontario Northland is working with the 13 locations traditionally visited by the train to get employees to interact with, and give back to, members of their communities.
These could include ice skating or cookie decorating events.
"For the past seven years, the Christmas Train events have allowed Ontario Northland to engage with the public and expose rail equipment to youth. By pausing the train this year, Ontario Northland will have an opportunity to engage with communities and corporate partners to seek out ideas on how best to proceed in coming years and be more inclusive and reach a larger part of our service territory," added McGlynn in a news release.
“We look forward to enabling even more of our employees to get out and take part in community-based events to celebrate the holiday season with their friends, families, and neighbours.”
Lit up with Christmas lights to “Brighten the Night!” northern Ontario youngsters yelled and screamed as the train would pull closer, with one special passenger on board that they had all come to see, Santa Claus.
The train consisted of a locomotive, a timber car, a boxcar and Santa’s caboose which was decorated inside and out so children can actually tour through the caboose and check out Santa’s workshop.