Superior Mandatory Services

25-28 May 2018
VIA Rail Canada’s Sudbury-White River Train
Toronto, Ontario


VIA Rail is the Canadian national railway system, crossing the country from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Prince Rupert, British Columbia. It runs the flagship route The Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver, The Ocean from Halifax to Montreal, and a profitable corridor service from Windsor, Ontario to Quebec City. These trains all run profitably and are run with a business mindset.

VIA also has what they call “Mandatory Services,” which are declared essential transport by Parliament and must be run, even at a loss. These wind through Quebec, Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario. The route in Ontario is the Sudbury-White River Train, once known as The Lake Superior, and each day it winds between those two towns through a string of de facto ghost towns in the deep woods of the Canadian Shield.

My friend Adam and I are both hardcore railfans, and after a year of discussing it, we were finally able to make weekend plans to ride The Lake Superior (I’ll use its historic name in these blogs some, because it rolls off the tongue better). The Friday before Memorial Day 2018, I flew Porter Airlines from Newark to Toronto, then on to Sudbury. We rendezvoused in Sudbury, and headed into the woods on Saturday. At the end, I planned to spend a day in Toronto between an early flight from Sudbury and a late one home to Newark.

The four blogs here detail the adventures of each of the four days of what I dubbed “Superior Mandatory Services,” reflecting both the historic name of the line and the excellent adventure we had.

Daily Blogs

Day 1 (25 May 2018): Flying Newark->Toronto->Sudbury
Day 2 (26 May 2018): The Lake Superior northbound, Sudbury->White River
Day 3 (27 May 2018): The Lake Superior southbound, White River->Sudbury
Day 4 (28 May 2018): Sudbury->Toronto, a day in Toronto, Toronto->Newark